Recently quoted, when Annie Clark was asked why her fourth full-length solo album was self titled, she responded with something along the lines that this record felt the most like who she is. If this is the case, the version of St. Vincent that the public eye can see has undergone a sort of metamorphosis since Strange Mercy. Call it touring with David Byrne, or whatever you will, but Clark has gone regal in her style. If the pastel-bleached untamable curls or her seat atop a throne on the cover wasn’t enough to show this, just start listening.
“Rattlesnake,” opens the album with the classic sound that audiences have come to know with St. Vincent: buzzing and eclectic guitar work. What are new, however, are some jazzy sounding synth riffs that make up the backing soundscape. Clark then spins a tale of broken isolation with her distortedly beautiful vocals that are a mirror to the instrumentation; it’s choppy and sporadic, as if you were to take a hammer to a cohesive synth-rock song and break it up into pieces. Regardless, it’s a hell of an opening track, peaking the interest of newcomers and established fans alike.
If the opener was choppy and up and down, the follow up and single-ready “Birth In Reverse,” is an all out cohesive triumph that combines Clark’s turbulent style with the qualities of a pop song. From the start, you have the gritty guitars, but it is joined with a rapid pace beat seems to hold everything together. Even as we are lead through the up’s and downs of the jumps from verse to chorus, it feels like a natural path to be taking, and will make you dance—what more could you want?
I could go on about the other single, “Digital Witness,” with it’s jazzy horns and killer grooviness, but chances are you’ve probably heard it, and if not, get to it. A later track on the record that captures the overall sound of this release and that will have you grooving right along with Clark is “Psychopath.” It’s a softer, more approachable tune, but it is not devoid of the rough prowess you’ve already grown fond of. Instead, the vocals are pushed further back in the mix, letting it sit on equal footing with the instrumentation and the driving synth beat, so that when Clark enters the choral arches of the song, the effect is a gentler build and an interesting balance unparalleled by the other tracks.
At the end of this record, one thing is clear—St. Vincent has indeed turned herself inside out—the ferocity that once seemed buried beneath the innocent softness of an alternative-rock star is no longer hidden, but cherished. The result will have you playing this album on repeat for days; all-hail Queen St. Vincent.