Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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St. Vincent

  • Actor [Demon, 2009] *
  • Strange Mercy [4AD, 2011] ***
  • St. Vincent [4AD, 2014] **
  • Masseduction [4AD, 2017] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Actor [Demon, 2009]
Polyphonic Spree spin-off indulges her long-thwarted fondness for crystalline melody and fetching enunciation ("Laughing With a Mouth of Blood," "Black Rainbow"). *

Strange Mercy [4AD, 2011]
Adele and Gaga watch your backs, lest she take art-rock pop ("Cheerleader," "Dilettante," "Cruel") ***

St. Vincent [4AD, 2014]
Classy lady reveals not only that she's feral but that she takes out the garbage ("Prince Johnny," "Psychopath") **

Masseduction [4AD, 2017]
Jack Antonoff or no Jack Antonoff, pop-tailored synth sonics do not a pop album make, and artist avowals to the contrary, being personal requires more than the will to do so--it takes a certain kind of talent, one of the few Annie Clark may not possess. Big choruses you find yourself humming? But of course. Alluring lyrics that walk the tightrope of legibility? She passes that test. So there's not a track here that isn't manifestly memorable and intelligent. What's missing is the more amorphous and lowbrow aesthetic quality called accessibility. It's certainly possible to imagine fans in the hundreds of thousands aspiring to Clark's latest self-presentation. But the smaller number who identify with her are deluding themselves--she's a genius and they're not, and she's proud of it. So admiring every song though I do, I warm to precisely two: the one hooked to her "I can't turn off what turns me on," an endangered principle or is it compulsion in this sociosexual moment, and the imploring "please"s moaned by the putative top in the sadie-maisie cosplay tale "Savior." B+