Sunday Suggestion – St. Vincent – Prince Johnny

With the successor to St. Vincent’s self titled album for album of the year in 2015 recently unveiled as being Currents by Tame Impala; we thought we would take k back at one of the highlights of the best album of 2014 and ‘Prince Johnny’ is one of many. From what seems like a much more eccentric and inventive version of a Lana Del Rey track, it is a song of beauty and complexity. The simple back beat is joined with haunting choir like samples along with the sparse bass line to enhance the other refined instrumentation. Annie Clark’s vocals are sublime in this track as they effortlessly carry the melody and the hook and still keep the focus on the unusual and wonderfully odd lyrics. The chorus only enhances this and the haunting samples behind it. Only brief rumbles of a guitar are needed. It is such an effortless and beautiful example of delivery, recording and production. Slightly humorous, tragic, eerie and fresh all at the same time. One of the best tracks from a still wondrous album.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Encountering St. Vincent – Gateshead Sage

On the 27th August I experienced first hand the marvel and enigma that is Annie Clark a.k.a St. Vincent. One of the most spectacular events that you could experience in combining her truly innovative and ground breaking music with striking theatrics, effects and coolly executed dramatics. These were evident from the off as the synth bounces of ‘Rattlesnake’ hit the applause and St. Vincent strolled on to carry out a series of poses and stances before a urgent and crisp delivery of the track whilst moving on to ‘Digital Witnesses’ with all it’s live intricacies and detail of each strike of her guitar and slick presentation that is occasionally intercepted by Wiry and metallic guitar solos, which are delivered with ease. She went on to engage the audience by guessing the nickname for the people of “Newcastle slash Gateshead” was “Peaches” and that their favourite word was “osteology” which we might use in reference to “sex, food and music” and with the audience sort of nervously hanging on every word; she went on to make the subtle point that we’re all the same as we all hope. Words as simple as anything but made more potent and thought provoking like St. Vincent does with her music. Classic tracks like ‘Cruel’ and ‘Marrow’ were delivered with the biggest and boldest transitions between the song’s subdued distance and towards the heavily distorted, yet direct riffs as she shuffled her feet in a manic fashion in unison with the strobe lights to make it seem she was almost hovering. All of this while she was still wresting with her guitar at the same time. A sight to behold.
 
She went on to talk about accidently stealing from Tesco or Sainsbury’s and setting fire to a neighbourhood with a magnifying glass with a real sinister yet comic tinge, before concluding “Shit man, that’s life”. Her marvellous song range then swept through ‘Laughing with a Mouth of Blood’, ‘Surgeon’ and ‘Actor Out Of Work’ before delivering ‘Cheerleader’ with a huge kick and a punch as the track pounded it’s way towards the chorus as she smoothly slipped into the mysterious and almost tragic nostalgia of ‘Prince Johnny’, which she delivered from atop her podium, standing bold and high above the stage and audience. Of course this ended with her haunting slither down her podium, encased with flashing lights and wailing synths. This uneasy and temporary inertia was soon broken by the synchronised moves of Clark and the rest of her band to the warped distortion of ‘Birth In Reverse’ and ‘Regret’. The latter extended the pause to about ten seconds and it was nearly a lifetime (or it felt as such) before she broke her freeze and continued with the song’s conclusion. ‘Huey Newton’ was still able to stand out amongst an entire set list of quite simply huge tracks. The meandering first half of the track was obliterated by the grinding, distorted drive of the second half, that featured quaking guitars that completely rattled you in the most thrilling way imaginable. Time to catch your breath is fleeting as the rapid tinged insanity of ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ fired and shot it’s way at your senses. As if in a wonderful paradox or perfect manipulation, the show or event was concluded by the lone St. Vincent playing out ‘Strange Mercy’ on her podium. Then with a bow she was off. That was it. It felt a little too fast as it would when you become completely immersed in something. Immersed in music for the first time without the comfort of my headphones or speakers in my room, but with the natural sounds enveloping me. No artist I have seen has ever done that and I think it’s the ultimate compliment to St. Vincent I can give. I was sat down throughout, but you had to be. It craved your undivided attention as she had given her undivided effort and imagination to it. It may sound so boringly cliché but it had a profound effect on me. I’m still having flashbacks…

