It’s impossible to second-guess Annie Clark.
St. Vincent’s art-pop full length ‘MASSEDUCTION’ underwent several re-workings, from her own ‘MASSEDUCATION’ – which re-framed the songs within a spartan piano context – to a full-on multi-artist remix project chaired by Russian producer Nina Kraviz. Finishing 2019 by producing Sleater-Kinney’s album ‘The Center Won’t Hold’, Annie Clark’s virtuosity suggested that she was capable of anything.
‘Daddy’s Home’ might be the moment she drops the trickery, a record that is revealing, nuanced, and deeply emotional. Lyrically, St. Vincent discusses her father’s incarceration, and it’s impact on her own; stylistically, though, she drops the day-glo plasticity which bedecked ‘MASSEDUCTION’ in favour of something more self-consciously classic, tapping into the sounds of early to mid 70s New York.
Capable of moving from surging, potent, glam-infused debauchery to torch song excellence, ‘Daddy’s Home’ is a gorgeous experience. Imbued with incredible sonic detail, Annie Clark – together with co-producer Jack Antonoff – embark on a stolid mission of world-building, with St. Vincent’s electric sitar perhaps being its primary weapon.
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‘Pay Your Way In Pain’ is a delicious opener, with its Bowie and Prince elements combining to craft a shattering introductory statement. ‘Down And Out Downtown’ carries the weight of New York’s gritty glamour, a recurring theme on the record – ‘Candy Darling’ also contains traces of this in its evocation of the trans pioneer’s life.
‘The Melting Of The Sun’ is a glorious sonic thaw, Annie Clark’s vocal seeming to liquify as each word drops from the stereo. Pensive and poised, ‘The Laughing Man’ is hushed and brooding, a twilight atmosphere draped across St. Vincent’s hushed, half-spoken vocal.
Impeccably structured, ‘Daddy’s Home’ utilises three interludes to construct its narrative, St. Vincent applying her exacting touch to every single moment on the record. ‘Somebody Like Me’ opens in a blur of guitar and keys, while ‘My Baby Wants A Baby’ hinges on those electric sitar spasms.
If ‘MASSEDUCTION’ was too arch for some – and its following projects too-clever-by-half – then the humanity at stake in St. Vincent’s new record will soothe those fears. Doffing her cap to the likes of Steely Dan, Sly and the Family Stone, and Stevie Wonder’s imperial run, ‘Daddy’s Home’ reaches for the classic while analysing the flaws and failings of those we love. It’s a record about growing up, and playing it straight; a more open, rounded experience than we’ve come to expect from St. Vincent, it’s a brave, fascinating record.
Words: Robin Murray
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