"The Strangers" - St. Vincent
Annie Clark, who by herself is St. Vincent, is an elusive talent. Be seduced by her charming, idiosyncratic voice, with tinges of jazz singer about it; be intrigued by her lush, unusual arrangements; be surprised by that wallop of crazed guitar noise (it's a taste of what is known as "shredding") that invades an otherwise airy-sounding song two-thirds of the way in. (Then again, she's repeatedly singing about painting the black hole blacker, so maybe this isn't so airy after all.) Get to the end of the song and be unsure about what you just heard, but with the feeling that you want to hear it again.
Clark was inspired on this new album--entitled Actor--by some of her favorite old movies, including older Disney features, envisioning each song as a sort of "secret film score," according to her press material. There is surely a touch of '40s cartoonishness about the short vocal/orchestral intro, the (perhaps synthesized) string- and woodwind-flecked instrumentation, and the recurring backing vocal stylings, which sound furthermore as if processed through an old radio receiver. The song slides along with a glistening retro sheen that blithely contradicts the substantive quirkiness underneath, which includes: a melody that refuses to have any part of the beat; unabashed orchestral maneuverings; subtle injections of electronics; and the lack of any particularly recognizable structure. (Note in the melody a sort of deconstruction of the '20s nugget, "Bye Bye Blackbird"; could this relate to the "black hole blacker" bit?) Clark has said that she wanted to make the songs on the album "technicolor animatronic rides." Whatever such a thing is, "The Strangers" is surely one of them.
Born in Oklahoma, Clark, like Bishop Allen above, is based in Brooklyn, surely one of the great hubs of '00s indie music. "The Strangers" is the first song on the new album, St. Vincent's second, which is due out in May on 4AD Records. MP3 via 4AD.