St. Vincent – aka the magnificent Annie Clark – has gone through a new transformation with every album, each showing her growth as an artist. Extravagance has crept into the visuals, lending colour and cleverness to the concepts behind her records – but mystery is at the root of all of her musical personas. With the imminent release of new album ‘Daddy’s Home’, we’ve been given a glimpse at the next version of one of the biggest names in alternative music: what lies underneath her new blonde wig and ‘70s disco suits will be revealed when the album lands in May. But while we wait for Daddy to come home, let’s look at her fascinating personas so far.
‘Marry Me’ (2007)
The persona: The woman who fell to Earth
This alt. pop debut was about the raw genius of a one-woman-band given free creative reign, blinking into the stage lights. Kate Bush and Bowie comparisons abounded when St. Vincent first emerged, alongside nods to Sufjan Stevens (she was in his touring band). Not bad company to keep!
Why it was brilliant: This was the first, delicious taste of St Vincent’s avant-rock that was to follow. Talent overflows from ‘Marry Me’; Clark’s music placed chaos in perfect order.She entered the scene a true individual, setting herself apart from the start.
The persona: Oddball thesp
Inspired by the big screen, St. Vincent’s muted yet dramatic second album explored the reality behind one’s persona (meta, huh?). Clark tipped the album’s Disneyfied sound on its head, undercutting her sugary melodies with dark lyrics about self-loathing (‘Save Me From What I Want’) and settling for second best (‘Actor Out Of Work’).
Why it was brilliant: This was where St. Vincent really tapped into the theatrical – and this subtle transformation allowed her to capitalise the A in art rock. Basically, this is the soundtrack to best movie Tim Burton never made, showing the broad scope that St. Vincent can cover – and cover well.
‘Strange Mercy’ (2011)
The persona: ’90s grunger
St. Vincent’s pilgrimage to Seattle produced a record, written in the city, that solidified the artist’s chameleonic nature. The likes of ‘Northern Lights’ amped up her abrasive guitar playing, while ‘Champagne Year’, a bruised ballad, saw her address existential questions around her own calling: “I make a living tellin’ people what they wanna hear / It’s not a killing but it’s enough to keep the cobwebs clear.” Blasts of self-deprecating rock inspired by Seattle’s moody climes – remind you of anyone?
Why it was brilliant: St. Vincent’s combination of skilful guitar with aggrieved lyrics invited the listener closer to her than before, but left her just out of reach. Maintaining that distance while being more personal leaves her work open to interpretation, giving it a second life in the mind of the listener.
‘Love This Giant’ (2012)
The persona: American Gothic granddaughter
You might expect a team-up with art-rock supremo David Byrne to send St. Vincent’s more oddball tendencies off the richter scale, but what resulted was in a fact a less experimental and more earthy sound. For this meeting of minds, they enlisted a brass band to follow a groove that was unique to them.
Why it was brilliant: Digitally altering their faces on the album cover, the pair looked like the third generation version of the American Gothic couple from Grant Wood’s famous 1930 painting, with warped facial features but still traditionally dressed, their backgrounds unknown. The combination of traditionalist of song models and crisp modern production gave ‘Love This Giant’ an edge and showed St. Vincent as a musician who could collaborate, produce and craft a record unlike any of her previous albums – but one that fit perfectly into her oeuvre.
‘St. Vincent’ (2014)
The persona: Near-future cult leader
A Holy album of self-expression, this was the epitome of the weirdo coming into her own. Here, with a cult-like aesthetic – robes, pendants, wild hair – St. Vincent recited strange hymns and called others to join in her rock sacrifices, music her altar. Religion has been a facet of St. Vincent’s work since her debut album’s ‘Jesus Saves, I Spend’ and by toying with the idea of a cult following, she gently teased at the concept of organised religion.
Why it was brilliant: As high priestess, St. Vincent has always injected the unorthodox into her music, while also keeping the production lush and accessible. In this instance, the cult leader persona was a conduit for exposing the everyday weirdness that surrounds us. On crunching electro-pop jam ‘Bad Believer’, Clark shrugged, “What do you know? / I’m just a bad believer”, poking fun at the belief systems – religious or otherwise – that dominate our lives.
The persona: Dystopian dominatrix
The colourful mania that permeated ‘Masseduction’ was more than an artful expression: this was a musical revenge tactic, its heightened sense of reality – from the madcap, reckless energy of ‘Pills’ to the neon satire of ‘Los Ageless’ – capturing the invasive nature of being in the public eye, something St. Vincent knew all too well after dating model and paparazzi magnet Cara Delevingne. It took guts for the musician to flips the media’s damaging gaze – but isn’t that just the kind of fearlessness we’ve come to expect from St. Vincent?
Why it was brilliant: St. Vincent’s daring energy made her dominatrix-like persona untouchably fierce. This fierceness is a thread that has always run through her work – and with a title like ‘Daddy’s Home’, that’s surely what we can expect from the untouchable artist’s upcoming sixth album.