Tag Archive: St. Vincent


05. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

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With her first release in six year, the return of Jenny Lewis is like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years. From the first watery piano chord of Head Underwater to the climactic peak of the title track, The Voyager catches us up on her life and all the ups and downs she has gone through. But even in the darker moments, she sings with a wink, a light touch that suggests that everything will be alright in the end. The music is just as warm and inviting, with sun-soaked chords and strings permeating the record. There may be better albums that came out this year, but there are none that feel as comforting as The Voyager.

Highlights: Late Bloomer, You Can’t Outrun ‘Em, The Voyager

04. TV On The Radio – Seeds

Seeds

How do you deal with loss? If you’re TV On The Radio, you write a funky, celebratory record about life. The band’s first album since the death of bassist Gerard Smith finds them abandoning their apocalyptic vibes for an introspective journey of love, no matter what form that love takes. It’s easily their most accessible release, with the Beatles-esque guitar work popping up on Could You, the R&B jam of Test Pilot and the propulsive punk of Lazerray. Livelier than Nine Types of Light, Seeds takes the best of TV On The Radio’s past work and shines it through a hopeful prism. The message is clear: love transcends all.

Highlights: Could You, Lazerray, Trouble

03. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

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All hail our new queen, St. Vincent. 2014 was her year from beginning to end. And it all came out of her fourth, self-titled album, where she sits perched in a throne with a shock of grey hair. The music on the record is just as confident, off-kilter and challenging as her stare and smirk on the cover. While she has always melded harshness and beauty, the lines have blurred to become indistinguishable from each other. Every gentle lyric is delivered with a hint of danger and every nasty, warped guitar riff is as catchy and memorable as anything else she’s done. St. Vincent is the sound of an alien taking human music, writing her own version and sending it back to us. Who knew we could sound so lovely, threatening, accessible and weird at the same time?

Highlights: Rattlesnake, Huey Newton, Every Tear Disappears

02. EMA – The Future’s Void

EMA

On her second album, EMA has done the impossible: written an album about the Internet and the digital age that doesn’t cause eyerolls. Instead, The Future’s Void grabs you by neck and forces you to pay attention. EMA’s lyrics don’t come off as a lecture, but rather a warning about what the Information Superhighway could be doing to our brains. Recalling William Gibson’s concerns on the same subject, the words are carried by music that’s abrasive, but also melodic. Satellites moves from static to an industrial banger, So Blonde is a smash hit from 1994 and Solace builds off a jerky riff that feels like an electric current. It is one of the darker albums of the year, but just like debut, one that’s impossible to resist.

Highlights: Satellites, Neuromancer, Solace

01. U2 – Songs of Innocence

Songs_of_Innocence

What’s the best way for a band that’s seen and done it all to move forward? Look back. That’s exactly what U2 did for Songs of Innocence. After the last couple of disappointing records, the Irish four-piece dug into their history, exploring life in Dublin in the 1970s. No rock is left unturned here. Both the good and bad of that formative time is laid out for all to see.

The highs create ecstatic songs like California (There Is No End to Love) and This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now, the latter combining sharp, subtle guitar riffs with one of the best rhythm segments from the band in years. Every Breaking Wave is an absolutely gorgeous ballad and instant U2 classic.

Some of the best songs though come from the lows in the band’s past. Raised By Wolves is a tense retelling of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. Sleep Like A Baby Tonight uses pulpy synths and a stuttering guitar line to tell the story of a pedophile priest. The Troubles, about an abusive relationship, features a perfect melding of vocals by Bono and guest singer Lykke Li. It’s another number that deserves high placement in the U2 lexicon.

Forget about the Apple nonsense and focus on the songs. Similarly to how this album reminded Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry of why they became a band, it will remind you of what makes U2 one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Highlights: Every Breaking Wave, Raised By Wolves, The Troubles

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Within the first 20 seconds of “Digital Witness,” it’s clear that St. Vincent’s time with David Byrne on Love This Giant has rubbed off on her in the best way. Woozy horns blast out of the speakers as Annie Clark sings “People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window,” ending the line with an indifferent “yeah.” On the swirling chorus of echoed guitar chords, she asks “what’s the point of even sleeping?” Is it a commentary on the laziness of technology overload? Or is it about the need for information overload in an Internet age? In either case, the song is St. Vincent’s funkiest this side of “Marrow” and bodes well for her upcoming self-titled LP.

