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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

St. Vincent just keeps getting better

Published: March 21, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc., Front Page

Indie music is usually considered a “boys’ club.” While it is easy to talk about St. Vincent as a female art-rocker, she transcends the gender barriers of music. She is not just a groundbreaking and talented musician—she is one of the best songwriters of the genre.

Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) has proven herself numerous times before with her ability to play 13 instruments and add pure, raw emotions to her songs. This time she has produced an album that could be called flawless, with every song being one sublime experience after another.

St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth album starts off with “Rattlesnake,” a dance-rock number with gorgeously written post-apocalyptic imagery and jarring synthesizers that are artfully done. With this album, St. Vincent edges dangerously close to the dance-rock genre without falling prey to the clichés that surround it. “Birth in Reverse” contains experimental dance-rock music with a string bass influence. Its lyrics talk about the boredom of modern life.

The released single “Digital Witness” has a strong ’80s R&B influence, but her unpretentious playfulness with the production of the song makes it sound like something brand new.
Like Arcade Fire, St. Vincent has mastered the dichotomy of writing truly depressing lyrics while maintaining the contagious movement that her songs have. Win Butler once said that his aim was to produce music that makes people dance with a tear in their eye. With this album, St. Vincent has managed to do that.

While most of the album has strong roots in the dance-art-rock genre, its shining gems are those that are far away from that style of music. Clark’s readiness to be freaky and audacious has translated into her songwriting, which is riskier than ever, and out to connect. Her song “Prince Johnny” is a comparatively slow song which tells the story of a modern-day Pinocchio doing coke in bathroom stalls, like a twisted coming-of-age story. It has an infectious melody and a haunting harmony that stays with you long after the song is over.

An interesting ballad, “I Prefer Your Love to Jesus” has a fascinating style of singing and instrumentation. It is one of the slowest songs of the album and the most romantic. The song could be considered a weak link in the album, but its softness and the emotional impact elevates it to another level.

The album ends with “Severed Crossed Fingers.” Although it is a cliché to say the she left the best for last, that is exactly what has happened on this album. The three minutes and 42 seconds of this song are quite an experience. Not only was this an apt end to the album, it is a promise for what will come next in the world of St. Vincent.

Critics first said that she couldn’t do better than her album “Actor,” and then she blew their minds away with “Strange Mercy.” Now with “St. Vincent,” she has proven that it is almost useless to say that the album is her best because St. Vincent keeps getting better with every release.

It would be wrong to point out the must-listen song on the album, because all eleven songs in this album could be equally good single releases because of what they promise and how different they are. She has managed to produce an album that has doesn’t even have a single weak song, all of which are an artistic tribute to how far she has come from her first release. She is now the reigning queen of indie music, whom no one can dethrone.