St. Vincent takes the throne as art-rock queen

Annie Clark is the latest talented female artist in alternative rock.

Mack Hayden , Writer

Indie rock has always been feminist-friendly. For every Lou Reed, there’s a Nico. Amidst a sea of male punk rockers, Patti Smith made her mark. We’ve learned the hard way how important Kim Deal was to the Pixies. All this to say, Annie Clark, or St. Vincent, is the latest of a long string of sensational, talented female innovators in the alternative music scene. She crafts sonic textures where it can be hard to tell where one instrument begins and another ends and then makes you see this as one of her greatest strengths. Not to mention, she plays guitar like no one else.

She set herself a trajectory to stardom, all while holding on to humility and influence. She started out playing with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, is friends with the members of The National and released an album with Talking Heads frontman and art rock legend, David Byrne. She’s gotten where she is now by gratefully standing on the shoulders of giants and her new self-titled album proves she’s a giant now herself.

On the cover of “St. Vincent,” Clark sits enthroned with her hair dyed gray. It’s an ambitious move. Does this mean she sees herself enthroned as the elder queen of artsy rock? If she does, you can’t really accuse her of arrogance. If ever there was an ascension to that throne, it’s this album. From start to finish, its originality and vibrancy is an assurance this record’s going to be on most music critics’ top ten lists by the end of the year, even if it is only February.

On album opener “Rattlesnake,” Clark asks, “Am I the only one in the only world?” and you start wondering the same thing. The album’s first two singles, “Birth in Reverse” and “Digital Witness,” stomp and bop with equal parts freedom and anxiety. Tracks like “Prince Johnny,” and “I Prefer Your Love” show Clark’s queen of the slow dance, synthesized sway as well. “Regret” has her crunching out perfect and punchy jagged-angle guitar lines and album closer “Severed Crossed Fingers” is the kind of retro, emotive song Clark can make sound like voyaging out and coming home at the same time.

She’s been building a new kind of dance floor since her first album and, with this release, her apocalyptic, postmodern discotheque is finally completed. Once you’re there, though, you can only dance by yourself. Oscillate wildly all you like, but she’s going to make you come to terms with the highs and lows of the human condition while you’re at it.

St. Vincent is enthroned, listen to her decrees.

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