Text: Paul van der Zalm
The new album by St. Vincent, released today, is called Daddy’s Home. The title is a direct reference to the homecoming of the father of Annie Clarke, the woman behind St. Vincent. While she and her alter ego were piling up success after success, culminating in 2017’s award-winning album MASSEDUCTION, he was serving a sentence of about 10 years for fraud until he was released in 2019.
In the lyrics of the title track, she makes it clear how she experienced this: “You did some time, I did some time too”. But despite a few very controlled ‘ow’ cries in this song, the album seems intended more as processing than as reckoning with daddy issues. Musically, you could even consider it a tribute to the vinyl sounds of 1970s New York funk and soul that her father raised her with, which is a totally different sound than we’re used to hearing from her. What makes it less personal, is that, as St. Vincent, she gets right back into that role (also visually) and chases perfection to the extreme. The production, again with Jack Antonoff, is flawless and although she is an excellent guitarist/multi-instrumentalist herself, she is also supported by a range of musicians including Thomas Bartlett; noteworthy is also the contribution of backing vocalist Kenya Hathaway, daughter of 70s icon Donny Hathaway. In opening track ‘Pay Your Way in Pain’ this works out well; this is a catchy and steamy song like Prince could do and also the slow funk track ‘Down and Out’ is successful.
In the heavy ‘Candy Darling’, that refers to the Candy from Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ you can wonder whether this is over the top or not and ‘At the Holiday Party’ sounds rather obligatory.
On the other hand, there are songs like ‘(I’ll take you) Down’ that starts with a bass loop and then turns into a catchy funky rhythm with a nice background choir as a bonus and the beautifully sung ‘Somebody Like Me’ with a relaxed rhythm and subtle guitar sounds. In ‘The Laughing Man’ (“If life’s a joke, then I’m dying laughing”) Clarke sounds like a female crooner.
Although the association with a singer like Lana del Rey is never far away, St. Vincent reminded us of the This Mortal Coil project on a couple of occasions: in the 6,5 minute ‘Live in the Dream’, which starts slowly, but then has an increasing intensity and ends with first a heavy guitar solo and then a melodic ending and the other time in the short, closing Interlude(!) ‘Humming’. Earlier on the album, there are two more interludes with the same title: the first one sounds like a spontaneously recorded sung fragment, the other one like an alienating instrumental track.
The album was recorded by Laura Sisk, mixed by Cian Riordan and mastered by Chris Gehringer. Other musicians: Jack Antonoff, Cian Riordan, Thomas Bartlett, Evan Smith, Sam KS, Greg Leisz, Daniel Hart, Michael Leonhard, Lynne Fiddmont and Kenya Hathaway.
Loma Vista Recordings / Caroline