Tuesday 20 July 2021

Review of 'Daddy's Home' by St. Vincent

St. Vincent’s new serving of 70s psychedelic sleaze somehow manages to be excitingly fresh. In fact, it’s one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard this year.

Eccentric art rocker Annie Erin Clark (AKA St Vincent) has always been a pretty forward-thinking artist. Her 2014 self-titled record was a groovy rock record featuring guitars modulated to sound like synths and some fairly out-there lyrics ranging from snorting a piece of the Berlin Wall to taking out the garbage and masturbating. Follow-up 2017 album Masseduction was pretty tame in comparison, taking a relatively straightforward synthpop direction, but still sounding very contemporary.

Daddy’s Home is Annie’s first attempt at a retro record. It’s a homage to 70s rock, pop and funk complete with woozy lap steel guitars, chirpy wurlitzers, Motown-esque choral backing vocals and even some sitars. I often get worried when artists go retro as its usually a sign that their creative juices are drying up. However, this album isn’t just another late career tribute record like Sonic Highways – Annie takes the smorgasbord of retro sounds and cooks up some truly inventive compositions.

Most of the tracks adopt standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus formats, but they’re built out of dense and sporadic layers of instrumentation. Tracks like ‘The Melting Of The Sun’ and ‘Down’ can feel quite chaotic on first listen. However, beneath the scattergun splashes of sitar and Wurlitzer are some solid grooves and hooks that have kept me coming back. There are also some relatively stripped-back tracks to contrast the more cluttered ones that help to add breathing space – a prime example is mesmerising Pink-Floydy ballad ‘Live In The Dream’, which uses a whispered delivery and twinkling synths to create a drowsy slow-motion feel.

In addition to the creative and solid composition work, this album also has some fantastic lyrical content. Daddy’s Home isn't just album about daddy issues, but one about abandoning responsibility. It's partially inspired by her father, who recently completed a 12 year jail sentence. For much of her adult life, she's not had a present father figure. She compares this abandonment to her own refusal to become a parent in a world where women are only respected if they become mothers. Much of the songs are delivered via a sleazy Marla-Singer-like character living in 1970s New York - it's a deliberately exaggerated negative stereotype of the thirty-something woman who never settles down. The album starts off fairly light-hearted with lines like ‘I went to the park to watch the little children/ the mothers saw my heels and they said I wasn’t welcome’. However, towards the end of the album she begins to tackle the topic in a more serious manner – the most poignant lines being those at the end of ‘My Baby Wants A Baby’: ‘No one will scream that song I made/ Won’t throw no roses on my grave/ They’ll just look at me and say/ ‘Where’s your baby?’’.

It's a brave and interesting look into the attitude that people have towards childfree women. Even if some of it is delivered through a character, it's Annie's most personal album to date. Combined with the incredible 70s soundscape and inventive arrangement work, it makes for quite a phenomenal record.