St. Vincent, the musical alias of 28-year-old Annie Clark, has gone through a lot of styles in her time as a solo artist and as a member of other projects. After leaving The Polyphonic Spree and playing in Sufjan Stevens’ live band for a short period of time, she began to release music as a solo artist; her first album, ‘Marry Me’ being released to critical acclaim in 2007. Her sophomore album, ‘Actor‘, was a more orchestral affair, Clark gaining inspiration from watching children’s films on mute while writing music to soundtrack the scenes. On upcoming album ‘Strange Mercy’, Clark has reinvigorated herself as a guitar-playing goddess, “Cruel” being the first proper single to be released from the album.
Upon hearing the opening ten seconds of “Cruel”, it appears that Clark hasn’t stopped soundtracking scenes from Disney films. But a pulsing, kick-drum beat, and the distinct vocals soon kick in, leading to the arrival of the song’s spiky guitar riff, with Annie crooning the title over and over. The songs continues with the same format until the Disneyesque vocal melody is reinvented with Clark’s guitar sounding like a malfunctioning chainsaw; a massive contrast to the woozy vocals provided before and after. The track’s main riff carries on with Annie’s passive voice soaring over the top, sounding like a jittery, disco ballad about having your heart broken. The song finishes with Clark embracing her inner guitar heroine by playing a howling, siren-like solo.
Annie Clark may be trying something new and different for solo album number three, but it sounds like she has been doing it for years. However, there’s a simple explanation for that; she was born to play guitar.
By Calum Stephen