St. Vincent: Strange Mercy
Strange Mercy is the third release from St. Vincent and her best work to date. As her recent #19 ranking on U.S. charts reflects, the album is a larger move toward the world of pop. However, in no way does Dallas-born 28-year-old front woman Annie Clark compromise any artistic integrity. Rather, her work on the album represents a sort of forging into new, unexpected directions, as she once again teams up with producer John Congleton. A possible credit to the success of the album could also stem from her collaborations with David Byrne over the past few years, which resulted in one song leading to a to-be-released entire album of collaborations. Strange Mercy also represents Clark’s most complete work: a wonderful and balanced compilation of songs that stand on their own merits, but also work together to create something greater. Some critics have called St. Vincent “unorthodox” and her style has been referred to as a sort of indie cabaret jazz. Whatever the label, Strange Mercy has broad appeal and is easy enough to get on first listens, but also has the complexity to equally satisfy many listens. Like her previous albums, St. Vincent employs a wide number of instruments, pushing even further what each instrument can do, particularly her mastery of the guitar which display a wide range of grungy riffs. Contrast this with her trademark swoony vocals coupled with some delicious harmonies, and you have the makings of great stuff. There are too many to claim as a favorite, but certainly the catchy “I, I, I …” vocals on “Cheerleader,” the beautiful riff/chorus that occurs on “Surgeon” that becomes even more complicated with an electric guitar draped with choppy angelic harmonies, and the all around catchiness of “Cruel” are all very noteworthy. Strange Mercy definitely makes my top ten albums for 2011.