Baroque pop is a silly term. Moving on, the first St. Vincent album I heard was Actor, her second record. I really liked the first song, “The Strangers,” but the rest of it didn’t really stick with me. Why that is is probably worth investigation and analysis, but I have not the time nor the desire to really dig into Actor once more. I can tell you I have a strong memory associated with it riding a train in Paris, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ve just used “nor” two sentences in a row, so you can tell I’ve got a lot of positive things to say about Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s third album.
It all starts with a song called “Chloe in the Afternoon,” a jarring, distorted number that seems to be about bondage or some other deviant activity with horse-hair whips and heels. Then we move on to “Cruel,” a surprisingly jaunty tune about well, I think you can guess. It’s these juxtapositions that serve as Strange Mercy‘s greatest strength, songs are equally likely to feature a chunky-as-hell guitar as they are a beautiful, ripped-from-a-musical string section. St. Vincent is doing something, perhaps not unheard of, but certainly distinct.
This isn’t an easy album, in that if you listen to the lyrics, it sounds like St. Vincent is going through a bit of an existential crisis. But damnit, even without listening to the lyrics, this would be an album worth hearing. There’s a complexity to it that makes it feel like I’m actually being treated like an adult by my music. And as we push forward in these depressing times, maybe it’s good to be reminded that there’s more to music than the escapism of shuffling along to “Party Rock Anthem.”
Favorite Tracks: “Cruel,” “Northern Lights,” “Year of the Tiger”