Sweetly strange singer St Vincent set for Stereo
- Stewart Smith
- 28 October 2011
Expect everything from Hollywood musical-style numbers to brutally cranked guitars from the US multi-instrumentalist
St Vincent’s 2007 debut, Marry Me, was a striking introduction to Annie Clark’s baroque pop vision. At times it sounds like an avant-garde take on pre-war Hollywood musicals, with Clark’s multi-tracked vocals vying for attention with expressionist strings and crashing pianos. Yet it’s also witty, sweet and sensual, not least on the crisp title track. 2009’s Actor saw Clark rein in some of the Broadway filligree, while advancing her songwriting and inventive arrangements. Many have commented on Clark’s knack for combining dark lyrics with lush music, and songs like the twisted lullaby ‘The Bed’ are as disturbing as they are gorgeous.
But on this year’s Strange Mercy, Clark’s approach is never quite that straightforward, and some of the most arresting moments are when the unnerving tenor of the lyrics leaks into the music, bursting forth in bilious waves of fuzz guitar and squealing synths. This time around, Clark’s lyrical persona is more confessional, as she combines extracts from Marilyn Monroe’s diaries with her own experiences. The orchestral elements are stripped back, leaving plenty of space for her exquisite voice and skewed guitar to work their magic over writhing synth bass and the compressed thwack of producer John Congleton’s drum programming.
Live, Clark has been known to crank the guitars up, as her recent cover of Big Black’s brutal ‘Kerosene’ attests. But she can also bring the disco, as in her current single ‘Cruel’, or disarm with the dissolute R&B of ‘Surgeon’ or defiant torch balladry of ‘Strange Mercy’.
Stereo, Glasgow, Tue 15 Nov.