Talented singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist St. Vincent is featured as Danielle Dorky‘s Women’s History Crush Wednesday in a special spotlight that includes a review of her 2014 self-titled album.
Artist: St. Vincent
Album: St. Vincent
Record Label: Loma Vista/Republic
Genre: Indie rock, experimental rock, art rock
Release date: 2/24/2014
Stand out tracks: “Prince Johnny” “I Prefer Your Love” “Regret” “Severed Crossed Fingers”
Dorkproval rating: [Rating:9.5/10]
I was first introduced to Annie Clark, stage name St. Vincent, after the release of her second album Actor in 2009. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live at the El Rey theatre and fell in love with her charismatic stage presence and resounding, choir-like vocals. I’ve been an admirer of St. Vincent’s music career since, and find myself more impressed with each new release. The nymphish musician has been compared to legends like David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nico, and captivates audiences with surprising arrangements and moody, abstract lyrics. St. Vincent’s 2014 self-titled release is her most impressive and extroverted yet; it offers not just a glimpse into her own inner-workings, but invites listeners to contemplate alongside her.
The album opens with “Rattlesnake”, a song as edgy as its title would imply that was inspired by a true life experience Annie had while communing with nature in the desert. The theme of self-discovery presents itself throughout the record, and when St. Vincent is not pondering her own existence, she’s considering her relationships with those around her.
“I Prefer Your Love” is a good example of this, written for her mother during a brief ill period, it endorses the all-encompassing maternal bond by boldly stating, “I prefer your love to Jesus,” implying that a mother’s love is more tangible, and for all of its human flaws, more real and heartbreaking than that of its omnipresent Holy competitor’s. St. Vincent’s delicate vocals and the sparse, tender rhythms in “I Prefer Your Love” liken it to a non-traditional lullaby.
One of the album’s singles, “Digital Witness” addresses our society’s growing dependence on technology and how a preoccupation with what’s happening online forces distance between us and our present surroundings. The chorus asks, “What’s the point of even sleeping/If I can’t show it if you can’t see me/What’s the point of doing anything?”, a sarcastic sentiment too many seem to have taken literally.
“Huey Newton” was inspired by an Ambien-induced hallucination that resulted in a trippy conversation with the now-deceased, controversial revolutionary. The song reflects this by beginning with a psychedelic, almost dizzying beat that segues into a more menacing, grungy sound by the end of the song. “Huey Newton” has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it and it’s dark, vague lyrics paint a scattered, yet moving picture.
St. Vincent‘s closing track “Severed Crossed Fingers” immediately drew me in, no doubt the imagery spoke to my literary sensibilities, which makes sense as the title was pulled from a collection of short stories by Lorrie Moore. The phrase was taken from the sentence, “He thinks of severed, crossed fingers found perfectly survived in the wreckage of a local plane crash last year” and references our ability to preserve hope in even the most bleak of circumstances. It’s an emotionally triumphant song St. Vincent claims to have recorded in a single sitting that left her weeping cathartic tears by its end.
Despite its unusual compositions and occasional harshness, St. Vincent is mellow and melodic enough to stream entirely without feeling overwhelmed, fitting the artist’s description of “a party record you could play at a funeral.” In listening to it, and noting the musical progress Annie Clark has made in only four records, I cannot help wondering how she will be categorized in history, whether years down the road, at some Mars broadcast of the MTV Music Awards, she’ll be recognized as an influential figure in early 21st century rock.
Regardless of how she’s ultimately positioned in musical history, St Vincent has earned her spot as my Women’s History Crush Wednesday and continues to prove how much of an impact women can make when they stray from the beaten path and embrace their own originality and talent.
St. Vincent is currently on tour and for more information about when she’ll be coming to your city, visit her website.