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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

St. Vincent’s ‘Strange Mercy’ blends musical styles for solid album

St. Vincent's third album is a testament to Annie Clark's artistic growth. Photo via 4ad Records.

“Strange Mercy,” St. Vincent’s third studio album, combines melodies, noise and a range of vocals to create something different from your average pop experience.

Its mix of slow tracks, hook driven singles, lounge sounds and wide use of synthesizers can become confusing, maybe even disjointed at times, but the entire album still finds a way to flow cohesively.

While some songs may seem awkward on their own, they have an important place on the album. “Strange Mercy” isn’t necessarily a concept album, but once heard in its entirety, it just makes sense to listen to all the tracks at once.

This album is definitely a testament to Annie Clark’s growth as the artist behind St. Vincent. It is filled with layered sounds and complex composition to accompany her angelic voice. The album tries something different by trading in the woodwinds featured on earlier albums for a more diverse blend of tempos and sounds.

Lyrically, Clark could be talking about anything. While she probably has her own meanings for each song, “Strange Mercy” leaves plenty of room for listener interpretation.

However, “Marry Me” and “Actor,” St. Vincent’s previous albums, had themes of violence and sex that carry over into “Strange Mercy.” The intense emotion of Clark’s voice on the new album instills a feeling of angst in the listener.

The opener, “Chloe In The Afternoon,” is beautiful and quirky, setting the pace for the rest of the album. It only takes one second for a funky guitar riff to kick in and propel the song forward. St. Vincent’s foundation of synthesized bass, drums and guitar becomes the standard formula that the rest of “Strange Mercy” follows — although some songs not as closely as others.

The first single, “Cruel,” is an extremely pop-ish song, at least compared to anything St. Vincent has done in the past. Easy to dance to, it definitely stands out as a radio-ready single. Likewise, “Northern Lights” is probably the most traditional rock-sounding song St. Vincent has on the album. A simple guitar riff and a steady drum in the background are the perfect balance of charm and familiarity.

In contrast, the third track, “Cheerleader,” seems to be a personal declaration of St. Vincent finding her identity. “I’ve played dumb when I knew better. Tried so hard just to be clever,” Clark sings, shortly followed by a heart-pounding drumbeat and repetitious chorus chanting, “I don’t want to be a cheerleader no more.”

Equally personal is the title track, a slow-paced song depicting a conversation between St. Vincent and a close friend or significant other assaulted by an authority figure. The song, featuring lines like, “If I ever meet that dirty policemen who roughed you up, no I don’t know what,” bursts with so much frustration and anger that the lyrics stick with you long after you’ve turned off the song.

“Strange Mercy” ends just as strong as it began with “Year of The Tiger.” This finale of a track is exactly how an album should end: with loud, stomping and powerful vocals that leave listeners satisfied.

“Strange Mercy” proves itself a great album for both new and old fans of St. Vincent. Its rhythmic, theme-driven tracks and experimental sounds don’t disappoint and make it worth the listen time and again.

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