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St. Vincent - Strange Mercy Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9.5
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 8.75
Production 9
Creativity 8.75
Lasting Value 8.75
Reviewer Tilt 8.75
Final Verdict: 89%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.25
Musicianship 9.5
Lyrics 8.63
Production 9
Creativity 9.5
Lasting Value 8.75
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Average: 90%

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

Reviewed by: Adam Pfleider (09/12/11)
St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Record Label: 4AD
Release Date: September 13, 2011

I generally like listening to music that makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm not even speaking lyrically but more along the lines of instrumental complexity and hooks that feel like daggers and set the mood of a specific uneasy, quivering feeling. When that is matched to the melancholy feeling of a beautiful voice spouting dismay written on paper yet audibly blissful - it's one of those moments that happens in music that always grabs me. Charlotte Gainsbourg did it at the end of 2009 with IRM, but when Annie Clark repeated the lines "H. E. L. P. Help me," that same year on "Marrow" off Actor, it was a perfectly set nail against the wooden frame of fuzz from her guitar. The rest of the album bloomed in bright dread and beauty throughout.

St. Vincent has returned this year with an album that pushes those ideas even further. On the album's slow building title track, Clark is not only bitterly shoegazing, she sounds dangerous and poignant to cut as deep as she can. With that and the radiant stargazing "Champagne Year," it is Clark's only quiet footsteps on Strange Mercy. Otherwise, she kicks things into full gear the rest of the way through by building bright anticipation and harsh release weaved inside and out and around each track. The late-era Pink Floyd tempo change on the end of "Surgeon" is quite a treat, and the anti-pop dance number of "Hysterical Strength" and its accompanied melodies are gripping. Once the guitar kicks in around the last 30 seconds, it's one hell of an exposition for a song this year.

I was thinking the other day of the appeal of MGMT's first album - how its pop dance numbers are backdrops to some wistful lyrical wordplay - when this happens on Strange Mercy, I'm reminded that pop-laden major chords don't always have to match to positive thoughts. The chorus on "Cruel" proves just that as the song is one instrumental-lyrical contradiction of glory. Speed up the tempo on "Dilettante" and I'm sure you could remix it into a club number without the casual music listener being the wiser. Music is amazing in the way great artists can manipulate moods - and Annie Clark is a queen at this.

As "Cheerleader" is the album's driving number, it is also one of the most accessible upon first listen when examining the layers and production value of St. Vincent's work. Strange Mercy is easily Clark's finest in texturing the bitterness of her tongue against the bright crescendos and dissonant force she has built St. Vincent into as a musical vehicle. tUnE-yArDs' w h o k i l l is easily one of my favorites this year as it is one of the best executed party pieces of ecstasy and rhythm one can be on. Strange Mercy is on par with the release though - only this album feels like you took too many downers and are about to overdose on your worst feelings traveling through some sort of vortex of beauty. Annie Clark stands out with her work because she is one of the few artists that can take something mournful and make it jarring yet angelic all at once.

Track Listing1. Chloe in the Afternoon
2. Cruel**
3. Cheerleader***
4. Surgeon*
5. Northern Lights
6. Strange Mercy*
7. Neutered Fruit
8. Champagne Year
9. Dilettante
10. Hysterical Strength*
11. Year of the Tiger

*key tracks


Reminds Me OfCharolette Gainsbourg's IRM; Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine; Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 22.
07:39 PM on 09/12/11
#2
Drew Beringer
Senior Editor | @drewberinger | Locked Groove
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great album, great review, probably my second favorite release of 2011.
09:31 PM on 09/12/11
#3
Steeeve Perry
Pushin' th' little daisies
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Great review, makes me want to give this some serious, repeated listens.
At the moment I can't go past Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls though, are we getting a review for that??
09:35 PM on 09/12/11
#4
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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Great review, makes me want to give this some serious, repeated listens.
At the moment I can't go past Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls though, are we getting a review for that??
keep hearing good things. liked the last album, but saw them at ACL last year and they were a huge disappointment live. just got the new Russian Circles tonight and have some other reviews this week, so I'm not going to even begin to pick up another album right now.
09:59 PM on 09/12/11
#5
Ian Walker
wes craven with x cravings.
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Great review for a fantastic album.
11:45 PM on 09/12/11
#6
Steeeve Perry
Pushin' th' little daisies
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keep hearing good things. liked the last album, but saw them at ACL last year and they were a huge disappointment live. just got the new Russian Circles tonight and have some other reviews this week, so I'm not going to even begin to pick up another album right now.
That's cool, it's worth your time when you get a chance. I've never seen them live (don't know if they have even visited Australia) but with their releases so far being as strong as they are, the duo would have a lot to live up to.
12:39 AM on 09/13/11
#7
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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this woman is amazing.



02:12 AM on 09/13/11
#8
spansen
and then what happens?
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You neglected to mention how insanely pretty she is.
04:01 AM on 09/13/11
#9
Chemical Love
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I haven't gotten into this yet. Gonna have to give it another shot.
05:27 AM on 09/13/11
Keagan Ilvonen
@KeaganIlvonen
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I haven't had time to listen to this but it's on my list. I loved Actor.
06:55 AM on 09/13/11
Holly HoX!
*
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I think Annie Clark is one if the most beautiful women in the world.
I think I'm in love with Annie Clark.
Wait, is that her playing Big Black?
Yeah, I'm in love with her.
This album is fucking boss.
07:15 AM on 09/13/11
Holly HoX!
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Gawd, that synth part in Cruel is so awesome.
08:22 AM on 09/13/11
dashboardkid88
RVA
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Great review and fantastic album. One of my favorite albums released this year.
09:49 AM on 09/13/11
Drew Beringer
Senior Editor | @drewberinger | Locked Groove
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I just love that Annie Clark finally shows off how great of a guitar player she is. So many funky sexy riffs on this album.
12:11 PM on 09/13/11
Cody Nelson
facebook.com/comedyfiends
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3rd favorite album of the year. This is seriously so good.
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