That stare. It’s a stare of pure confidence. It’s otherworldly, yet right in the moment. No longer is she staring aimlessly into the distance. No longer is she a quirky juxtaposition of a cute girl who plays a mean guitar that belies her image. Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, sits regally on the cover of her excellent self-titled fourth album with a poised stature and a sharp stare that is as demanding and as fierce as the music inside.
This album is St. Vincent’s Heisenberg to Annie Clark’s Walter White. It is the realization of everything St. Vincent has been capable of and more. This album is Clark’s strongest of her career thus far. This time around, Clark has finally been able to organize and sharpen her ideas and eccentricities. The album marks a transformation of sorts, visually and musically, away from Annie Clark and into St. Vincent.
People will try to tell you they hear a Talking Heads influence on each song, but I don’t buy it. I’m not sure anybody would make this connection if Clark didn’t work with David Byrne in 2012. If anything, I hear more Peter Gabriel than Byrne, especially in the vocals and synth-horns of “Digital Witnesses.” Like Gabriel, Clark finds a way to mold art-pop to her liking, creating the perfect blend of artistic experimentation and pop sensibility. Up until now, Clark has always been an artist whose mind seems to move at 1,000 miles per hour, but on St. Vincent, she displays great poise and focus, knowing sometimes less is more.
On songs like “Rattlesnake,” “Bring Me Your Loves,” and “Birth in Reverse,” Clark uses her guitar like an electric weapon, with each outburst like a lightning bolt with no direction. Even on “Regret,” which is about as close to Led Zeppelin as a St. Vincent song can get, Clark still manages to startle you with a zapping layered-guitar riff. The best songs on St. Vincent, however, aren’t necessarily embodied by prog-rock freak outs. The slower jams on here resonate louder and are just as powerful as anything from a fuzz pedal. “Prince Johnny” provides a haunting piece of balladry, and Clark’s vocal melody on it is absolutely beautiful. On “I Prefer Your Love,” Clark treats love like a religion. I really like how this song takes its time, making you feel every bit of emotion in each word from Clark. Again, this is a testament to the easy confidence from Clark that surrounds this album.
Annie Clark recently appeared on The Colbert Report, and in an interview, Stephen Colbert jokingly asked her, “You’re something of an art rocker — can I enjoy your music or do I have to get it?” No need to dig deep, Stephen. This fittingly self-titled album is St. Vincent in her true form, out in the open with nothing to hide.
Listen: St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”