CMU Approved

Approved 2017: St Vincent

By | Published on Friday 22 December 2017

St Vincent

Every day this week we’ve been looking at the last twelve months for one of our favourite artists of 2017. Finally today, St Vincent…

Listening back to Annie Clark’s first solo album as St Vincent – 2007’s ‘Marry Me’ – it’s amazing how much of a blueprint of the sound and character she has developed over the last decade is in there. But looking at it the other way around, I don’t think there’s anyone who would have predicted the route Clark’s career would have taken by 2017.

As Clark’s visual and sonic styles have become ever bolder over the years, this year seemed to bring together a perfect combination of confidence, vision and budget so to create one of 2017’s most memorable album releases, ‘Masseduction’.

Clark’s work has always been concurrently intimate and unknowable. In promoting her latest album, she took this to new levels. She announced it via brightly coloured mock press conferences. Some interviewers found themselves locked in a brightly coloured room listening to stock answers played on her iPhone if they asked the wrong questions.

Though, those who asked the right ones were rewarded with a friendly openness, despite a tendency to always bat away any theories about what – or who – her lyrics might be about. Either way, the key things that often come across when Clark does the promo circuit are an arch sense of humour and a thoughtfulness about what she is doing.

Such bold moves to promote an album require a bold album at the end of them, and ‘Masseduction’ is certainly that. It features her songwriting at its most striking, whether on the jittery ‘Pills’ or sentimental ballad ‘New York’.

There’s an aloofness to much of it still, offset by her characteristic guitar playing and lyrics that often come off as intensely personal. She plays like an untouchable rockstar, but there’s an intimacy to much of the talk of sex, drugs and sadness in her lyrics.

“How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds too?” she asks on ‘Los Ageless’, a line so perfectly imbued with joy and pain that the song barely needs any more words. “I tried to write you a love song, but it came out a lament”, she repeats as the final notes of the song ring out.

Meanwhile, on ‘New York’, that wry humour creeps in. She refers to the person she longs for as a “motherfucker” because she found it funny, she revealed on the Song Exploder podcast (although it became a disappointing and less poignant “other sucker” in TV performances). Dodging any suggestion that the song might be solely about one person, she goes on to explain that it’s an ode to many people, including David Bowie, and the city of New York itself.

If the future of Annie Clark’s career was unpredictable a decade ago, it seems more so now. ‘Masseduction’ feels like the realisation of an idea long in development. But it wouldn’t be surprising if it turns out to be a stepping stone on the way to something else. Though, that said, nor would I be surprised if next time she returns in an entirely new form. The waiting for a new St Vincent record is almost as exciting as receiving it.

Watch the video for ‘Los Ageless’ here:

Listen to (almost) ever artist featured in the CMU Approved column in 2017 on this Spotify playlist.