St. Vincent is full of contradictions. Take for example the mastermind behind the project: Annie Clark.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Clark has collaborated with many artists including Bon Iver, and was part of Sufjan Stevens’ touring band. First impressions of the female songwriter would lean towards “adorable,” given her small stature and prepossessing charm.
Listening to her deeply introspective, almost brooding style of songwriting lays these assumptions to rest. In a recent interview with Pitchfork.com, Clark acknowledged the contradiction.
“I know that, physically, I’m a very demure-looking person,” Clark said. “But I certainly have as much aggression or anger as the next person, and that’s got to come out somehow.”
That aggression came out in Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s third full-length recording.
Annie Clark isn’t the only contradiction of St. Vincent; the music itself seems to suffer from schizophrenia. Actually, “suffer” is the wrong word. Clark’s music shines because of its self-contradicting nature.
Her two previous albums, Marry Me and Actor, each displayed her uncanny ability to weave together contrasting ideas and musical elements into cohesive songs. This feat is exhibited perfectly in Strange Mercy’s opening track “Chloe in the Afternoon.” Clark’s airy vocals enter amongst an angelic choir, only to be interrupted by a distorted, menacing guitar riff. Yet somehow, they melt together in perfect unity.
“Cruel” follows and showcases Clark’s knack for creating melodic hooks that beg the listener to play them on repeat. Strange Mercy carries on and continues to be an expose for Clark’s self-analytical songwriting. “Cruel” and “Surgeon” appear to be the standout tracks of the album and warrant numerous plays in order to completely grasp everything the songs offer.
While her guitar solos often border on experimental, driving percussion and intriguing melodies create a very accessible listening experience. This album gives listeners the unique opportunity to make sense their own internal contradictions, and it’s in this light that Clark’s unsuspected vocals and aggressive instrumentation allow listeners to relate with Strange Mercy on a personal level.
The album is currently available for online streaming via NPR.