Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Album Review: St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

This review is part of the "Over Flow" Review Series. For various reasons these past reviews were not published anywhere else. I am tagging them as Overflow Reviews and may add some extra information after if needed but I will keep the ratings and reviews just as I originally wrote them. Enjoy:
 St. Vincent 
Strange Mercy
*** out of *****
St. Vincent is the moniker for artist Annie Clark who has had a pretty successful last few years playing a part in the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens band, but Strange Mercy is her newest and most accomplished solo effort.  Skittish and at times daring Clark tosses styles and sounds up into the air and let them float along at their own accord, at times falling sparse before swelling up grand.  There are electronic bleeps and thin screeches that can hiccup for a measure or stick around for a full on track.

"Neutered Fruit" is a good example of what is on display throughout Strange Mercy, swooning vocal builds, multiple song segments, electronic flourishes, quiggling elector-guitar warbles all over a thin drum machine low-end before a climatic finish.  The track seems longer then it's 4:13 and some interesting boy/girl lyrics get over shadowed by the musical happenings.   

While none of the songs are conventional they seem weird in the same vein, holding the album together with a freakish theme that bubbles in and out throughout.  "Cruel" is the most poppy/disco track (if a bit out of place) while "Hysterical Strength" rocks the hardest with sharp ending riff's.  Clark's singing is high pitched and at times frail, it matches and then melts into the Space Invaders soaring electro-pulses during "Northern Lights" and warbles with tenderness during the title track "Strange Mercy".   "Champagne Year" showcases here singing off the sweetest with a Jeff Buckley-like tone that turns on the ear.  

Lyrical "Cheerleader" is a highlight opening with "I've had good times/with bad guys/I've told whole lies/with a half smile" assuring itself multiple plays in rebellious girls bedrooms this school year.  "Surgeon" also has a resonating tone and lyrical word play behind rising strings, repetitive keyboard runs and and a bounce-outro-techno-freakout.  While things can seem to drift off at times, or not mesh properly, Strange Mercy ends up an engaging listen, Clark could strip down further towards Singer-Songwriter land, but the musical quirkiness keeps you off balance and adds to the charm; lets hope she stays weird.

Got this album a few weeks ago but Jeffrey Taylor was assigned the review for Glide, go read his take here if you would like...Short story is: he likes this disk more then me, (as do most others) but I had already written up a review so I thought I would post it here on the blog.  Jeff's review and others really harp on Clark's guitar playing...honestly I don't hear all that many great 6 string doings, there is fuzz that could be distorted guitar, or more likely keyboards, in The Dead Weather vein.   

Could be the layers of production that coat them, and I have never seen St. Vincent live, so I will wait, but what stood out to me was the sparseness, then next stanza grandiose songs.  She also plays with words well, and I dug some of her lines.  What didn't hold up so well is the lack of low-end and at times her vocal style matched to her tunes...but just my opinion...give it a listen for yourself, here are some tunes:

"Cheerleader" Live at Metropolitan Museum of Art:  Great sound...

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