St. Vincent Strange Mercy

St. Vincent Strange Mercy
Nobody likes a reviewer who leans on the descriptor "mature," so let's just get it out of the way: Annie Clark's third album is mature, in the best possible sense of the word. Clark has followed up her first two albums under the St. Vincent moniker ― the spry and quirky Marry Me and the orchestrated melodiousness of Actor ― with her masterpiece. Those albums certainly had their charms, but Strange Mercy is the sound of a musician hitting her musical stride, matching her quirky ideas and knack for melody with elegance and studio execution. "Chloe in the Afternoon" is a fitting introduction, as Clark flexes her vocal muscles emphatically, twisting her voice around a gnarled guitar and beat that would make Jay-Z drool. From there, it's all uphill. "Cheerleader," for example, is a towering, percussive ode to the ability to change one's circumstances and "Champagne Year" is a pulsing bit of haunting, melodic genius. But what makes the record special is Clark's refined sensibilities. Like Spoon's Kill the Moonlight, Strange Mercy is an exercise in studio restraint and an example of the power of juxtaposing strong melodies against gorgeous instrumentals. It's a mark of maturity, it has to be said, but on Strange Mercy, it might too just be the mark of musical genius. (4AD)