St Vincent – St Vincent review

This review should have been completed long ago but better late than never? I really did not want to just leave it since there really seems to be a great level of intrigue and excitement about it and her initial tracks off the album look very promising. This is her fourth studio album and her previous three have saw her develop and sharpen her art rock and baroque style and she is not really one for playing it safe and simple. Her self titled fourth effort sees her applying more experimental tools and methods to the genres she has showcased so well already. Given the pattern of her progression so far, you would think and hope that ‘St Vincent’ will be her greatest effort to date.

‘Digital Witness’ starts with quick firing bursts of trumpets and other brass instrumentation while her vocal is detached and sort of out of sync with the brass which leads to a broken melody that is engineered in a great and imaginative fashion as it sounds peculiar and curious. The small and drawn out electronic sounds trickle through the brass instrumentation before flashing into the chorus which ramps up the tempo through the percussion and then through the rapid synths and the washing of guitars over the top. Her enclosed lyric continues the block-like feel that fits all the different elements together in an odd jigsaw puzzle. Amongst this is the various samples and synth sounds clashing at certain intervals throughout the track that are suddenly stripped back; only leaving the brass before being rushed back into the chorus. A simple manipulation of the songs structure used to great effect. ‘Birth In Reverse’ cunningly opens in an out of joint and dragging, drawn out fashion with the drawn out, distorted guitar which suddenly turns into a bouncy and urgent rhythm from the second guitar while the opening, distorted riff remains in the background. The vocal reflects and echoes this to the point which only serves to enhance the transition. The guitars scratch at a higher pitch in the chorus with the synths grinding to the depths of any tone. The vocals are slightly distorted but also very upfront and immediate which keeps the attention of the lyrics. The interlocking varieties of guitar sounds and the heavy bass synth sounds make for a fresh and invigorating sound that has the added dimension of her contradictory vocals. A lot of standard guitar groups could learn a lot from this.

‘Prince Johnny’ has a completely different dimension. Imagine a complete and improved version of Lana Del Ray. She could learn much from St Vincent too it would seem. The simple back beat is joined with haunting choir like samples along with the simple bass line to enhance the other refined instrumentals. Her vocals are sublime in this track as they effortlessly carry the melody and the hook and still keep the focus on the unusual and wonderfully odd lyrics. The chorus only enhances this and the haunting samples behind it. Only brief rumbles of a guitar are needed. It is such an effortless and beautiful example of delivery, recording and production. Slightly humorous, tragic, eerie and fresh all at the same time. One of the best tracks I have heard so far if not the best. ‘Rattlesnake’ opens with bouncing and out of joint synths along with the out of focus but organic vocal that adapts in an out of focus and immediacy depending on the amount of instrumentation around it. ‘Regret’ is a slung back and bold guitar track that St Vincent typically makes her own in the chorus with the strung out acoustic elements and the soft backing vocals that suddenly turns towards highly charged electronic guitars. ‘Every Tears Disappears’ is a magnificent collage of percussion and synths options and varieties that breaks out into a melody over the top of it with pop like vocals at certain intervals. This album is full of about anything you want. No song is linear at all. Each is crafted so meticulously with each detail playing a part to the overall feel of the songs. Unusual and unsettling moments become so familiar and correct. She has also offered a multitude of new ways and progressive slants on what are being seen as dead sounds and instruments. A true masterpiece of this year for sure. I don’t really have to say whether this is her best work or not now do I?

St Vincent – St Vincent = 10/10

Images from www.vulture.com / prettymuchamazing.com