Category: St. Vincent

St. Vincent and David Byrne book Greek date, unveil single 'Who'

Annie Clark at Coachella
Last year, amid a lazy summer day in New York's Washington Square Park, Annie Clark teased her next musical direction as St. Vincent. It would be loud and abrasive, and as a point of reference she noted the recent addition of Big Black's “Kerosene” to her live sets. "I didn't know I could scream like that," she said of her sudden excitement toward noise rock.

There's no screaming and no knifing guitars in the song she unveiled today, the first of her long-in-the-works, much-awaited collaboration with former Talking Heads leader David Bryne. The single, available in a free download, is entitled "Who," and it serves as a mash-up of styles that each artist has recently explored. The horn section has a polite, border-less feel -- it's world music preserved for a museum -- and Clark's splashes of manipulated guitar tones and twisted fairy-tale vocals make it less polite. 

The song is the first to surface from the pair's upcoming "Love This Giant," to be released Sept. 11 by 4AD and Byrne’s label Todo Mundo. Perhaps even more exciting is the news that the two will be pairing up for a fall tour, which will bring Byrne and Clark to the Greek Theatre on Oct. 13. Tickets go on sale June 23. A ticket price hasn't been revealed yet, but for reference, a San Diego date is priced at $65, not including service charges.

"We'll be doing these songs and a bunch of songs that we suspect people will know, with a group that includes eight brass players, a keyboardist and a drummer," Byrne said in a statement. "Love This Giant" contains 12 tracks and features a collaboration with rhythm and  soul aces the Dap-Kings and Afrobeat-centric Antibalas. 

Ten of the 12 tracks are described as full-on collaborations, and each artist also contributed one original. A brass band is said to figure heavily on the album, which is evident on the single unveiled today. Yet the star of the song is arguably John Congleton, the drummer-producer whose programmed beats slither and huff, crafting a rhythm that has the feel of pressurized air and gives the song added space. 

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Coachella 2012: St. Vincent, Feist were out to challenge

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At the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a pair of giant orbs stood near the food tents. Inside were circular dance rooms. But the attempt at transporting listeners to another realm via space-age domes of dance simply dropped festival-goers into mini, Hollywood-like clubs. Back outside and gimmick-free, a trio of artists used a different approach, moving fans with their music -- and did it with a traditional instrument known as the guitar.

Annie Clark is diminutive and soft-spoken. More than soft spoken, rather, she is a careful speaker. Her thoughts aren’t said so much as crafted. As St. Vincent, Clark is something else entirely, equally frightful, high-strung and hostile. At Coachella, Clark was in full guitar slayer mode. Her songs are based around melodies that could have been lifted from a nursery rhyme, but Clark rips them apart one shard at a time, like an animal toying with its prey.

Introducing songs, Clark told the Coachella crowd that “this next one is inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s personal writings” (“Surgeon"), and then later: “You guys can totally dance to this one” (“Marrow”). Yet the rhythm was more spastic than it was a comfortable beat, and both songs sounded as if they were conjured from a dream. Clark’s guitar, which she struck, teased and stretched out one string at a time, was the nightmare interrupting.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

Across the field, James Mercer was leading his retooled Shins through a set on the mainstage. When it comes to hooks and melodies, the Shins don’t try to distort or hide them, but the band comes at them patiently. The most current lineup is adept at shading, filling every melodic crest and fall with brightly twinkling textures.

It added a touch of magic to the act's repertoire, and it was fitting, then, that the band tackled Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.” It brought a quartet of audience members, outfitted as wizards (of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”-ilk), to its feet, and the group swayed and grooved to the slow-moving reverie.

Depending on where one walked on the Coachella grounds, the Shins would soon be drowned out. The artist bleeding into the band’s refined arrangements was Feist, the Canadian singer-songwriter who made it clear that she’s left behind her more polite past.

“The Bad in Each Other” constructed its rhythm as if in a panic. Later, “Graveyard” was built around ghostly backing harmonies, courtesy of Mountain Man, and a full horn and string section, sounds from which seemed to hover rather than flow.

