St. Vincent – All Born Screaming

By Ryan G

I’m not sure what compelled me to review the new St. Vincent album on this fine Saturday afternoon, but I’m gonna follow my instinct, here.

My journey with St. Vincent began over ten years ago with the release of her self-titled record. “Digital Witness” called out our culture in way that is sadly still relevant ten years later. So, where does that leave us and Annie Clark? I’ll try to ascertain this while listening to the album. I’m someone that tends to notice feelings before lyrics – if you’re a long time reader of this site you’ll likely know that.

Just the album title and cover themselves are abrasive. And kicking things off with an understated track titled “Hell is Near” is a bold, striking, and even somewhat unsettling move. There’s certainly something in the air this year – people are fed up with the status quo. A ten-minute drive down the street from me, 36 protestors advocating for the divestment of Ohio State from Israel were arrested just two nights ago. While St. Vincent has undoubtedly been preparing this record for years, it seems to be speaking into this moment. The album cover released shortly after an individual self-immolated in front of the Israeli Embassy in DC in protest of the ongoing assault on Gaza by the IDF, causing some to question whether releasing that cover at that time was a tasteful move. This discourse merely added more emphasis to the undertones of the album I’m feeling from listening to it – we are all on edge, perhaps more than we’d like to admit.

“Once I’m in you can’t rid of me” is a particularly haunting line on the record, which appears in the fourth song, “Flea.” It makes me think of what a more avantgarde version of a K.Flay might sound like. It smacks you the face and has a menacing undertone. In comparison, “The Power’s Out” accomplishes a similar goal to “Flea” but in a more unassuming manner.

For all of my thoughts on the unsettling nature of the album and the tension therein, there are plenty of fun moments on the record. This isn’t really a surprise, especially when you hear that rock and roll’s wholesome dad Dave Grohl was involved with parts of it. “Big Time Nothing” has one of the most enjoyable rhythm sections, and “Sweetest Fruit” has a particularly bright guitar section, that leads into a shoegaze-y latter third of the song. “So Many Planets” has a fanfare-heavy intro that ought to shake any listener out of their stupor. Essentially, the latter half of the record isn’t the more optimistic half per se – but it certainly feels brighter. St. Vincent appears to acknowledge tension without being outright bleak. The totality of the record is summed up in the title track, which starts out with a summery-intro, and gradually takes on a more eerie tone. At last, we are full circle.

Overall, the album lacks an instantly iconic song for me but forces me to reflect. When things seem too heavy, lighter moments keep my mood in a healthy place to process the rest. I’ll be curious to see how these songs are interpreted in a live setting.

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