Strangely self titling her fourth album and not her first or greatest hits, St Vincent returns with her most electronic based effort to date and it’s also the most immediate in terms of hooks, choruses and catchy numbers.
Opening with “Rattlesnakes” St Vincent laments “Am I the only one?” as heavily produced bass lines are reduced to thin grizzles and the drums are phasing in and out. The guitars are crunchy and compact whilst there are lots of whizzes and pops like someone has been let loose with an 80’s scratch pad and chucked it in a disco! The result is a combination of highly styled sounds that shouldn’t fit together so well but do. “Birth in Reverse” pushes to the rock end of the album with a retro future rock sound. Again everything is reduced to a crunch and then placed very close to the ear so that each sound makes maximum impact. This places the electric guitar in front though as St Vincent plays those riffs she loves to make. They appear to be randomly picked notes that point to a chord progression but never fully reveal it. I personally love them because you are always kept on your toes – especially when the chorus is so direct and power chord filled. “Prince Johnny” takes things slower with a synth voice warble that provides the main blanket for the heavily processed drum patterns to skip and jump. Here, the general chilled vibe that the song gives allows St Vincent a chance to showcase her vocal expertise as she is left to power the chorus on her own steam.
“Huey Newton” then verges off to a low fi pop track with twilight pianos echoing and a dirty bass line hiding under a heavily bass driven drum track. The album is heavily percussive and here the drums paint half the picture as the minimal instrumentation allows for quiet introspection in the vocals. It switches mood to more grungy rock finale with a real kick to it and leads perfectly into the brite and joyous “Digital Witness” which is full of crunchy brass stabs and clever vocal and guitar arrangements. It’s a great single choice and easily the simplest track on the album to dive into. “I Prefer Your Love” I think is St Vincent’s take on a Moby track. It is full of heavily processed synths and slow rolling beats – even the singing is slow and sumptuous. Whilst other tracks may be more clinical with its industrial electronica, this track feels warm and fluffy.
“Regret” goes for the rock riffs with a stadium drum beat and chugging electric guitars in between more serene choruses which see’s St Vincent calling and responding to herself. As the track continues things start to get more hectic, distorted and confused as more regret sets in. It’s really clever and makes a mid tempo track pack a punch. My favourite track though is the crazy “Bring Me Your Loves” which has a skipping drum track and the most random guitar riff that repeats over and over. When things burst into the chorus its like a cheesy disco is having a fanfare in the background of the track. The combination of everything makes a emphatically silly track that’s crazy as hell. Equally as catchy and clever in production is “Psychopath” that uses a soft stabbing synth that cuts in and out so cleanly you don’t initially notice that it’s changing frequency and tuning your ears into the other sounds. I’m still not always sure if it’s the stabbing sound of the other instruments changing keys and pitches. The track itself is one of more poppier tracks and has plenty of hooks and the laziest guitar solo St Vincent’s committed to record. “Every Tear Disappears” is a more progressive track as it slices the more quirky guitar production values into a synth based track. This makes the guitar sound like a warning signal that goes from start to finish. It compliments the track well and gives a sense of urgency to what is a brooding track instead of an outburst. The album closes with “Severed Crossed Fingers” which is heavily keyboard based as most of the instruments have a overbleed effect that turns the track into a final beautiful disaster. It’s clunky and depressing and that’s the whole point. It’s dark glamour rock and she does it well.
St Vincent’s fourth album see’s her cement her sound further without moving outside it. This is easily the most produced effort with less and less organic instrumentation making it through. In fact its difficult to recall a single organic tone. However St Vincent is fantastic at taking production into new directions and this stylised effort is the most easily accessible to date without compromising any of her values at all. For that, she should be applauded – it’s a fantastic album.