Everyone has their own berserk button. When set off, the subject being attacked lets his or her id take over, giving in to pure rage. St. Vincent’s Record Store Day release, “KROKODIL”, is a textbook example of unfiltered fury poured into two minutes of music. Gone are the nuances and tight melodic arrangements of Strange Mercy. Instead, the A-side of this single is a unrepentant blast of industrial guitar. While “Cruel” possessed the subtlety of a scalpel, “KROKODIL” is as blunt as a chainsaw. Annie Clark’s usually serene vocals are turned into vicious, shaken screams barely heard above the noise. If her covers of Big Black’s “Kerosene” and The Pop Group’s “She is Beyond Good and Evil” didn’t prove how punk this woman could be, then this song will remove any lingering doubts.

This article first appeared at Consequence of Sound on August 2nd, 2010.

After a series of festival appearances this year, St. Vincent’s last scheduled tour date was a free show at Central Park’s Summerstage. Backed by a bevy of talented musicians, her last show for the summer grabbed the packed crowd’s attention from the first song and didn’t let go until she left the stage an hour and a half later.

Though it’s been a little over a year since Actor came out, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) and her backing band still showed the same enthusiasm for their newer material. Laced with aggression and precision, the group put on a stripped down show that put all eyes and ears on the music rather than any fancy lighting. From piano to saxophone to a small string section, the lush melodies of both her records came to life, only to be interrupted by Clark’s intricate and ferocious guitar work.

Before the headlining guitarist took the stage though, the audience was entertained by two decent opening acts that made the long wait (two and a half hours) a lot less painful. First up was Canadian songwriter Basia Bulat, who’s light-hearted but lyrically dark brand of folk rock made for a relaxing way to start the day. With the light breeze that was blowing through Central Park, many people sat and relaxed towards the back as she played. Bulat herself picked through a variety of instruments, including the guitar, ukulele, keyboard, and her trademark autoharp.

If Bulat was laid-back, then the tUnE-yArDs‘ set was the polar opposite. Group founder Merrill Garbus came onstage with face paint on and proceeded to create a rhythmic loop out of her yodeling. Bassist Nate Brenner supported her loops nicely with some cushioned riffs. It wasn’t all electronics though. After a few songs, a special guest band joined in the fun, filling in on electric guitar, percussion, horns. Garbus often played a distorted ukulele that expanded even more on the group’s experimental sound. The most distinctive part of the set though was the vocals. Garbus’ voice reached across the spectrum of music, bringing to mind the smooth pop of Dido to the R&B soul of Macy Gray. She hollered, heckled, and even imitated a car horn (her ode to New York). The performance was well-received by the crowd, who she had jumping along with her by the second song.

While the opening acts were good, it’s clear the crowd was there for St. Vincent. Unfortunately, some technical difficulties increased the wait another 20 minutes or so before the band took to the stage. Soon enough though, Ms. Clark and her band started their set with three songs from Actor, including the single “Actor Out of Work”. The result was sadly disappointing, though no fault to Clark. The sound mix was way off, putting the bass high enough for vibrations to travel through the barriers and Clark’s guitar too low to be heard clearly. These mechanical problems really put a damper on the first part of the set, sucking away the part most of the crowd was there to hear: Clark’s guitar. The effect was lessened afterward, probably due to some panicked fiddling on the part of the sound engineer but it was still enough to turn the end of “Just The Same But Brand New” into a muddled mess.

After the fifth song, however, the audio improved greatly with only minor grievances occurring. Perfect timing too as the band premiered one of the few tracks from St. Vincent’s second album that hadn’t been played live yet, “The Neighbors”. The track sounded spectacular live, with Clark’s fuzzed guitar tone meshing well against Daniel Hart’s mesmerizing violin. Though the entire support band played wonderfully, Hart was something of a standout. His violin went from beautifully brittle to darkly haunting throughout the show. He was the only one who managed to grab the crowd’s attention as readily as St. Vincent did.

Speaking of the leading lady, she proved once again that there’s no one who can switch between the fragile and fury so quickly. Every guitar solo turned Clark into a woman possessed, forcing out the distorted crunches she wanted by any means necessary, including punching the guitar. Yet by the next song, she was lighter than air as she moved over the frets to create séances of music. The audience readily changed along with her, from quietly staring during “The Bed” to punching the air and singing along to “Marrow”. When the last harmonic from St. Vincent and her backing band rang out during “The Party,” the crowd screamed in approval, the earlier problems forgotten.

The ending reaction from the crowd was the overall experience to take from this show. After stumbling badly out of the gate, St. Vincent recovered enough to put on a gratifying, intense showcase, no matter which song she played. Not a bad way to finish up her tour.