St. Vincent "St. Vincent

“Dance music for a funeral.” That’s how Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, describes her fourth album, one that should break her to a wider audience. An alumnus of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ band hits her stride with a collection of songs that bristle with imagination, innovation, dark lyrical content and infectious melodies.

Clark brings a high level of energy and confidence to these songs, branding them with what is becoming her signature sound. Fuzzy production, buzzing distorted guitar chords, groove heavy percussion, and vocals that are sometimes altered. Opening with “Rattlesnake” Clark recounts an encounter with a snake that can be read as a personal account of a wicked experience or an allegorical morality tale. “Birth in Reverse”amps up the volume and picks up the pace. Clark then offers the slower, dramatic sounding “Prince Johnny,” with its lyrical blend of caustic observation and empathetic support. 

As a writer Clark is more reporter than diarist and sometimes it’s hard to tell when she’s offering insight into her personality or simply telling a tale. “Digital Witness” assesses the results of technology without offering judgment. It’s staccato beat reminds one of the work she did with David Byrne on Love This Giant. “I Prefer Your Love” is one song that is clearly personal, a song written for Clark’s mother. It is also a song that underscores the beauty of her voice, leaving it unaltered and making it the centerpiece of the song.

Annie Clark is an outstanding guitarist who manipulates the sound of her instrument, creating exciting and edgy elements. Lyrically she can be purposely obscure, preferring to create imagery rather than narrative. Her ability to craft unpredictable melodies offers listeners the opportunity to be both surprised and delighted. I suggest you listen to this album several times through to get the full effect of St. Vincent’s ever growing sense of musical self.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)