BY PELLE GUNTHER Pop music is rarely given creative justice anymore in the modern entertainment industrial complex. Sure every now and again there’s a flash of creative inspiration, but for the most part, it’s the same, played-out, recycled ideas just swimming around in the fishbowl of the radio dial. Amid the sea of Justin Bieber’s and T-Swift’s, calling St. Vincent’s music pop seems incredibly rude and simple minded for the level of care and composition put into these thoughtful arrangements. The songs of Annie Clark, the woman behind the mask, tumble—with no fear of any predictable musical constructs—from glitchy electronica to jazz, hip-hop and back to the blues, strung together by elegant orchestral synths and mesmerizing tastefully-fuzzed guitar riffs. You could call her music pop, but it wouldn’t be giving it justice.
The elegance of her music is definitely fitting, between her wavy brown hair, ghost white skin and vixen lipstick, she looks like a china doll stolen right from the 1920’s. Annie, slender and poised started the evening at the Union Transfer with her five piece band playing the orchestral Moog intro to her song “Surgeon” from her new release Strange Mercy. As she reached the incredibly technical funk of the chorus guitar, I believe the girls in front of me said it best “OH MY GOD SHE’S FUCKING AWESOME!” And she was FUCKING awesome. And not without earning it, she picked up a guitar at 12 and was recording her own songs by 13, later going on to be a part of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Steven’s Touring band. Those years paid off bigtime, making this by far the best evening I’ve had in Philly for a long time. It’s nice to see someone who has both an incredible amount of technical and artistic talent, versus those painful moments where musicians have only one…or neither.
In the entire evening the only disappointment was an unfortunate cover of a British post-punk band known as The Pop Group—which, despite being admittedly interesting, well played and a nice contrast from their normal watery synthpop, stuck out like a noisy and disruptive black eye on the beautiful face of the evening. Her set was a lovely mix of songs from Actor and Strange Mercy, though primarily the latter. Unexpectedly, hearing “Actor” and “Just the Same But Brand New” live couldn’t stand up to her new tracks—my shining memories of the evening transfixed on the fuzzy blues chorus of “Cheerleader” and the haunting and honest intro to their encore “Champagne Year” as Annie Clark bewailed the woes of the under-appreciated performance world over a lone Moog. I left dazed, starry eyed and inspired, feeling like something was somehow set right within me.