25 February 2014 (Loma Vista/ Republic)
By Josh Hughes
What words effectively describe an exceptionally great album in the midst of great albums anymore? I use ‘favorite’ too much on a nearly daily basis that leaves it obsolete. ‘Classic’ takes years and years to accurately describe something, and ‘masterpiece’ feels nearly as watered down and based on preference as anything else. So, I’ve been spending the past week trying to accurately condense how I feel about St. Vincent’s self titled LP. I still haven’t put my finger on anything that really sticks, except there’s just something about this album that makes me feel it will be just as relevant in 30 years as it is today.
I won’t try to hide the fact that until this past month I had never taken an interest in St. Vincent. Though I’d heard “Cruel” and “Cheerleader” countless times, I’d never taken time to sit down and listen to her full albums. Now I pretty heavily regret that. 11 songs long, barely breaking 40 minutes, “St. Vincent” is the most I’ve obsessed over an album since something like “Yeezus” or my recent rediscovery of “Sound of Silver”. That’s a monumental weight to put on an album, but there’s an undeniably summer-tinged (insert word in place of masterpiece or classic here) feel to it. Maybe that’s the only way to go about it, comparing those rise-above-the-pack albums to similar albums before it. Still, I hate comparing new innovative ideas to old, new at the time innovative ideas.
Between “Rattlesnake” to “Severed Crossed Fingers”, St. Vincent steps out of her left wing pop antics into the spotlight as one of the early/mid 2010’s brightest musical minds. The three early tastes from the album, “Birth In Reverse”, “Digital Witness”, and “Prince Johnny” show that popular music can’t get better or catchier than this. The twist to the album is that every single song has the power and guts that those songs do. Each song goes no farther than four and a half minutes, and each one fully utilizes and satisfies the melodies bursting within it. St. Vincent, like Alex Turner or Ezra Koenig, is the profound crossroad artist blending profundity with immediate ear pleasing jams. Pitchfork will undoubtedly praise the gutsy beauty of lines like “I prefer your love to Jesus” for a solid paragraph on their guaranteed celebratory review, and cardigan wearing 20-something’s will be humming “Regret” and “Severed Crossed Fingers” all day at work after NPR’s feature. Who knows if there really is universality to “St. Vincent” that will be all the buzz in 2014, but it certainly has the power and greatness for that to be a possibility. Hell, it’s only seven weeks into the year and this guy’s already got bets on album of the year.
Between her gritty-meets-sharp guitar playing, the expanding and bettering of modern pop trends (think the bare bones futurism of Lorde), and the lyrical contemplations on religion, television, sex, etc., I can’t think of a weak link on this album. “Regret” and “Bring Me Your Loves” are the moments I love most upon hearing new albums, when there’s something that juts out right away as grand and, well, just damn good. “Prince Johnny” probably takes away my award for most cathartic individual song on the album, but there’s not anything less than exceptional to be found in its 40 minutes.
While everything’s subjective when it gets to the bottom, there’s a widely relatable appeal to “St. Vincent” that makes me think, despite whatever its cultural placement with critics and fans may end up being, its mere presence and existence is a kind of victory in its own right. Like the album or not, “St. Vincent” is going to have its important role in the talk of 2014 as a forward shifting key to the increasingly shifting music scene.
Favorite Tracks: “Prince Johnny”, “Digital Witness”, “Regret”
Rating: Gotta Have It