St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Rating: ★★★★☆

Annie Clark has definitely been around the musical world a fair number of times for the short amount of time that her music has been in circulation. Granted, she was in several other bands before her debut as front-woman in St. Vincent, such as The Polyphonic Spree and backing for Mr. Sufjan Stevens. So it wasn’t a surprise when this lady took things by storm and it isn’t a surprise that this third release is just as savory as the previous two.

A clear standout track that you can pick up on first listen, or even before, is “Cruel,” a single from this album.  From the beginning, you have this creepy sweeping, lullaby-gone wrong trance-like sound, which then switches quickly to a down-right dance able tune, with psychedelic beat in tow. Clark’s vocals resound solidly through the whole song, switching between power and wispy, but nevertheless, pushing the song forward. The end result is a song that lends itself to almost the dance-pop genre, which is a bit of a surprising, darker twist for St. Vincent that is sure to have you bobbing your head and shaking yourself all over the place along to the buzzing guitar and the steady dance beat.

Something different on Strange Mercy that wasn’t so apparent on the last releases is the shift from innocence and the transition to darker, deeper tracks that aren’t afraid to pack a punch. “Cheerleader,” the third track, holds such intensity, as Clark asserts that she “don’t wanna be a cheerleader no more,” over and over again while resolute drum beats drill her vocals in like a hammer driving in nails. Clark is assertive and adopts a woman-in-charge flair whose presence can be felt all the way until the end of the album, especially on the very last song “Year of the Tiger,” in which the band builds to it’s explosively powerful ending. Meanwhile, Clark’s voice remains impeccable, holding you to listen like a super charged magnet until the gritty musical elements kick in towards the end, and the song switches from sweet to the prowl of a tigress.

Overall, it’s a pretty complete album; there is a range of various types of songs, all of which seem like different aspects of Clark’s soul, as her voice is the delightful motif that makes its way through all the tracks. While the elements that surround her vocals may change, what remains is a strong front woman who isn’t afraid to experiment with varying kinds of sound and you are bound to enjoy at least a few of these lovely songs.

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