St. Vincent (Annie Clark) is the musical chameleon of our times. With the musical fluidity of luminaries such as Prince and David Bowie, she has crafted a career that trends follow. Her new album Daddy’s Home breaks new ground, while staying true to what makes her such a fascinating artist.
If you asked me what I thought about St. Vincent, I would first have to ask you “which one?” The phases that she’s gone through, the styles that she has experimented with; they combine to create a career that is as diverse as it is rich. However, it also makes her a rather mysterious figure, an artist that is difficult to pin down through any relation or association.
Her latest offering, Daddy’s Home, is an amalgamation of the music that her father used to play to her when she was a child. This musical bedrock functions to provide a foundation, not so much to tell a story, but to explore her own personal history. Clark’s father spent a decade behind bars, and Daddy’s Home is her attempt to make sense of him finally returning to her – and life on the outside.
It makes for an emotionally complex, at times visceral, thematic glue that strengthens the album as a whole. It most certainly isn’t a concept album, at least in the big C sense, but it is a narrative that informs and deepens the work.
And thankfully for us, Clark’s father had a pretty sweet record collection. Artists like Steely Dan, Nina Simone, and The Velvet Underground can be heard, poking their noses out from Jack Antonoff’s adventurous production.
Speaking of which, the new St. Vincent album sounds absolutely stunning. Antonoff’s recent work with Lana Del Rey is an obvious touchstone, although Daddy’s Home is a far more unruly beast. While the sexual energy and lush atmospheric palate could be compared, Clark’s idiosyncratic guitar playing and sleazy slink transport many of the songs into a far more alien territory.
Daddy’s Home is like a hipster’s dream of what the ’70s may have been like, played through their parents’ $10,000 speakers. And I mean that in the most positive way possible.
Second single The Melting of the Sun is as good a place to start as any, showing off a laid-back groove that jumps down an acid-soaked rabbit hole as soon as Clark grabs her guitar. It’s a captivating piece of music that will leave you with more questions than answers, and possibly a subconscious desire to go back and revisit Portishead’s back catalogue.
The lyrics reference everyone from Pink Floyd to Joni Mitchell, culminating in a wonderful expression of Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam. It’s a little like a classic rock take on Dante’s Inferno, and if that metaphor holds any weight, then Candy Darling, the muse of of The Velvet Underground, would play the role of Virgil.
Live in the Dream is a good example of just how ghostly much of the album sounds. There is an undeniably creepy energy that runs through much of Daddy’s Home, and for some reason I’m reminded of old siren songs that urge you to come closer, while at the same time hinting that something sinister lurks just out of view.
The album is meant to be unsettling, ethereal, and a bit bizarre. The fact that it is those things, and still wildly entertaining to listen to, is a testament to the unique talent that is St. Vincent.
Daddy’s Home is out now via Loma Vista Recordings / Virgin Music Australia. Stream or purchase your copy here.