Music review: Saint or sinner hits sonic heaven
St Vincent (Republic Records)
Annie Clark, or St Vincent to us, has amassed one hell of a CV to date: she's an ex-member of Polyphonic Spree and an occasional collaborator with Sufjan Stevens. She's released three highly idiosyncratic and well-received solo albums and in 2012, she teamed up with David Byrne for a singular brass-driven record. The two played Electric Picnic last year and their set was hailed as one of the best in the festival's history.
But now the 31-year-old from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has stepped up a whole new level with an album that is bound to be among 2014's finest come year-end.
Quite simply, this self-titled effort offers a masterclass in avant-garde pop. It's as daring and inventive as any album you're likely to hear this year, and yet at least half a dozen of its tracks would not be out of place gracing daytime radio.
Clark has long been applauded as a multi-instrumentalist and she really excels here. And much like Stevens in his pomp, she marshals those instruments exceptionally – what may have been something of a sonic mess in inferior hands, is controlled and poised in hers.
Her songs are beautifully rendered too. In places, she channels the spirit of Kate Bush; in others, she recalls Madonna – in the days when Madge was queen of all she surveyed. She's equally at home delivering rousing torch songs as she is in those spectral electronic-tinged tracks that are redolent of Portishead.
A pair of tracks, Digital Witness and Regret, are especially arresting, but the truth is there isn't a duff song here. Outstanding.
Digital Witness; Regret
Day & Night