Album Review

St. Vincent "Strange Mercy"

Jason Turner
In recent months it seems that the only thing more prominent on the Internet than advertisements for male enhancement is St. Vincent. From bloggers and Tweeters to the 26 people that still visit Myspace, everyone is talking about Annie Clark and her new album Strange Mercy. A tidal wave of Internet buzz, however, does not always warrant the hype (see kitten videos on YouTube, Ted Williams and the recent Jack White-Insane Clown Posse collaboration).

But in this case it does.

Strange Mercy is in unquestionable success; it’s luscious, imaginative, haunting and beautiful. A fresh album from an emerging superstar with a Bjork-like esthetic.

Produced by John Congleton, Strange Mercy is Clark’s best and darkest work to date. Eerie synths and crunching guitars are seamlessly interwoven to produce an emotive if not unsettling backdrop for lurid, compelling stories that could rival Tom Perrotta.

Dark as it may seem, however, the album does not suffer from a lack of pace or melody. It never drags and never feels mopey. There’s no shortage of danceable rhythms and pop melodies to leave listeners feeling uplifted even in the midst of Clark’s often unnerving sentiments.

Clark shines in the dark and rarely, if ever, misfires on Mercy. Cruel and Cheerleader are standout tracks that are as catchy as they are compelling. Strange Mercy and Champagne Year are more subtle, but just as engaging and highlight Clark’s superb singing. But the star of the record is Year of the Tiger, which like a build-your-own Sunday combines St. Vincent’s best features in one irresistible offering.

Having spent time as a player with both the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, Clark is no stranger to eccentricity, but her ability to push creative boundaries while remaining accessible to listeners at every point along the spectrum of coolness is what has this diminutive Texan poised to be the reigning queen of the indie scene for many years to come.