Mere seconds into St. Vincent’s new, bracingly brilliant self-titled album, it becomes clear that the defining moment of Annie Clark’s career is no longer her 2007 debut as her Catechism-indebted nom de plume, but rather her 2012 collaboration with David Byrne on Love This Giant. Clark’s proximity to the former Talking Heads frontman has transformed her from an earthy yet off-kilter singer-songwriter with a penchant for guitar heroics into a full-fledged musician-as-ongoing-art-project. St. Vincent is the stark end product of that gradual transition: an impeccably crafted piece of art that doubles as a wigged-out pop record.
“Pop” is indeed the order of St. Vincent’s day, opening with the pulsing “Rattlesnake” and eventually making its way to the straight-up dance ferocity of “Bring Me Your Loves.” But nowhere are Clark’s newly honed art-pop sensibilities more apparent than on “I Prefer Your Love,” an ethereal anti-prayer (“I prefer your love to Jesus”) that plays like Bedtime Stories-era Madonna. St. Vincent can be chilly and distant at times (the gorgeous “Prince Johnny” is the perfect soundtrack for tumbling through space, Gravity-style), but it’s never bloodless. The industrial clang of “Birth In Reverse” is filled with Clark’s delicious turns of phrase (“Oh what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate”), and the “how we live today” technology shaming of “Digital Witness” is buoyed by horns on loan from Giant.
All told, St. Vincent is a bold, ambitious, and perfectly overstuffed album. It’s also, as its eponymous title suggests, a new defining moment in Clark’s ever-evolving career.