St. Vincent is Annie Clark, a talented multi-instrumentalist from Texas. Prior to St. Vincent, she has performed as a member of the Polyphonic Spree, and contributed guitar to Sufjan Stephens touring band. Strange Mercy is her third album, and it’s a remarkable, curious, unclassifiable collection of songs, that are fractured, structured and flustered with ambiguity, energy and direction.
I don’t know what the genre Art-Rock is exactly, but maybe this is it. Each song on Strange Mercy is lovingly crafted, and unique, and like a good piece of artwork, leaves an awful lot up to the listener to find precisely where the meaning of the piece lies. This happens through her curious and revealing lyrics, and through the musical structure of the songs themselves.
On Surgeon, she opens with the refrain “I spent the summer on my back…” What does that convey – Depression? Hopelessness? Promiscuity? Loneliness? What you choose to take away from these tracks is entirely up to you. The answers aren’t defined, and the music deftly weaves a similar story of smooth, inviting warm string pads and sweet vocals, struck against pulsing synthetic bass lines, and a genre-hopping fusion of Annie’s formidable angular guitar playing.
As I said before, this album is open to interpretation, but to me, this record seems incredibly sexy in its energy. There’s something both strong and vulnerable in Annie’s delivery and the stark honesty that she exposes herself to the listener – in the candour and smoke of the album, that raw energy comes through pretty clear. From the opening track – Chloë in the Afternoon, that details an encounter with a dominatrix for a busy white shirted businessman (or woman), perhaps real, perhaps nothing more than an over-active imagination stemming from a scrawled appointment in a journal…
And there are beautiful, intriguing love songs, such as the title track, Strange Mercy, with its 80′s throwback synth tones, and heartfelt lyrics, or Dilettante, a vignette of a relationship that again, I don’t really understand, but absolutely oozes style:
Slow down, dilettante
So I can limp beside you
And follow in your house too
Hang on, street savant
My bank in my back pocket
How far you think you’ll take us?
Oh, Elijah, don’t make me wait
What is so pressing?
You can’t undress me anyway
Listening to the record, I thought to myself – this is what music in the future should sound like. The album has a modern unique sound, and yet somehow manages to keep a kind of timeless class about it. But of course, that’s just my opinion. Chances are that yours will differ – and I think for Strange Mercy, that’s the way that the artist wants it.
Musichord Rating: 8/10