The Music Review Site Where YOUR Opinion Matters

St vincent album cover

St. Vincent

St. Vincent - 2014

Oh dear, Annie. I cannot recall (perhaps because I have the memory of sieve) a greater album of evidence pointing to a usually prolific artist stuck in a holding pattern. Everything on show in this album points to the creativity of Annie’s past work being recycled instead of being evolved. Sadly, it’s safe to say that on this, her fourth studio album, her overall growth as an artist and musician has completely stalled. Fortunately for St. Vincent/Annie Clark, her catalogue of work up until now has been nothing short of brilliant. Now this works in her favor in regards to this album because her style is unique. So, as a listener I can put up with hearing the same devices from her previous work put to use on this album. Working against her is the expectation to keep hearing that unique style being revamped, reconfigured and matured which is something she has done well in the past. On this self-titled album however, there is literally nothing new to speak of. Therefore, the feeling of disappointment brought on by crushed expectation far outweighs the level of patience one can have with this new album simply being pleasing because it’s more of the same work….except not as good because, well, it’s the same work. As Annie can’t really justify a greatest hits album it seems that she has come up with a greatest tricks album instead. All that has made her sound undeniably St. Vincent, she puts to use on this album. One of my favourites is the commonly used jumping into the head voice for the chorus. A great idea as it gives the chorus a whole new atmosphere to play in and lifts it up and away from the verse. She employs this technique in over half of the songs. That head voice of hers is severely limited in range so doing this that much not just over the course of one album, but also over the course of the last three albums and suddenly it becomes monotonous. Another oh-so-St-Vincent-ism is the matching of the melody line to the guitar riff. You only have to start the album and in the first two songs you hear this happening. Anything wrong with this? No. Sound cool? Sure. Getting a bit overdone? Definitely and especially so because it always happens when that is the only significant thing going on during those sections of the songs. If there was more than just a drum and bass groove supporting it then it wouldn't sound so, same-trick-different-song. A regular aspect of a St. Vincent album that I will never tire of is her guitar sound and style of playing. Her work on the axe is always sublime, her sound, a patch work of brilliance. The work on this album does offer something new to her guitar repertoire. Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing. An interesting style and sound cannot overcome cheesy and at times horrifically cheesy riffs and this album has them in abundance, and it’s not just limited to the guitar output. It seems as though she wanted to make up for these sort of lines being in absence from her previous albums. (Ex. Regret: 1:00, Bring Me Your Loves: 1:26, Opening of Severed Crossed Fingers, Synth work in the interlude of Huey Newton). It’s not all gloom and doom and there’s more good work done on her instrument of choice than bad. Unfortunately for her the really bad stuff sticks out so much further than the usual and used brilliant guitar work. Even a great thing can become ‘meh’ in abundance. Something that is really missing from this album that was in over stock in the phenomenal album she collaborated with David Byrne on, Love This Giant, is syncopation. I’m not looking for odd time signatures, or crazy subdivided patterns but something more diverse than simplistic straight quarter, eight and sixteenth note feels would have been nice. The majority of the album is rhythmically challenged ergo boring as sin. (See Psycopth, Birth In Reverse, Prince Johnny, Huey Newton, Prefer Your Love etc.) Speaking of Love This Giant…that album in essence ruins the second best song on St. Vincent. If that phenomenal album had never been released then the single Digital Witness would be a real treat. Alas, that album did happen (and it’s in another stratosphere as far as quality of music goes) and so this song just sounds like it was picked up from the cutting room floor of Giant. Apparently Annie loved writing an entire album around the usage of a horn section that she just had to have one more go at it. It’s a decent song but ultimately it was always going to get compared to the work done on Giant and this song doesn’t match up at all. ‘What’s the point of doing anything?’ …..such as writing original material? The other single, Birth in Reverse is quite possibly the embarrassment of the album and only second to Huey Newton (quite literally one of the worst songs I have ever heard…I could write entire review on everything that is wrong with this song) as the greatest career stumble for her. It’s a wasteful wannabe of a rock song when compared to its obvious predecessor and much more emphatic parental unit, Actor. The guitar work is choppy and sparse so the edge it provides when it is there is lost in its absence. The chorus goes on to conjure up images of a Saturday morning Disney friends get together program. To be fair to it, the outro of the song is pretty hip and had that been used as the basis of another song then there might have been something there. The album is found in summary in both Rattlesnake and I Prefer Your Love. Both decent songs that like the album as a whole are enjoyable but ultimately boring after a few plays. Verse, chorus, little interlude, verse, chorus, out. Ho-hum. Eventually it catches up to you that the enjoyment you get really goes nowhere and does nothing. Prince Johnny has something to it that stands out but the real winner of the album by about a trillion, bazillion light years is Bring Me Your Loves. This is surprisingly one of the best songs she has ever penned which just adds to the feeling of disappointment when compared to what else is on this album. The arrangement, the different sections that come from all different angles, the groove. This is where I expected the quality of her creative output to be on this album. The ever changing and expanding melody is energetic and charged with a sense of spontaneity while everything in this song battles against a formulaic want of the other tracks on the album. In essence St. Vincent is an absolute trespasser on the grounds of her other albums. The real provocation for thought is how to rate this album. Recorded by anyone else this would be a good album so it would look at possibly 3 or 3.5 stars. Alas, it’s not a somebody’s album, it’s St. Vincent’s and therefore, judging it on her previous work it’s a generous 2.5 starrer. (The video below is actually her performing a track from Love This Giant with David Byrne. I wanted to make evident the huge divide between that amazing album and this, an ok one.)

Posted by Andrew Scott

Back

Comments

I didn't get this in. This album has not a single element that can be used to describe it as 'art rock' or 'art pop'.

'The collaborative metadata database Rate Your Music defines art pop as "a genre that blends the melodies of pop music with unconventional or experimental elements such as the use of progressive structures, unusual time signatures, abrupt tempo changes, vocal experimentation (like the search of extremely high-pitched tones, elongation of vocals, or the use of vocal techniques like throat singing), a symphonic, orchestral and theatrical performance, or the frequent addition of diverse electronic elements like trip hop or glitch.' s a quirky pop album.

Posted almost 5 years ago by MoiAndrew Scott

Posted: 03/11/2014