Annie Clark, known better by her stage name of St. Vincent, has always been somewhat of a musical outlier. She makes incredibly thoughtful yet intensely strange music that never seems to fit into a set genre. She is a female guitarist in a male dominated field. She can play licks with the best of guitarists, but chooses to focus her incredible gifts on making her own eclectic music. For this effort she recruited popular producer Jack Antonoff of “Bleachers” and “Fun” fame. He was expected to add a more polished and commercial sound to her sound without stripping it of her distinct style.
“Hang On Me” starts the album with a strong “Nine Inch Nails” industrial beat that slowly builds along with powerful synthesizers. Slowly the track swells with orchestral flourishes until this plea to a former lover to not look back in anger has reached its low key finale.
“Pills” takes a completely different method. The song starts with an old nursery rhyme motiff reflection and gradually turns into a guitar freak-out that would fit very nicely on a “Sonic Youth” album. Further along the song devolves into a ballad for its final third. The lyrics reflect on the unfortunate state of today’s populace and its increased dependence on pharmaceuticals.
“Sugarboy” continues with St. Vincent’s descent into the weird. The song begins with a rapid drum beat during the verses, with lyrics about wanting to find love. The chorus slows down with layered guitars, and vocals that build with a strong desire to find human connection, in whatever form that takes. She also saves time for a keyboard solo directly out of 1984.
On “Los Ageless” she mourns the destruction of the world in a sci-fi fantasy that features taut drums and piercing guitars that chime through to make their point. She sings in the chorus of how the world used to be. Her pain can be felt especially during the bridge in which she cries out for her lost world.
“Happy Birthday Johnny” takes a complete left turn again from the previous songs. It begins with a low key piano and St. Vincent’s poignant falsetto, describing a lost love. She still wishes the best for the person, even though their love no longer continues. Her voice beautifully conveys her heartbreak and her hopes for the future for both of them.