A great songwriter, a great singer, a killer guitarist, funny on Portlandia, and pretty easy on the eye… St Vincent has been every hipster’s wet dream for a few years now. But what makes her such a stand out and such a figurehead for this crowd and this generation? I’ve caught the odd song here and there, watched the occasional live clip on Youtube. I’ve always liked what I’ve heard, but never been blown away.
A year or so ago, she blew up to new levels with her self titled St Vincent, and I still never gave her a chance. But the whole point of me writing this blog is to discover new stuff, and finally catch up on older stuff. Which is why I am just now getting around to St Vincent.
Right out of the gate, I get the unexpected. Rattlesnake is pure electronica and even approaching pop. Nary a guitar to be heard. Birth in Reverse keeps a lot of that going. It’s a little darker, and there are some guitars. But they’re so blown out and effected, they might as well be samples. It’s a great approach and combination to pop, rock and indie sensibilities. In that way (if not musically), it reminds me a lot of Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob.
For all l I know, all of St Vincent’s previous albums may have been just as pop and synth infused. But the public vision I’ve always seen of her is the guitar slinging rocker with an experimental edge. But now, three tracks in and Prince Johnny is another electronic intricacy. Slower and moodier than earlier tracks, it’s angelic soaring nature clashes with its guitars (off in the distance) and analogue bass sound in a great example of juxtaposition done right.
Things get even better when they get a little dirtier on Huey Newton. I’m predisposed to liking the combination of sweet, female vocals, over some real gritty and grimey music. And St Vincent really delivers here. The bass line on Huey Newton sounds like something that would scare Trent Reznor, and it’s a perfect mix for Annie Clarke’s voice as she adds her own quota of grit and grime, while keeping the sweetness intact. See also Bring Me Your Loves for more of this goodness.
Then it’s time for another tone and genre shift with Digital Witness. With its citchy disco feel, 80s artifice and almost dance floor beats, it’s a glorious oddity that stands out in a sea of glorious oddities. But with every soaring high, must come a disappointing low. So thanks I Prefer Your Love, your boringness has restored balance to the universe after the kick ass good time of Digital Witness.
The dystopian world of Every Tear Disappears is a late album highlight as I realise that a lot of St Vincent has built on itself the get to this point. Lyrically, I have no idea if there’s any sort of story or connecting theme, but sonically, there’s a real evolution to this album as each song builds on, and exploits, attributes introduced on those earlier.
A great songwriter, a great singer, a killer guitarist, funny on Portlandia, and pretty easy on the eye… Now I know that St Vincent is much more than the sum of those parts. She’s (and I know this will sound really wanky) a real artist. She obviously thinks a lot about every aspect of her music, her look and her image. And not in a manipulative, unit shifting, cynical way. But in a way that she knows exactly what she wants to make, it that’s what she makes