Daddy's Home, and the unstoppable swagger of St. Vincent
Annie Clark's sixth album is a daring exploration of 1970s New York at its most gritty, sleazy, and down-right brilliant.
Annie Clark has always known how to pull of a reinvention. As St. Vincent, the New York City-based musician has the capability to execute a completely reinvigorated vision with every album she releases, keeping the core threads of her discography - the polish; the swagger; the documented impersonal lyricism - but bringing them to life in different time capsules; eras of her life she's lived or just heavily inspired by.
Take her 2017 record MASSEDUCTION, for example. Collaboratively built alongside Jack Antonoff, the record captured the heights of St. Vincent's musicianship through hot-pink-coloured explorations of power, sex, drugs, death and beyond; glamourous - in the way only a St. Vincent album can - but striking with its personality and almost-otherworldliness. It felt like a version of St. Vincent plucked from the future, sonically - the album's clashing of electro-pop and glam-rock somehow having a forward-thinking glow - and personally; St. Vincent feeling more in-touch - and importantly, personal - than she's ever been before.
Her new album Daddy's Home - also worked on alongside Antonoff - is, surprisingly, almost a complete 180-degree turn. It's an album inspired by the hedonism of 1970s New York; the grit, grime and sleaze of a post-60s New York City and the culture this time donated to acts even like St. Vincent, finding their peaks decades later. It's also an album that many fans hoped would see her open up more-so, the conversations surrounding the album's release diving into feelings of parenthood and womanhood, as well as - notably, in the context of this record - the release of her father from prison at the end of 2019.
Sonically, Daddy's Home captures the all too familiar swagger of St. Vincent in a way that's more subdued than the overwhelmingness of MASSEDUCTION. Singles like the album-opening first single Pay Your Way In Pain have the same Bowie-like spectacle surrounding them, but from there, Daddy's Home is a far more diverse collection of sounds, none of which indulging in the pop mania that many expected off the back of MASSEDUCTION. Conversely, you have the lightness of Somebody Like Me - which could almost be plucked from her earliest work - and Down, which shimmers with its glitzy, yet dark 70s edge.
For the most part, Daddy's Home seems to trade the sonic adventurousness of her past work for a refined sense of personality. It's a well-needed introduction to Annie Clark more-so than St. Vincent; a pulling back the curtains moment for a personality that often shows through her ironically headline-worthy press antics (like the infamous pink box and pre-taped answers from MASSEDUCTION's promo run), but not so much through her music - Clark being the type that tends to build universes with her music, rather than describe the one surrounding her.
As you'd quickly learn reading about the album, much of the conversation surrounding the album talks of the incarceration of her father, and the isolation she felt removed from his grips: "You did some time, I did some time too," she sings at one point. Daddy's Home had hopes of being St. Vincent's most personal album to date, and while much of Annie Clark is still hidden behinds ambiguousness and riffs - speaking of, this album has some of the strongest riffs of St. Vincent's career - it's definitely as much of an embrace of intimateness as she's ever done.
Take the frantic exploration of selfishness and commitment that occupies all the space in My Baby Wants A Baby, for example, or the rage and fury that fuels Down: "Go get your own shit, get off of my tit / Go face your demons, check into treatment / Go flee the country, go blame your daddy / Just get far away from me," sings the bridge. It's an album that sees St. Vincent attempt to figure herself out in a way; a way that's encapsulated in the greater socio-political world the album takes from: "It’s this period of time that I feel like is analogous to where we are now. We’re in the grimy, sleazy, trying-to-figure-out-where-we-go-from-here period."
Daddy's Home isn't the most thought-out and concise album of St. Vincent's career - that would likely still belong to the album before it - but in terms of the greater evolution of an artist that never seems to stop evolving, Daddy's Home is a moment inwards; an easing of the speed with the hopes of providing a little introspection and a little emotiveness. Many of St. Vincent's critiques from the past are addressed here, and while her reinventions with every album can sometimes give whiplash, this seems to be the one that makes the most sense - considering everything going on in her life, it would've been hard for St. Vincent to outright ignore her own self.
No matter how personal it is, Daddy's Home - if nothing else - is St. Vincent securing her place amongst the rare breed of artist whose every album manages to reach a benchmark; a benchmark that St. Vincent set with her debut album a decade ago, and has never lowered herself below since.