St. Vincent: 18.Feb.2010 - Chicago

St. Vincent enchanted Chicago's Metro last week with her eclectic mix of synthesized funk, orch-pop, electronica, art-rock, and even understated use of hip hop.

I’m not the first to say, and I definitely won’t be the last, that, as St. Vincent, Annie Clark conjures up a beautiful disturbance in the minds and hearts of listeners. And just like she’s done on her first two albums, Marry Me (2007) and Actor (2009), her live show pushes all the right buttons, pulling you into a world filled with beautiful, alluring and subversively disturbing stories.

At 27, the Tulsa Oklahoma-native has honed her live show for the last several years by touring with Austin-based band Polyphonic Spree and orch-pop indie rocker Sufjan Stevens; and, as a teenager growing up in Dallas, she also served time as the tour manager and opening band for a family band called Tuck and Patti.

Now, with two albums under her belt, she’s finally embarked on her first headlining tour. At Chicago’s Metro, her show was a phantasmagorical jaunt down a sonic rabbit hole to a place bubbling with curious melodies and mad rhythms. But instead of Alice it was Annie, leading us to a place of wonderfully twisted tales of heartache, joy, and borderline madness.

On her albums, Clark creates a balanced and experimental landscape of avant-garde art rock. It’s primarily her sweet and delicate voice that lures in you in. Live, it’s her guitar work that surges to the foreground as she tears at the strings on her fret broad, as if clawing at the skin of songs. Fans watched in awe as she squeezed every last once of pain, sadness, angst and regret from each note, making her songs even more impossibly naked and raw.

Part of the beauty of the St. Vincent sound is its electric, eclectic, and eccentric mixture--synthesized funk, orch-pop, electronica, art-rock and understated use of hip hop. Yes, hip hop. It’s not something that I first noticed on record and it wasn’t something I anticipated live, but Clark’s band mates mixing in short horn blasts with electronic break beats on drum machines recalled old school motifs J Dilla would praise, making the show deceptively irresistible. Clark further came clean about her love for classic hip hop and induced crowd chuckles as she waxed poetic about the beauty Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”. It was an unusual segue into Nico’s “These Days”, which soothed the house into an eerie, albeit gentle, whisper. All dark and disturbing lyrics considered, Clark was deceptively sparkling.

Backed by a quintet playing a small orchestra of keyboards, drums, flute, bass, horns, clarinet and violins, Clark started the show with ”Strangers”, from Actor, then led her band in fresh, improvised versions of “Jesus Saves, I Spend”, “Paris is Burning”, and “Your Lips Are Red”, from Marry Me. During the latter songs, Clark’s guitar reverberated plumes of feedback, fuzz, and note-bending that dazzled while pulling hearts closer in.

At the beginning of the show, Clark said Chicago was her “favorite and best stop on last year’s Actor tour”. I realize artists say stuff like that all the time to butter up a crowd, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it wasn’t her imagination talking.

Photos by Colleen Catania

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.