St. Vincent‘s return comes with a new look, but also with a heavy dose of distorted, synthesized funk. It’s a bit weirder than her past fare, but she actually seems to be getting new converts from this style. She still filters panic-disorder-esque mood swings into her sound, but perhaps to a more booty-shaking result. However, sift through the layers of double-meanings throughout, and you’ll find some timely concerns about anxiety, the perils of the internet, self-destructive behavior, and animalistic free love circles gone awry. Here’s five key examples from her self-titled, with some decoding help from Annie Clark herself.
Prince Johnny’s bathroom-fuck and coke-addled need to be a somebody is, according to Clark, “about a mixture of compassion and hopelessness that you feel for a friend who’s being very self-destructive, but you also know that you can’t save them, while you can’t cast any judgment either because you’re equally self-destructive – the kind of story you don’t get from New York City when you’re still clutching your purse on the subway.” Johnny’s shallow, star-fucker ways may never de-Pinocchio him, but Clark eloquently hopes it will:
Clark takes aim later at the internet, which she’s jokingly tweeted will be her ashes’ final resting place. She warns of “…a world where we’re so disconnected from other people and ourselves that we have to learn what feelings are from flashcards” (via NME). In that same NME interview she reveals it’s “…also about being angry at the impotence of the internet: the fact that it suggests a reality but is a third-tier version of actual reality.” She portrays this unprecedented, international first-world addiction cleverly with a word association chain worthy of a Wikipedia binge, right before she brings that aforementioned tweet to life:
If there’s one thing the internet loves, it’s over-documenting our lives – anyone without an Instagram account might as well be starving to death. She’s summed up both our constant image-crafting facade, as well as the surveillance state we’ve self-inflicted: “Every tweet is a signifier and self-promotion is smelly perfume, she quipped in The Guardian,” extending the conversation in The Quietus, sharing, “Anything that knows it is being watched changes its behavior. We are now so accustomed to documenting ourselves and so aware that we are being watched.” Neither Clark nor anyone knows how this will affect us long-term, but funky synth horns help the bitter, insomnia-laden message go down:
Clark focuses on a more personal revelation on “I Prefer Your Love” – amidst a real-life close call between her mother and death – but the lessons learned bleed into the more universal and aptly titled “Regret.” First, she lays out the old adage about how we all will regret our missed opportunities more than our failures, but then follows with a witty spin on the notion that anxieties keep us in our comfort zone, in turn preventing us from getting what we truly desire or possibly even need:
Rounding out the album is a cheery little ballad with a hook about “severed crossed fingers” sitting in a “pile of rubble,” all before Clark’s “humiliation” finds both her and her partner getting drunk to deal with it. Their co-dependence may leave her “puddle-eyed,” but she’ll still keep coming back. It’s worth mentioning that there’s also the occasional lighthearted story about running naked through nature with a “Rattlesnake” or being bored by the monotony of real-life after a seemingly-endless tour, but even when she’s singing non-stop bleakness, it’s all definitely worth buying: