Tuesday Tune Two-Fer: St Vincent is Listening

Two tangentially-related tunes for St Vincent’s new album release and an unexpectedly familiar companion song

After seeing the video for “Actor Out of Work” by St Vincent, and especially after the performance on Austin City Limits, I was blown away. It felt like the first genuinely new music I’d heard in years. Her albums since then have been hit-or-miss with me, and I sincerely hope that never changes.

Sometimes I love it (Actor), sometimes I hate it (Daddy’s Home), but she is fully invested in making each album a presentation instead of just a collection of songs. Annie Clark is one of the only artists playing arena-sized venues who always seems like she’s doing exactly what she wants to do. The hit songs almost feel like an accidental bonus.

All Born Screaming is my favorite of her albums since St Vincent, feeling like she’s been collecting favorite influences across her whole career and presenting them as an album instead of a new glam rock persona. So far “Flea” and “Big Time Nothing” are my favorite tracks, but the first release is called “Broken Man” and has one hell of a great video.

The other night I spent the better part of an hour just driving around the valley so I could listen to the album uninterrupted. So much of it feels familiar, as elements drift in and out of her songs, never feeling quite like a pastiche or a direct homage, but like a bunch of original compositions by someone with an encyclopedic familiarity with pop, rock, and funk music. Is that Deep Purple? Led Zeppelin? Something the Beastie Boys sampled?

I knew almost immediately what the beginning of “Broken Man” reminded me of, though: “Misinformed” by Soul Coughing, from El Oso, easily one of my top 5 albums of all time. Was it a direct reference? I highly doubt it, but then I also wouldn’t be surprised if she were drawing from late 90s alternative as much as 70s rock.

All of Soul Coughing’s records, but El Oso in particular, were full of sounds I’d never heard before, but had that same feeling of odd familiarity, like having a nightmare about listening to jazz from an alien planet. A lot of what I loved about Actor came from Annie Clark saying she was inspired by the music from Sleeping Beauty. So maybe they have more in common than I’d originally thought!

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