Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Vincent- Strange Mercy(2011)

St. Vincent- Strange Mercy

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, has always been what a football scout would call a "5 tools prospect." She has it all: talent, songwriting skills, an absolutely stellar voice. She is also a total stone cold fox:

I mean Jesus H. Christ. That is the kind of girl who you fall in love with. But she wouldn't love you back. In the end, she would rip your heart right out of your chest, bite it in half and then spark up a cigarette.

Yet despite all of this incredible talent, Ms. Clark never delivered on it. Most of her musical output has been under-achieving at best. Take 2009's Actor. A handful of brilliant Pop songs mixed in with copious amounts of forced quirkiness and disingenuous artsy garbage(no doubt her time with the Shithead, aka Sufjan Stevens, had something to do with this.) The whole thing felt unnatural, and Ms. Clark seemed forced into a box too small and confining for her obvious abilities. The effort was there, but it was wasted effort on a project not worth the time. It was starting to look like Ms. Clark would never be more than a competent, but mostly inessential, Indie Pop Gurrl who would never compare to her contemporaries. But Strange Mercy finally sees Ms. Clark deliver on her talent, in about the biggest way possible.

Strange Mercy is a lean, mean Pop machine, the perfect vehicle for Ms. Clark's sultry voice, which oozes pure sex appeal while never once sounding slutty or stupid. Thankfully free of worthless ambient Noise, unappealing Freak Folk and forced quirkiness, Strange Mercy is all about the hooks, and boy are there a lot of hooks: not one single song gives you any room to breathe before you are singing along with another perfect chorus or flawless verse. Take "Cruel," a Pop fused Indie Rock tune that will get your ass moving, or the Funky and steamy "Dilettante," which has Ms. Clark winking and nodding as she sings "Your like the party I heard through a wall/Invite me." Strange Mercy has seen Ms. Clark go from fairly standard Indie Gurrl is flat out sex symbol, and it is an aesthetic that works wonders for her and her music. Ms. Clark also knows when to turn things down a bit for more somber, softer hitting moments, like the title track, a haunting Electro-Rock ballad that gives us the best pure vocal performance on the record, or the whisper quiet "Champange Year," a spaced out Electro-Pop chill out from all the Funky Indie Pop that most of the record delivers.

Indie Pop has become so ironic over the years, with more and more artists going for "Zooey Deschanel" faux-awkwardness, it is such a breath of fresh air to hear an artist this confident in her music and her lyrics. Confidence. That is the key word here. Strange Mercy is an album from a very confident woman who has finally found her voice. This is such a massive improvement from Ms. Clark's previous work, it becomes difficult to quantify. What I can easily say is this: Strange Mercy is about as massive, as gorgeous and as perfectly made as a Pop album can get. Strange Mercy has completely dominated my listening cycle since the very first note, and will continue to do so for a very long time. It doesn't get any better than this people. Strange Mercy, and Ms. Clark, will dominate your dreams with this one.

Rating: 10/10