Offbeat, But Right On
Curly, raven-haired Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) is a beautiful dork and potential prom queen of the science and math magnet school, seemingly groomed like the protagonist of Princess Diaries for the indie-pop throne. A quirky, imaginative musician, Clark's played guitar for Polyphonic Spree, Sufjan Stevens and Glen Branca, which only hints at the richness of her solo debut, Marry Me.
Forged at her homemade studio in Texas, Marry Me ranges from jazzy, cabaret pop ("All My Stars Aligned") to odd, shadowy skronk ("Your Lips Are Red") and lilting, baroque pop ("Jesus Saves, I Spend"). It's quite a progression from the girl who played Iron Maiden's "Trooper" for her junior high talent show.
"To maybe paint the picture even more, I was tall for my age, sort of scrawny and had braces," Clark says with a chuckle, during a break from her pre-tour rehearsals in Dallas.
"Something like Maiden, that's a very organized kind of aggression. It's pretty geeky aggression. You wouldn't want to meet me in a dark alley because I'll play major thirds above you."
Clark recorded and obsessed over the album for a year and a half ("It's so personal, I know every track") before finishing last fall, just before she had to leave on tour with Stevens. She's made home recordings since she was 13 and is not above having an extended conversation about amps.
"I'm a gearhead, for sure, and it's embarrassing. But at the same time, I'm also very impatient, so rather than sit and do algorithms, I'd rather fiddle with it until it sounds good," she says.
The album ends with the world's first Mad Magazine-inspired torch song, "What Me Worry," suggesting for a moment Norah Jones' wilder, more soulful twin. If Jones is musically destined for a white picket fence and a house in the suburbs, Clark seems destined for a prodigal's wandering in service to the mercurial whims of her spirit. She's already learned to disregard what others might think.
"I kind of relinquished myself from worrying about [success] and just concentrate on making music I like. Picking a song that I would like to hear. I've got ears like anybody. So if I can be as objective as possible with my own work on some level, then maybe I'll make something someone else will want to buy," she says. "But there's no way to know that."
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