Feist doesn’t let things get too serious, however. If one wasn’t paying close attention during “Caught A Long Wind,” you’d miss her joking that the song was actually an outtake from Dr.Dre’s “The Chronic,” the solo debut from Coachella’s Sunday night headliner.

A quick laugh, and then she was on to “Undiscovered First,” in which rhythms sound as if they’re trying to build a fire and her guitar slithers like a rattlesnake. Her voice trailed into a violin strand as she asked, “Is it wrong to want more?” It’s a question all three artists sought to answer in their work.

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Photo: Annie Clark of St. Vincent performs at the Empire Polo Field during Day 2 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. Credit: Karl Walter / Getty Images for Coachella

Annie Clark maps St. Vincent’s next musical step

The indie artist, whose work explores emotional distance, says she will move toward loudness.

Annie Clark, who records as St. Vincent

It was a sunny August afternoon in New York's Washington Square Park, and Annie Clark — who records under the name St. Vincent — apparently didn't look happy. She sat on a shady curb, giving herself something of a pep talk.

“This year was tough, kid, but buck up,” she said, clenching her fist as if she were a high school coach. “Next year is going to be quality, all laughter and gaiety.”

Clark was not fooling anyone, and this became evident when a young, college-age woman approached her. “This is a smile fine,” she said, and then proceeded to hand Clark a sticker. “We need to give you a ticket today because we caught you not smiling.”

Although the woman was ultimately soliciting money for charity, Clark was simply relieved she wasn't asking for an autograph. “Oh, that would have been terrifying,” she said.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Clark would prefer to go unrecognized. Over the course of three St. Vincent albums, she has explored degrees of emotional distance, utilizing a mix of fanciful guitar work and symphonic flourishes — an endeavor beautiful and endearing, which has made her a darling of indie rock fans.

On her recently released “Strange Mercy,” Clark flirts with baring her soul, which makes it her most revealing effort, to a point. “I don't know what good it does, pouring my personal dirt” she sings on “Cheerleader,” and then does away with any confessions with strikes of her guitar that are all military precision.

“I think I'm not a very direct person, in general,” Clark, 29, said. “My version of direct is still a little bit obscured and a little blurry.” Clearly a more open Clark isn't exactly a conventional one, as hints of honesty are balanced with abrasive guitars, vocal experimentation and half-acoustic, half-synthetic orchestrations.

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'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' soundtrack: Track-by-track reactions

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A new film in the "Twilight" franchise is more than just a cinematic event. Since the soundtrack to "Twilight" sold a stunning 2.2 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the vampire brand means serious business to the music industry as well.

The soundtrack to "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" is released off-cycle today, rather than the typical music industry release day of Tuesday. It's out a month ahead of the film, which hits theaters nationwide on Nov. 20, and whether or not it will have the same retail impact as the music companion to the first film remains to be seen.

But this is much is certain: The "New Moon" soundtrack is definitely much more of a piece than the soundtrack to "Twilight." It's moody, music-to-get-sad-to, definitely, but music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas has put together a collection of songs that captures the drama of young love without drowning in it. Released once again on Patsavas' Chop Shop label, which is associated with Warner Music Group imprint Atlantic, "New Moon" is, on a whole, more inventive than the scattered radio-ready rock that permeated its predecessor.

Track-by-track reactions below.

1. "Meet Me on the Equinox," Death Cab for Cutie. There was reason for skepticism when it was announced that Death Cab would be composing the lead single for "New Moon." Patsavas was keeping things in the family, tapping an Atlantic act she'd worked with before (see "The O.C."). It all seemed a bit predictable, but "Meet Me on the Equinox" packs a few surprises. If the chorus of "everything ends" leaves little to the imagination, the rhythm skips an anxious beat, all while the harmonies and golden guitars lead a path out of the darkness.

2. "Friends," Band of Skulls. Despite the Death Cab opener, it's clear from Track No. 2 that this is not going to be a completely melancholic album. "Friends" launches with some fiery bursts of guitar fuzz, and comes loaded with start-and-stop stomping riffs. "My friends, they are so beautiful," sings Russell Marsden, but he delivers the line with such garage rock swagger that the lyrical cheesiness is completely forgotten. The song swings too, giving "New Moon" a combo rock 'n' roll anthem, make-out song. 

