The stirring vocals of St. Vincent return with the release of her third album this week. Strange Mercy sees Annie Clark reunited with producer John Congleton (Actor 2009) who has a natural ability to accentuate her dancing vocals through the ebb and flow of arrangements that hide unexpected dark tales as well as some musical departures from her previous releases.
The opening Chloe in the Afternoon unfolds a tale of an illicit affair and sexual domainance. The husband’s conscience soon gets the better of him as he leaves Chloe’s “black lacquered horse-hair whip” to return to his wife. Annie Clark’s guitar comes into a new life of it’s own on Strange Mercy as she puts it through its paces, it takes on a second voice to demonstrate the pain, anger and aggression that her voice gives little away on, feigning nonchalance. The tales are not always commonplace, they are frequently pitched from a hidden darkened world which her placid vocal delivery make all the more potent.
The album also has its quieter reflective moments, none more so than on Champagne Year, a personal insight into turning of age (although 28 seems blssfully young to me), ‘So I thought I learned my lesson, but I secretly expected a choir at the shore and confetti through the falling air. I make a living telling people what they want to here, it’s not a killing but enough to keep the cobwebs clear’.
The contributors include: Beck keyboardist and musical director Brian LeBarton, Grammy Award winning musician Bobby Sparks on mini Moog, clavinet, Arp and Wurlitzer, Midlake’s MacKenzie Smith on drums, Daniel Hart on violin, Evan Smith on woodwinds and Phil Palazzolo. Bobby Sparks mini Moog gets a thorough work out on Surgeon as the the song builds and shifts to a climatic finale.
Overall, I didn’t feel the album went too high up the rock scale, despite the occasional amp distortion and heavier moments on tracks such as Dilettante and the rousing Cheerleader there are moments of indie-pop familiarity. Annie’s subdued vocals keep it all fairly contained and the sound doesn’t runaway as you might expect, it is a gratifying listen but I did feel she hadn’t yet found that right balance.
St Vincent will be touring the UK and Europe during Nov and Dec (dates below)
Listen in Full to Strange Mercy
UK & European Tour Dates
10th – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
11th – Fleece, Bristol
12th – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
13th – Workman’s Club, Dublin
15th – Stereo, Glasgow
16th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
18th – Crossing Border Festival, Hague
19th – Luxor, Koln
20th – Crossing Border Festival, Antwerp
25th – Primavera Club, Barcelona
26th – Primavera Club, Madrid
29th – El Lokal, Zurich
30th – Café de la Danse, Paris
2nd – Frannz Club, Berlin
3rd – Indra, Hamburg