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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

St. Vincent: "Marry Me"

Before you sit down and listen to Annie Clark's (here known as St. Vincent) first solo album, "Marry Me," take a moment to look at the cover. Think to yourself, "What kind of music could this woman actually make?" Chances are, every answer that comes into your head is going to be somewhat accurate. "Marry Me" is filled with the kind of quirky pop music that helped Regina Spektor and My Brightest Diamond get noticed. As it turns out, Clark also has the distinction of being a member of The Polyphonic Spree on their most recent album as well as a member of Sufjan Stephens' touring band (much like My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden). While all these credentials are well and good, it is the music that matters most. Fortunately, "Marry Me" is probably the strongest female solo album to debut in 2007!

The album starts off with the brilliantly composed "Now Now" in which a choir of childish vocals declare "You don't mean that, say you're sorry" just before Annie inserts "I'll make you sorry." Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the song is the mere fact that Clark took care of most of the instrumentation herself, as she does through most of the album. While multi-instrumentalists are a dime a dozen these days, few are able to blend the individual parts together in a way that seems so cohesive.

The humorously titled, "Jesus Saves, I Spend" features Christmas carol-esque "Bum bum bums" in the background, and even a few jingle bells for good measure. Here, Annie sings "While Jesus is saving, I'm spending all my grace on the rosy red power of lights on center stage" nonchalantly, adding to the carefree feel of the song almost as much as the floaty chipmunk vocals do (seriously). "Your Lips Are Red" takes a much more serious turn with a grinding guitar riff, haunting harp plucks and an incredibly eeire, yet undeniably cool string part. Clark's lyricism is once again displayed in full force as she near-growls "Your lips are red. My face is red from needing your red lips." Eventually, the song builds into a much brighter affair where Clark sounds almost identical to Shara Worden.

The title track "Marry Me" is another light pop song, this time sounding curiously like Feist. However, even amongst beat-keeping hand claps, the instrumentation is just as impressive as it has been. "Paris Is Burning" is absolutely amazing track, that finds Annie singing "I'm on your side where nobody is" over an almost waltz-like composition. The guitars here are absolutely brilliant, and the song is arguably one of the album's best. My personal favorite, however is the following track, "All My Stars Aligned." Listening to it, I imagine being completely weightless, blowing about in the clouds. The song is so dreamlike, so perfect, that it's hard to imagine Clark ever topping it. She asks, "What was your question?" before affirming "Love is the answer." Genius.

The second half of the album is just as beautiful as the first. "The Apocalypse Song" is an absolutely gorgeous pop song whose heavy orchestration is only overshadowed by it's WTF-inducing breakdown. But Clark doesn't disappoint, bringing the chorus back for another go before ending the song. Amidst the rest of "Marry Me," "We Put A Pearl In the Ground" seems entirely out of place. At just over a minute long, this simple, yet stunning piano solo doesn't really go with the string orchestration or guitars it follows. At the same time, however, it is undeniably charming, sounding like a heartbreaking lullaby. The song essentially serves as a prelude to "Land Mines," but it completely outshines that song, in my opinion.

The album wraps up with the quirky, yet catchy "Human Racing" and the completely charming "What Me Worry?" In it, Annie asks the question "Do I amuse you dear? Would you think me queer if while standing beside you, I opted instead to disappear?" It seems like no time at all before she does, and the album closes.

Annie Clark has completely blown me away with "Marry Me." This is not only the best female solo album of 2007, but one of the best I've heard in the last decade. At times she can sound like so many different artists (Norah Jones, Feist, My Brightest Diamond, Regina Spektor, etc.), but at the same time she maintains a uniqueness about her that is not only endearing, but entirely brilliant. St. Vincent is a name you'll want to remember, whether it's just a stage name or not. Listening to "Marry Me" is like opening your eyes to a brand new day and realizing that the world is full of possibilities. It is refreshing. It is amazing. It is completely and utterly unforgettable!

Recommended for fans of My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens, and anyone who is ready to be blown away!

Key Tracks:
1. "Your Lips Are Red"
2. "Paris Is Burning"
3. "All My Stars Aligned"
4. "The Apocalypse Song"
5. "We Put A Pearl In The Ground"

9 out of 10 Stars
(Original 10 Retracted)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What happened to the 10. I am so disappointed.

A Medium said...

hmm, why'd you retract your 10? I haven't heard this one yet

Cale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cale said...

I gave it a 9 because I couldn't rest easy knowing that I gave that 10 out.

A 9 signifies a pretty much perfect album, which this one is. 10 signifies a legendary status, one that will be remembered for years. The more I thought about it, the less that seemed likely.

Still, this is very good stuff. Probably the best of 07, or at least in the top 3.

If I graded on a 100-point scale, it'd get a 9.5 - 9.9