I sometimes ignore the awesomeness of the biography Spotify provides when you go to the artist listings. An artist like St. Vincent, who is completely and totally unknown to my head, reminds me to take a look though.
This girl came from the indie rock scene, and is said to provide "literate, emotionally intricate songs and rich, beautifully crafted pop melodies." Apparently she's broken onto the Billboard charts though, and both her second and third (this) album are doing exceedingly well. At 30 years old, and hailing from the same town as Hanson (okay, love her already), she actually grew up in Texas and wound up studying at Berklee School of Music. She was a part of the Polyphonic Spree as a guitarist and singer and toured the world. After 2 years there, she began working as a backer to Sufjan Stevens, and the name we see Annie Erin Clark under was adopted.
Sad side note - Spotify doesn't just provide links to share - I have to do it through a social networking medium. :\ Look it up I guess?
So track one is "Chloe In The Afternoon." We're greeted into the album with an odd organ sound, almost White Stripes-esq, with a guitar grit over top (hopefully I'm getting the reference right in my own head for my cousin's approval). It's incredibly annoying though - I hate when the voices drown on. I thought we had gotten past this with Yoko Ono back in the day, but apparently there are still some admirers. The indie rock I think I had been hyped for by that bio has faded, and it's not as great as her previous bosses had done.
"Cruel" provides a little relief. There's still an odd quality of ghost-like whispers laced through, but there's something about the upper odd revving sound that makes the sound work just a little more. it's still not fantastic, but man is it an improvement from before. I've regained hope and am ready for more of the album.
I've reviewed a few albums like this one that drug us through the mud just a little more, so I at least appreciate the clean words through St. Vincent on tracks like "Cheerleader." It's not completely wonderful, but it has this interesting sound to it. It's not what you'd expect from such a titled song, or at least not what I thought was coming. Actually, to be honest, there's this quality that would have made it the perfect soundtrack song for those 90s teen movies where the main character was an awesome anti-jock chick with bigger plans.
The vocal harmonies at the start of "Northern Lights" have got me downright excited. This is much more of a rock song than the misty tracks we've been hearing, and the mode works. Please keep this theme going. The drum backing moves the song, and the slower melody of the words works right up against them to create this fascinating sound as a whole. This is where the good stuff was hiding, and I can't be more grateful we found it finally. There's still a little bit of spacey-ness in the effects as it moves on, but it's not unbearable!
The title track is next - "Strange Mercy." It's light at the start, with a nice featuring of the main vocals, not totally distorted in some way by the machine. The flow is a little too much, as we loose some of the words, but it's not bad. This song's got an interesting spiraling-down type of motion throughout, which I think it's the guitar's doing, as it's just hitting notes as needed to drag. The bridge has got me blown away though - it's like drifting in a pool, but for the first time, we're not drowning.
"Champagne Year" sounds like it should be an ending song, but it's not. It looks like it should be a New Year's song, which may be the case. Most of the song comes across as something that might actually lull me to sleep in a concert. There's nothing grabbing about the lyrics, and certainly not the music. It's very airy and just sends me on a trip across the universe, completely void of emotion. "Dilettante" shows off her voice really nicely again, which is actually entirely pleasant to hear. I can see the warranted compliments on vocal quality that most of these songs fail to display. Funny that in this one, I think it's actually kind of off musically. There's nothing interesting going, as most of the instrumental portions of the song seem to only serve as a distraction from the song itself - probably not a good sign for a piece of music.
The pace picks up for "Hysterical Strength." It almost comes across as (and maybe is) a dance song. The vocals slow things down again, but there's some hint at the original tempo in the background, even through the muffled tough exterior of the song. There's like this feeling of holding back and trying to push through. Like there's a bubble around the sound and we somehow can't break out so hear the full explosion. And I checked my speakers - it's not me.
"Year Of The Tiger" is the final track. It's probably the most beautiful track that uses vocal effects of echo and layering. She didn't really hit it right in the other ones, but it works much better here. The song is still slightly sluggish and very hard to be truly into, but it's a fine ending to the album overall. At least it's nothing completely unexpected, given the rest - is that good or bad? Who knows? The album's over.
- "Northern Lights"
- "Strange Mercy"