9.4 / 10
You know that moment when you listen to a song and you lose consciousness of what is being said because everything is in such harmony that you drift away into a better place? That is what all of Strange Mercy feels like. St. Vincent’s third album plays like a very emotionally invested affair full of perfectly placed and played instruments. Annie Clarke gels together so many elements of music that it made me distrust her entirely whilst still throwing myself willingly into whatever room she would take me.
At times it sounds like a dramatic musical minus the over the top drama, then makes shifts, like into the very groove driven “Surgeon” which sounds like a porn beat but in the best way possible, or in the renouncing “Cheerleader” which comes off as empowering and confessional. There are also many moments in which it all seems very taken apart and cacophonous and it still works perfectly; almost as though she could stake her life on the fact that such drumbeat goes there and such guitar goes there.
If Actor was her fairy tale album in which she led us through Oz-like and Wonderland-like passages full of flying monkeys, witches, and talking rabbits this is her musical. A musical about a woman who stands at the top of a mountain and shouts her heart out for all to hear; unapologetic and brash but so shrouded in genius musical veils that even the most perceptive of people would be fooled. In “Cruel” her vocal melodies right in the first few bars could be put on the same level as Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” and dare I say it? I find it angelic. But of course she would not just be satisfied with just sounding like that; so then she hits you with an effect filled guitar solo. On the note of guitar solos, the one on the aforementioned song is but a tiny fill compared to the frenetic, almost blaster sounding barrage we get on “Northern Lights.”
It is no big surprise that miss Clarke’s album will wind up in many best of the year lists due to its wholeness and near flawless execution. Her vocal melodies are always soothing, refreshing, and on point, while on the other side; the instrumentation always goes somewhere unexpected, exciting, and progressive. And it’s not just all the explosive moments that get you, it is also parts like when “Northern Lights” just begins as though it is a giant build-up ready to burst, or just the feel of “Year of the Tiger” that feels like the way the album should end, stomping, strong and almost like a football fight song of grandiose proportions. I believe that this will not only be the year of the tiger but also the year of St. Vincent.
- Northern Lights
- Year of the Tiger