3. "Hearing Damage," Thom Yorke. When the Radiohead frontman unveiled a handful of new songs in Los Angeles, they came off as electro-dance rock 'n' roll for the art-house set. Yorke's "New Moon" tune is a little warmer than those glitchy, yet funky, rock 'n' roll cuts. The stereo buzz that permeates much of the song creates a rather warm sound, and Yorke's vocals threaten to disintegrate into a hum, which is exactly what they do in the final moments. "They say you're getting better, but you don't feel any better," Yorke sings, not exactly the reassuring lover, but not exactly distant, either. Love at its most tension-filled.

4. "Possibility," Lykke Li. Tension gives way to heartache here, and Sweden's Lykke Li could melt the coldest of hearts with this sparse tearjerker. A slight scratch in her vocals cuts through the song's intimately innocent feel. "Tell me when you hear my heart stop," she sings, while a backing choir inflects the sparse piano with gospel undertones -- a brief, largely a cappella prayer.

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As St. Vincent, Annie Clark conjures magic

ANNIE_CLARK_3_ Annie Clark was due to finish her sound check around 7 p.m. Thirty minutes later, a nagging electronic hiss was complicating things and in the course of hunting down the source of the nuisance, Clark realized she had forgotten her recently purchased dress, which was still hanging in the closet of a downtown hotel.

Her early April Los Angeles show in support of her new album, "Actor," was not going as planned, and doors to the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery were now 25 minutes from opening. Yet spend a little time with Clark, who records under the name St. Vincent, and it becomes apparent that she's not the type to panic over such details -- she views the world through a more fanciful lens.

She uses one word repeatedly when discussing music: magic. The energy of New York, where the Texas-raised artist lives? Magic. Disney's classical-inspired score to "Sleeping Beauty," which inspired many of the sounds on "Actor"? Magic. And discovering a melody that works? "Oh, that's magic."

"Actor," released on May 5, presents an expansive array of digitally constructed symphonic sounds, where fantastic strings, backward guitars and dizzying harmonies are paired with sometimes vivid, merciless lyrics -- a vision of reality that's split between a fairy tale and a David Mamet play.

The album won the support of National Public Radio, which streamed "Actor" two weeks before it was released, and Clark is set to appear on the "Late Show With David Letterman" on June 24, roughly one month after returning to Los Angeles for a performance Thursday at the El Rey Theatre.

Clark has a history with fantasy. When she was 17, she was asked to compose original music for her high school's rendition of "Alice in Wonderland." It impressed her parents, who had allowed her to spend summer vacation touring the world with her aunt and uncle, the jazz duo Tuck & Patti.

Recalled Clark, "My parents heard the play and said, 'This is really good. We didn't know what you'd been doing in there.' I didn't really share much. They called my aunt and uncle and said I had some promise, and they suggested I go to music school. It was nice to have this consensus. It was more than it just being cute -- 'Oh, you play soccer and you play guitar.' "

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Show preview: St. Vincent gets cinematic with 'Actor'

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In a short interview with Annie Clark, there's one word she uses multiple times when discussing music: magic.

Clark, who records under the name St. Vincent, will release her sophomore album, "Actor," on May 5. To listen to it is like stepping into a fairy tale. Opening cut "The Strangers" begins with a brief overture of woodwind instruments, as if what's to follow is the score to an animated Disney film of yore. Yet the world Clark conjures is one very much inhabited by adults, as evidenced by the way the song builds into a burst of orchestral and guitar noise.

She'll preview the songs next week in Los Angeles, with a pre-release performance April 6 at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (she'll be back May 29 for a larger show at the El Rey). "Actor" fashions songs out of tangents -- the bright strings and relaxing choir of "Marrow" give way to a more electronic, forceful beat and a surprisingly desperate lyrical plea.

Two, sometimes three, melodies intertwine, and Clark elegantly sings as if she's fronting a chorale, leading a trail of fuzz-drenched guitars, left-of-center electronics and the kind of delightfully pleasant strings that may or may not inspire bluebirds to sing.

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