St. Vincent Blazing New Trails As Usual



Any discussion about the true innovators who are pushing Rock into new directions in the 21st century has got to include St. Vincent. Ever since her first album Marry Me, released 10 years ago this month in July 2007, St. Vincent – a.k.a. Annie Clark – has claimed musical territory all her own, turning old Rock conventions on their head in the process.

Like her predecessors Kate Bush and Feist, Annie Clark has developed a distinct vocabulary of song – mainly through structure, musical arrangement and lyric – that is hers and hers alone. But where Feist deals in an organic, natural sound with round edges and a loose feel, St. Vincent is all about musical angularities, sharp corners and precision. Plus she can really let ‘er rip on the electric guitar, which puts to rest any doubts about her bonafide Rock credentials.

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I first fell in love with her when I saw this clip of her performing The Beatles’ “Dig A Pony” live solo in 2009. It’s not just her ease on the fretboard, but it’s how she really inhabits the quirky Lennon number, its offbeat chord changes and lyrics seemingly perfectly suited for her. Within the band setting of St. Vincent, Clark uses her outstanding guitar work to play tension/relief games with electronica elements and her beautiful voice, layered or straight-up.

In the three studio albums that came after her debut, St. Vincent has delivered hit records that conjure up the heaviosity of King Crimson or the angular stop/start playful mischief of the Talking Heads. She definitely owes a debt to David Bowie (who doesn’t) and especially to David Byrne, and a couple of years ago she released an album with Byrne which showed their musical connection is real and obvious and truly wonderful.

After four studio albums a fifth is expected perhaps later this year, but this week we got a new single and on it Clark takes St. Vincent to new territory yet again. “New York” is essentially a ballad with an electronic beat, if such a beast exists. A really beautiful melody carrying lyrics that seem more personal than usual, albeit with a lyrical cutting edge befitting the title subject. I can’t get this tune out of my head these days, whenever the album comes it promises to be another great one.

 

Photo credit: By Justin Higuchi (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jus10h/32578489562) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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