Having now given it the requisite couple of goes, I can confidently say that Alexis Petridis’s 5 star review of St Vincent’s new record is completely fair. It is indeed that: a five star record. It’s been streaming all week via The Guardian (conflict of interest anyone? Petridis is the newspaper’s “chief pop critic”) and continues to until its release next week and I love it. A lot. Nearly as much as I may love her. Which may be an inordinate amount for a woman I’ve never actually met.
It’s about as pop as Annie Clark’s ever gone, yet somehow it’s not pop at all – or not as we’ve ever known it. From start to finish St Vincent is a whirlwind of melodies sat above a full spectrum of weird and interesting sonic shapes, nothing ever quite staying in one place.
Each song does something you don’t expect it to. Where mere mortals group in fours, Clark dares to push into fives or sixes; where others are happy with repetition, she decides to discard the previous section or change it sufficiently so as to make it unrecognisable. All manner of esoteric ideas push through, yet pop pervades the whole piece, as if it was the easiest, most natural thing in the world to spit in the face of convention, but completely understand and encapsulate everything that’s gone before.
The first single off the album, ‘Digital Witness’, is the most obvious hit on the record and maybe the only point in the record where it all gets a little too perfect, but even herein there’s an oddness, an otherness at work that makes St Vincent such an alluring artist. Somewhere between ‘Edge of Seventeen’ and ‘I Kissed a Girl’, with Clark’s unique art school girl vocals – high-swooning, low-brushing textures displaying a Kate Bush and Freddie Mercury fascination – all over it, the song never gets flat or dull (as if it would).
‘Prince Johnny’ strangely recalls ‘Marry Me, John’ from her 2007 record Marry me (“When?! Where?!” we all scream); a love song of sorts, a ballad that recalls “when we snorted that piece of the Berlin Wall”. Album opener ‘Rattlesnake’ is the right way to start a record – like when Radiohead decided to throw everything into disarray with ‘Everything in Its Right Place’ – a quasi-hip-hop banger replete with hooks to catch you and nooks to enrapture you.
Beyond doubt, on this one, Petridis is right, and I can’t always say that. If you only listen to one thing this weekend, make it St Vincent.