Sunday, 11 September 2011

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

With St. Vincent (Annie Clark)’s musical background, it’s no surprise that she’s more than great at making her own music. After stints in The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ touring bands, Clark decided to make her own music and has since released two full lengths, Marry Me and Actor but has given herself more freedom for her third studio album Strange Mercy. After Actor saw St. Vincent become more successful, the 2 year build up to her third album has left many fans with baited breath interested to see what Clark has done next. Where she squashed herself into a box that perhaps wasn’t completely her for both previous albums, there’s a real sense of freedom and running wild throughout Strange Mercy.

Underneath the reassuring but seductive vocals that encase the album, there are some darker themes and self doubt that could often be ignored by oblivious listeners. Opener ‘Chloe In The Afternoon’ contains scuzzed up belligerent drums, a distorted classic rock guitar riff and Clark’s distinct vocals that are somewhat brushed under the chaotic instrumental.  It’s an entrance with attitude and the album carries on with the same exerted force onto second single from the album, ‘Cruel’ which starts off very childlike and fairytale esque but bursts into a massive chorus with Clark’s soaring vocals accompanying a skilled and distorted guitar freakout which sounds epic compared to the more understated guitar freakout at the end of lead single ‘Surgeon’.

Throughout Strange Mercy, there are several immense guitar riffs that prove Annie Clark is definitely not someone you’d want to battle against on guitar hero. Not only is she musically skilled but she also has a certain way with words that produces perplexing and sinister lyrics but transforms them into cleverly playful phrases with her fragile voice. Most notable lyrical point on the album is on ‘Champagne Year’ where Clark softly utters ‘It’s a champagne year for the sober ones’ on one of the slower points on the record.

Although already surrounded by adoring fans, it’s this record that really sees Annie Clark’s talent shine and she just builds upon her mysterious nature with exquisite guitar playing and astounding vocals that take you by surprise from the first few seconds of ‘Chloe In The Afternoon’ to the last few seconds of ‘Year Of The Tiger’. An album immersed in glory and pain simultaneously, Strange Mercy shows that by letting go, you can acquire something equally beautiful. 


By Aurora Mitchell

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