Breakdown: The music of Annie Clark

5 May

I remember very clearly the day I found out about St. Vincent, I was wasting away some late night, after spending too much time, and money in some bar in Houston, sitting around my place having a beer while screwing around online looking for new music, the whole time trying to calculate the amount of sleep I could get before having to be at work at 3, when I saw a photo of a girl sitting amongst foliage looking off in the distance. Ok, usual photo for a musician, depth is added by not having them acknowledge their surroundings, the usual fair you see in a promo photo.

Then I noticed that the girl was from Dallas, and at the time I was foolishly homesick for the town (I hadn’t been there in almost a year at the time) so clicked the first song, “What Me Worry?”, not really sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find her voice was gorgeous, and that the music was something of a flashback to simpler times (though I freely admit I had been obsessively watching The Umbrellas of Cherbourg almost none stop) and the sonorous vocalization in the song instantly won me over.

St. Vincent- What Me Worry?

After, that little taste I found myself searching out the rest of her music, finding each song different, yet captivating in their own way. From the cagey lyrics in the tittle track “Marry Me”, to the visceral guitar work the radiates through “Your Lips Are Red”. I was obsessed, I started forcing the music on my friends, winning  an easy conversion with my friend Jen, who made it a point to catch an early St. Vincent show in Denton. When Ms. Clark finally made it to Houston again (I had missed her opening for Midlake, due to arriving to the show late) I managed to convince  few friends to attend through continual insistence. It was a pleasing experience to realize that the music was aptly translated into a  live setting, and it was less pleasing to end up drunk enough to spend most of the show waltzing to the slower music with my friend Nicole.

St. Vincent- Marry Me

St. Vincent- Your Lips Are Red

Of course I would argue the point the St. Vincent performance that convinced me  Annie Clark was going to be huge was her show at the Fort Worth MOMA back in 2008. Sitting there watching her solo performance, tearing through her song catalogue, and peppering the performance with a Bealtes song, and reapportion of “Bang Bang”. All but ripping her guitar apart with her finger work. I was floored, this wasn’t just some pretty girl with an amazing voice and witty lyrics, this was one hell of a musician. One who approached her work with a gravitas that floated over the crowd energizing them. I remember turning to her mother ( who I just happened to randomly end up sitting next to) and telling her how daunting of a talent her daughter was.

St. Vincent- Dig a Pony (Beatles cover, live at the Fort Worth MoMA)

St. Vincent- Bang Bang (live at the Fort Worth MoMA)

St. Vincent- Human Racing (live at the Fort Worth MoMA)

With the slow build up to her latest album Actor, a mild media blitz has accompanied the album (I admit we’ve posted almost as much material from the album as we could probably legally get away with) and I’ve been enthused for it’s release. I managed to resist the urge to download the album, instead I patiently waited for my copy of the vinyl to arrive, and on Friday I came home from work to find it sitting in my mail box, it’s been played on repeat since then. Actor has co-producer John Congelton’s finger prints all over it, each track densely layered with ornate instrumentation, while the wryly clever lyrics from Marry Me manged to make their way over.

Clark’s move to New York shines through on tracks like “The Party”, which resemble a track off of last years Department of Eagles album, while “Laughing with a Mouth Full of Blood” serves a bridge between her previous work, and the place she finds herself at the moment. Overall, though it’s fairly early in the game, I’d have to say the album will find a place somewhere in my year end list of obsessions, its ease of repetitious plays garnering it high praise in my mind.

St. Vincent- The Party

St. Vincent- Laughing With A Mouth Full Of Blood

Oddly enough it’s Ms. Clark’s earliest work that I’m latest to game to. While attending the Berklee School of Music in 2003, she recorded an EP entitled Ratsliveonnoevilstars. Which serves as an interesting look into the maturation process an artist undergoes. The track “Bliss” sounds like a blend of Prince like guitar worked entwined with PJ Harvey balladry, but he standout track “Count (revisited)” resembles something that could have made the Paris is Burning EP, providing a sound that definitely lays the ground work for music that  would one day become Marry Me.

Annie Clark- Bliss

Annie Clark- Count (revisited)

After examining her body of work for sometime, both in person, and through recordings, I’m confident in saying this woman deserves a place of standing at the top of the game. The music is ever evolving, the lyrics stay at a peak level, and the artist ever rising. If she could just land an ipod commercial it’d be game over for the rest of the music world.

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