Most helpful critical review
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Weakest album since 'Marry Me'.
on 24 February 2014
I'm preparing myself for some criticism on this one, as St. Vincent appears to have finally achieved critics darling status in the papers. The Guardian, for example, has given the album a 5* review and lauded it saying:
'it feels remarkably sure-footed, the sound of an artist who, when not taking out the garbage or masturbating, has worked out exactly what she wants to do, and furthermore exactly how to do it.'
Well, whether or not that's true (and I'm not sure it is), this is a disappointing effort.
With 'Strange Mercy', St. Vincent had evolved her sound from her first two, instrument rich, albums going for a sparser, electronic based sound, with fluid fuzz guitar lines and clever use of synthesiser bass. The resulting album was a brilliant collection of songs, which really showed what an artist she is.
This self-titled album is a continuation of that sound, but where as 'Strange Mercy' contained angular melodies/rhythms and a quite cold (in a positive way) production, this album has gone firmly for a more pop orientated sound. Making the sound more commercial isn't, in itself, a problem, but I do wonder if the songs benefit from it. More troublesome is the strength of the material.
I count 5 songs here that I'd say are good - those being 'Rattlesnake, 'Birth in Reverse', 'Prince Johnny', 'Digital Witness' and Regret'. The rest are pretty forgettable in my opinion - 'I prefer your love' sounds like something Sinead O'Connor would sing (not a compliment), and a lot of the more ballad-styled material is just too plain and lacking in the inventiveness that I've come to expect from Annie Clark. The Guardian describes some of this stuff as sounding like Madonna. As if that's a good thing - the dolts.
Additionally, out of the 5 songs listed above, I don't think any really hit the height of the best material from either 'Strange Mercy' or 'Actor'. If you're expecting another 'Marrow' or even a 'Cruel' you won't find it here. Digital Witness, as a lead single, has grown on me, but it's definitely a throwback to her collaboration with David Byrne on 'Love This Giant' (itself being a mixed effort), and isn't particularly stand-out.
St. Vincent can do better, has done better and will do better. In my opinion she's the best artist working today. She's received the push she deserved, but an album too late. Typical record companies/press!
PS: I'm not some sort of hipster idiot who's annoyed she's getting some mainstream attention - I'm a very big fan of St. Vincent and wish her all the success in the world.