St. Vincent (Beggars Banquet, 2007)
Marry Me, the first album from St. Vincent, takes the listener from one extreme to the other. Most of the music is light and jazzy, but the lyrics are laden with images of violence, war, revenge, and uncertainties.
St. Vincent is the solo project of Annie Clark, a 25-year old multi-instrumentalist who has played with choral symphonic rockers Polyphonic Spree and toured with indie folk-rock artist Sufjan Stevens. Clark takes this cheerful and innocent background and throws in her own dark impressions of the world. Just looking at the album's song list displays the theme of destruction: "Paris is Burning," "The Apocalypse Song," and "Landmines" are three tracks.
One of the strongest songs on the album, "Paris is Burning," brings the listener straight to France during the world wars. The pounding lyrics-"We are waiting for a telegram to bring us news on the war"-recreate the tense and fearful wartime atmosphere of then and now.
Clark loves contrasts. Half of the songs on the album are smooth or peppy, featuring piano, stringed instruments, and even a children's choir. The other half are dark, with strong bass lines, and often end with a cacophony of sounds.
Clark, a former Catholic, gives no reason for taking the name St. Vincent. The question is posed: Is she a saint or a sinner? The title song is the sweetest song on the album. She croons for "John" to marry her, but what she really wants is to "do what married people do" and then to leave him.
Clark is clever in her criticism of religion in "Jesus Saves, I Spend." The lyrics argue that while Jesus is saving, we are wasting our time buying Christmas toys. She is also critical of sitting in the background and "sculpting menageries of saints" instead of being out in the world.
Whether the music is holy or sinful, Marry Me has an attraction that is hard to shake.-Kristin Peterson