Blunt Intimacy: St. Vincent’s Self-Titled Album

In previous interviews, Annie Clark has recounted the story of a visit to a friend’s desert home. While out on a walk, she felt free enough in the moment to take off her clothes. That nakedness must have carried over to her song writing. Her new self-titled album explores the lost connectivity of humans relating to one another, even as our online connectivity, and dependence on technology as intermediary to relationships rises. There is a sense of despair and anxiety that would suggest helplessness. That is, until 2 minutes, 45 seconds into the opening track – when this rattlesnake musician reveals her guitarist fangs.

Sonically and lyrically, Clark doesn’t wait long to uncoil here. She strikes next with the meandering verse and frenetic chorus counter-punch of “Birth in Reverse,” which conjures images of the death or devolution of a world gone mad. Titular character “Prince Johnny” favors love conquests over true personal connection; Clark laments as he brags about “when and where and who you’re going to bed next.” In “Huey Newton,” the lingering trail of our digital history is examined. Clark observes, “I’m entombed in the shrine of zeros and ones.”

Whether in the pronounced keyboard/drum tandem of “Psychopath,” or the catchy, mechanical hook of “Every Tear Disappears,” the musical and lyrical assault reinforces the albums themes of lost intimacy in both personal and societal interactions. The influence of Clark’s previous effort with David Byrne, Love This Giant, manifests in a feisty, marching horn section peppered through “Digital Witness.” The song’s military rhythm paces an analysis of society funneled through technology. As Clark puts it, “People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window.”

The irony of the eponymous album title is not lost. Clark’s weapon of choice against all this impersonal, privacy-deprived culture is her own fierce honesty. On “I Prefer Your Love,” the airy ambiance of the opening notes and calm, measured drumming are interrupted by the proud confession, “I prefer your love to Jesus.” She professes holding more stock in the real aid of a loving person, over the manufactured faith and allegiances of countries and religions. In an age of technological dependency and “Look at Me!” social networking that never really reveals the human being, it’s comforting to know artists like Annie Clark are not afraid to share themselves.

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