Love Letter To A Record: Darling James On St Vincent’s ‘St Vincent’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Darling James – St Vincent’s St Vincent

We’ve all got formative records that helped build us as people or artists, however nostalgia can be a dangerous game. Like an established and immoveable dynamic with an old friend, it can hold you back. What’s more important for me right now is to find new albums that reinvigorate me, albums that confirm it’s OK to change, and in doing so be more ME.

The fourth, and self-titled album from St Vincent (AKA Annie Clark) is one of these albums. I was killing time in New Zealand between shows and not in the best place (mentally speaking, that is). Wandering around Wellington I decided to explore this new city with only new music for company. Right from the crunched 8-bit ostinato of opener ‘Rattlenake’ I was hooked, and it only got better from there.

St Vincent’s dayglow pop and dry, digital production pallet showed me it was OK to call yourself a “songwriter” with all the historical weight and baggage (and B.S.!) behind that title and still get joyously wacky and bravely modern and not be in the slightest bit self-conscious about it. It’s also a record that’s laugh out-loud funny: “Oh what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate” Annie Clark sings on ‘Birth in Reverse’, a song that boldly sits in the number two position.

‘Prince Johnny’ is a glorious takedown of a pretentious trust fund baby, dripping with sarcasm but somehow also pathos. How do you be mean without being mean? I still don’t know, but I know St Vincent does it effortlessly. And it’s not like Clark’s only move is bravado. ‘Psychopath’ is a sprightly, mid-tempo tune but it’s also surprisingly vulnerable. ‘Digital Witness’ is pop perfection featuring St Vincent’s signature mashed brass arrangements and ‘Huey Newton’s confident, measured phrasing makes it a highlight.

On this album, more than any other, St Vincent takes a blowtorch to awkward ideas about identity in art and especially that most unuseful of words: “authenticity”. She shows us that we all create a persona for our various roles in life, she’s just happy to admit it, and in doing so gives us permission to do it too.

Melbourne based songwriter/producer Darling James’ new single ‘Silver Bullet’ off his forthcoming EP ‘Mood Eyes’ is out now. Catch him touring it live in August during a run of East Coast dates (info here)

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