We hate it when our loves become successful. When your best kept musical secret becomes something close to a main stream hit, you know the universe is about to catch up with something you have kept dear and it’s not quite as cache and vital to you as it used to be.
Or so goes the hipster manifesto. However, when the likes of The National and St Vincent keep making the kinds of records that maintain what was utterly special about themselves and their music and reach infinitely more people as a result, only a charlatan would begrudge them the kind of success they are presently garnering.
With The National delivering the peerless and continually compelling and revealing Trouble Will Find Me last year, and touring to ever increasing numbers (see their recent gig at the Sydney Opera House as an indication of the kind of devotion they have from their fanbase – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3qS7 hKoOR4), the ball was squarely in St Vincent’s court to hit out of the park with the new music she has delivered on her new self-titled release and mimic The National’s inexorable rise.
Clearly bouyed and filled with even more confidence on the back of the experience of working with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne on their joint release, Love This Giant, and the accompanying tour that saw the two perform shows across the world and play each others songs as well as those they created together, Annie Clark has borrowed some of the motifs of the collaboration – the brass instruments and sound textures – and blended them with her unique skills with melody and rhythm that delivered so much on her previous release, Strange Mercy.
From the stuttering electro-funk of opener Rattlesnake, reminiscent of Remain In Light Talking Heads in its use of rolling R&B, there even more belief in the music that Clark is putting out before the world, with each successive track showcasing an aspect of her many talents. Birth In Reverse is a guitar-driven angular pop classic in the making, while the tempo drops on Prince Johnny for a heartfelt, falsetto vocal.
Lead track Digital Witness kicks with the brass underpins from the Giant project, but adds even more of Clark’s trademarks – the killer chorus, the shredded, distorted electronics
I Prefer Your Love is another slow burning soul number, and features a melody line straight out of the David Bowie back catalogue – listen out for it – while Regret ups the pace for a Liz Phair-esqe indie rocker.
Closer Severely Crossed Fingers is a harpsichordant love letter and a perfect end to perfectly balanced record.
St Vincent is infectious in the sense that it’s impossible to resist going back and seeking out its weird little corners and twists under the electronic quirks and rumbles.
But shot through the centre of the record like Blackpool rock is the lovely, melodic strength of purpose that Clark has always had, but never so compellingly and crossover-appealingly.
This should be the record to break St Vincent onto a wider stage, and as she tours Europe and the US in the coming months, word of mouth and radio play should see her break new ground and reach even more potential converts to the venerated church of Clark.