Annie Clark has been going from strength to strength since the release of Marry Me, her debut solo album under the moniker St Vincent. Her last album Strange Mercy was what cemented her status as the queen of abstract indie-rock, songs like 'Cheerleader' and 'Strange Mercy' showed off her poignant lyricism whilst the catchy 'Cruel' and 'Surgeon' allowed her music to reach a wider audience. There has been a lot of hype around this release and pressure on Annie to produce something better than her last effort, though this task may have seemed impossible, she has done it.
The opener 'Rattlesnake' is a tale of when Annie was nearly bitten by a snake when naked on a friend's ranch (don't ask). 'Prince Johnny' is a swooning ballad with a melody built on ethereal minimoog and modest guitar riffs under Annie's gorgeous vocals. Things get funky on the standout track 'Huey Newton', the song floats on a hip-hop recalling groove with crisp synths before it blasts into a huge distorted guitar riff (Annie's specialty) as she spits "With fatherless features, you motherless creatures you know".
The influence of David Byrne (with whom she made 2012's Love This Giant) is most prominent on the track 'Digital Witness' in which she vents her frustration with the technology obsessed world we live in "what's the point of doing anything", she huffs over whirling synths and a brassy instrumentation which wouldn't have been out of place on Love This Giant. The heart wrenching 'I Prefer Your Love' hits the hardest; the melody recalls Sinead O' Connor's version of 'Nothing Compares 2 U' whilst the distant production recalls Julia Holter's 'Hello Stranger'. It's absolutely mesmerizing.
The second half of this record is when the album gets into poppier territory and this is no bad thing.The insatiably fun 'Bring Me All Your Loves' sounds like a 00's pop star malfunctioning over an onslaught of distorted riffs and synths. The outstanding moment on this album though (and what may well be her best track yet) is 'Psychopath', it's unashamedly pop whilst still maintaining her unique sound. The souring hook "Keep me on your soft sites when all of the rest have moved on" is backed by subtle yet wistful synths and fluttering guitar strums. The record reaches a fittingly majestic climax on the closer 'Severed Crossed Fingers'. The light and fluffy production juxtaposes the gruesome lyrics, the macabre couplet "Spitting our guts from their gears/ draining our spleen over years", being a prime example. A wonderful barbed-wire sandwich that leaves you wanting more.
It isn't easy to create such beauty in a sea of distortion and noise, but Annie Clark manages it every time and this is why she is one of the greatest musicians in the world right now. Her immense talent for abstract storytelling ('Prince Johnny'), observations of the world ('Digital Witness') and bearing of her soul ('I Prefer Your Love') cannot be disputed. She is well and truly the master of controlled chaos.
Key Tracks: Prince Johnny, Huey Newton, I Prefer Your Love, Bring Me All Your Loves, Psychopath, Severed Crossed Fingers