27 November 2014

St. Vincent - St. Vincent

I would like to start this review with an apology to St. Vincent - I will firstly be using the beginning of this blog to have a go at a magazine.  This will only take a few moments and I promise to be fair minded when I do the review.  Ok, with that out of the way....  This album has been voted the album of the year for 2014 by NME writers.  This is a magazine that constantly fails to deliver a correct verdict on anything and has been responsible for promoting some of the most dull and artistically devoid bands/musicians I have ever heard.  Now, before it was announced that St. Vincent (aka Annie Erin Clark) had won this year’s race for NME, she was not even on my radar for review.  But one of my friends pointed it out to me on the day it was announced and I felt a curiosity to find out what St. Vincent was about.  St. Vincent started making music around 2003 and this is her fourth release, she is a former member of The Polyphonic Spree, she has toured the world supporting the likes of The Black Keys, Arcade Fire and contributed to 'To Be Kind' (cleverly linked here) by Swans.  She is not a lady without credentials a-la Libertines (one of NME's crimes against humanity); she is an artist that has been gaining a lot of positive feedback over the years.  Well, let us see what the fuss is about....

Starting off with "Rattlesnake" and immediately I am impressed by St. Vincent; unlike a lot of indie pop crossovers (see Haim) this starts incredible strong.  The lyrics are a little strange and the chorus is very catchy; most importantly the music is of a high quality.  Pop music needs to be interesting and off the beaten path pop music even more so; this song starts off the album with a new alternative pop classic.  "Birth In Reverse" is a strange mixture of cat lady lyrics, glam rock overtones mixed with a sound that the Pet Shop Boys would have killed for at one point and something for both the hipsters and everyone else to dance to.  It is another catchy track but ends a little disjointed for my tastes, but this is just a preference and not saying the song is ruined.  It would take a lot more than that to knock this track off course; it is too good for that sort of treatment.  "Prince Johnny" is at odds with the first two tracks as there is a dream pop feeling to the song.  This slowed down soulful number is a good song, drifting along like an old school Bond theme without the sexism and the lyrics are very entertaining.  However, the tune itself does not do much for me if I am honest; but there is enough going on to keep the interest going.  "Huey Newton" is the fourth track on offer from St. Vincent here, it is another slow starting number and once again the performance is very good.  St. Vincent has a beautiful voice which helps with the music.  But it is not until the second half of this number when the fuzzy guitar kicks in that the song becomes interesting for me.  It was very dangerous to becoming a filler track, not quite a killer but a good tune in the end.

"Digital Witness" is big, bright and brash; it is a larger than life song which fills the world with a sense of fun and joy.  The lyrics are very clever and the performance is once again is really impressive, automatically this is a contender for track of the year - it is that good.  Back in ballad number, "I Prefer You Love" starts with the statement 'I prefer your love to Jesus', for some people and generations that might be a controversial statement.  Many years ago, it would have made from page news; now it is just a nice sentiment.  This chill out number is very relaxing and after the energy of "Digital Witness" is the obvious choice in some ways.  It is not the song for me, but it is another number were the performance is interesting enough to keep the listener engaged.  "Regret" starts with the distorted guitar hitting a rock out riff, but with no real backing and the vocal delivery seems to be at odds with the music in places; the chorus has too much contrast to the verses and opening to settle.  First break in the defences here for St. Vincent.  "Bring Me Your Loves" is another strange number, but this time it actual makes sense; the vocals, music, pace and tone of the number is much more in synchronization with each other.  It works at being strange and out there, as it is done correctly and brings the album back on track.

"Psychopath" has the pop at the centre of its being, it combines the slow and faster pace persona's of St. Vincent.  It is not a slow number by any means, but that dream pop vocal ability of St. Vincent brings the best out of the song.  It is a grand mixture of gentle indie, the aforementioned dream pop, old school film scores and modern alternative music; it grows with subsequent listens as well and is very rewarding.  Penultimate track "Every Tear Disappears" is one of these numbers which once again is performed well, but ultimately it does not quiet work for me.  Unlike "Regret", it does not over stretch its reach, the performance is once more very good; it just fails to engage me other than it has a good production and that riff is decent.  "Severed Crossed Fingers" ends the album with a slow ballad and the feeling of love that comes from this song is really strong.  The lyrics are once again very strange, but the love coming out of these strange statements is beautiful and ends the album on a beautiful moment.

Ok - first off, I cannot agree with NME that this is the best record of the year.  It just does not grab the listener that much and there is a few numbers which just do not work.  However, I do think that NME were having an off day as they are right that it is a good album.  It is interesting and well produced; St. Vincent has a lovely voice which does not sound as if she is trying to screech like a banshee as some singers do these days.  As I said before as well, "Digital Witness" is a brilliant song which is already making its way into the track of the year for this blog, but the overall album whilst being a good album is not the record of the year.  But I would recommend that you check it out and make your own opinion; if I had have followed my normal prejudices (hating everything hyped by NME) I would not have heard this album and found one of the songs of 2014.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the St. Vincent website here

Here is a link to listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for Deezer users

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