St. Vincent, Strange Mercy
My first introduction to St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) was her album Actor, which I admittedly enjoyed a bit too much. I only can say now that I enjoyed it a bit too much, mind you, because after hearing Strange Mercy, I now realize what great heights Clark and her band are capable of.
At the start of this album it sounds a bit like an indie-rock mess at times, though Clark can really belt out those vocals. It continues with the musical freakouts but maintains a quality that is simply remarkable.
The best part of this entire album, though, is probably hearing the line, “I-I-I-I-I don’t want to be a cheerleader no more,” and imagining some girls out there somewhere setting fire to their pom-poms. It’s funny how this music doesn’t have that punk rock start-a-riot kind of feel to it, and yet it could still probably do just that.
In all my years of listening to music, I’ve heard female vocals about a fifth of the time that I’ve heard male vocals. This goes all the way back to hearing Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson as a kid, through to Sleater-Kinney and Gwen Stefani in my teens, and up until now, when we have a seeming surge of female vocalists, from Adele to Florence + the Machine, Ke$ha, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, Paramore, Feist, and on and on and on. To put that fraction of one-fifth on the number of female voices I have heard sing may sound like a smaller number, but overall I have heard so many female vocals that there are bands I’ve even forgot about hearing. (Letters to Cleo come to mind, if anyone remembers them.)
Regardless, of all of those female voices I’ve heard (Salt N Pepa also come to mind as I type this), I must say that these vocals right here from St. Vincent are my utmost favorite. There is just something about them that can be so intoxicating and hypnotizing. The music itself can be described as indie-rock that’s offbeat and quirky, sure, and that in itself is also a good sound, but that voice is what makes Clark as necessary an artist as she is.