Friday, August 26, 2011

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

All of St. Vincent’s best qualities are still inherent on Strange Mercy—the juxtaposition of screeching, dirty guitar blasts and angelic vocal melodies, the layers of swirling synthesizers, and the propensity to make heads bob. But there’s also jazz fusion madness (the climax of “Surgeon”), heavy metal fizz (“Dilettante”), and menacing couplets atop languid beats (“Year of the Tiger”). It makes for a complex web of an album, even more challenging than the dreamlands frontwoman and songwriter Annie Clark pieced together on her first two albums. “Cruel” is a treat, all grooving bass and spacey vocals. The band envisions the marimba as a bright undertone to Clark’s guitar shredding, rather than the quirky-cute foil. The subject matter on Strange Mercy is mostly grim, painting feelings of betrayal and protest, coupled with an immediate angst. “They could take or leave you, so they took you, and they left you,” Clark croons flatly. These grim stories are told in an entirely unique manner, in a symphonic style that’s uniquely St. Vincent’s. At times, the layers feel cluttered and claustrophobic. Yet the second half of the album is less noisy, with songs like “Champagne Year” quietly sliding by with muddled drums and slow-building synths. It’s the highs and lows, the harsh and posh, the heavy and heavenly—that juxtaposition—that makes Strange Mercy both expected and entirely unbelievable.

p.s. ridiculous. i can't even...

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