Today is the release date for the third album from Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, titled Strange Mercy. A former member of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens‘ touring band, St. Vincent has evolved into one of indie rock’s most consistent and inventive artists. Her voice has a wonderfully expressive range, and possesses the wonderful quality of being able to express rage in a sweet, lilting and haunting voice, as on the title track when she sings to a friend, “if I ever meet the dirty policeman who roughed you up…”
On the track “Cruel”, a swirling synth string effect evokes old Hollywood musicals as St. Vincent sing-songs her grappling to understand how people can be so “casually cruel”. The song is punctuated by her stabbing, angular guitar riffs that come from unexpected places that continue to surprise on repeated listening.
The entire record displays Clark’s lyrical wit and depth, singular guitar playing and ability to arrange complex, unconventional and highly memorable songs, cementing her as an artist who, like Stevens or Rufus Wainwright, could just as easily compose symphonies, sound tracks as she can a collection of some of the finest indie rock being made.
St. Vincent is undertaking a world tour this fall, so be sure to keep an eye out for dates. In the meantime, grab the vinyl at a great indie shop or St. Vincent’s website, or if you’re reading this on street date and can’t get on the road, download from Amazon for $3.99 – you shan’t be disappointed.
Here in San Diego, another convention-defying (yet wholly different kind of) artist is coming to town: Brandi Carlile. On the surface Carlile can seem like any number of confessional singer-songwriters strumming away and sharing their college-poetry level feelings. But Carlile is no lightweight, Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts wannabe songwriter. Her voice is a powerful instrument that that creates Pixies-like dynamics in an acoustic setting, or the emotional bare-ness of emo before it was co-opted by tuneless sad sacks caring more about eyeliner, skinny jeans and howling than emotional impact. In fact, Carlile has the ability to mesh influences such as Patsy Cline, Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke into one dynamic and singular voice.
She’s also just released a new record, this one live in her native Seattle at the Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony. There’s a free 4-song preview of that record to be found here. And as much as any symphony-aided record can seem to be an exercise in excess and pretention, Carlile pulls it off with aplomb, letting her voice and the songs stay front and center, and allowing the arrangements to buffet them rather than take center stage.
Tonight the Dunk Tank crew will take in her show at Copley Symphony Hall as she opens for Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs. With any luck we’ll be able to get some decent pics. In the meantime, check out some great music from two of the finest women making music today. Enjoy.