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Pop’s Big Payoff

Indie rocker Annie Clark, also known as St. Vincent, continues to ride the success of 2017’s Masseduction while teaching a master class on overcoming the challenges of life and facing the future.

Article
G.K. Hizer
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
January 29, 2018

When St. Vincent takes the stage at Brady Theater, it’s true that she’ll be arriving as the currently lauded queen of independent spirits and alt-rock, but it will also be a homecoming of sorts. Initially born and raised in Tulsa until she moved to Texas with her mother and sisters at the age of 7, Annie Clark’s roots add even more weight and significance for local fans.

Granted, the Brady may not be as big as the BOK Center (where St. Vincent last played Tulsa, opening for The Black Keys in 2014), but the venue should play perfectly to Clark’s penchant for the theatrical and magnify her performance in a room far more intimate.

With the release of her latest album, Masseduction, St. Vincent has continued to redefine her sound. Previously described as art-rock and chamber-rock for her atmospheric sound and creative instrumentation, Masseduction sees St. Vincent’s most recent work polished into a more concise and tightly wound package, capturing a frenetic energy that’s reflected in a mixture of new-wave electronica, dance beats, pure-pop melodies, and bursts of indie-rock mayhem.

If the first leg of the “Fear the Future” tour is any indication, fans should expect the live show to be even more precise and intimate than the album, with Clark taking charge of the spotlight early on and never relinquishing control. It’s an intense ride that visits St. Vincent’s back catalog, then covers the entirety of the new album with an explosion of color and sound that’s just as visceral and intense as Clark’s stage presence is mysterious.

If the concert hall is a classroom, St. Vincent is the professor, so fans should plan on getting a fresh, if somewhat unconventional, lesson in absorbing and reflecting life around us.

Previously described as art-rock and chamber-rock for her atmospheric sound and creative instrumentation, Masseduction sees St. Vincent’s most recent work polished into a more concise and tightly wound package.
Previously described as art-rock and chamber-rock for her atmospheric sound and creative instrumentation, Masseduction sees St. Vincent’s most recent work polished into a more concise and tightly wound package.

After dropping out of Berklee College of Music (Boston), she joined psychedelic pop collective Polyphonic Spree in 2004 and moved on Sufjan Stevens’ touring band in 2006. Building upon that, she successfully launched her own career as St. Vincent, garnering a handbook of critical acclaim, before collaborating with David Byrne (of Talking Heads) on the Love This Giant album and subsequent tour, which merely added to her credibility as an artist and indie-rock queen.

By the time the self-titled St. Vincent album was released in 2014, Clark was queued up to find success on a whole new level. After stunning audiences with a blistering show as a headliner in the spring of 2014 (including a sold-out show at Cain’s Ballroom), Clark’s star continued to rise and reach even larger audiences, as the release reached No. 12 on the album charts, was named album of the year by multiple publications, and even earned a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2015.

Sold-out shows, TV appearances, and a premier spot as opener for The Black Keys wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, however. As Clark revealed to Rolling Stone this past September: “I was going out of my mind. I was on the road constantly and just trying to keep up the pace. It was go-go-go, and I didn’t have incredibly-well developed coping mechanisms. I was just trying to keep my sanity…”

As a result, Clark began taking medication for depression and anxiety, which she now credits with helping her move on to the next stage of her career. In the past, critics had cited Clark’s songs as walking a fine line between happiness and madness. With Masseduction, that line has become razor thin: electronic beats bounce up against spastic blasts of Clark’s guitar playing, which itself wavers between synth mimicking textures and blasts of distorted energy.

Current wonder-boy producer Jack Antonoff (of Bleachers and Fun., who also helmed albums for Lorde and Taylor Swift) helped reign in Clark’s vision to find the balance between pop-sensible and indie-rock frenetic. As a result, the collection of songs about love, sex, depression, and addiction are perhaps as sonically indicative of St. Vincent’s view of the world as the lyrics are personal.

Perhaps the best explanation of the frenetic nature of her music came in a 2010 Westword interview when Clark shared with Tom Murphy, “I like it when things come out of nowhere and blindside you a little bit. I think any person who gets panic attacks or has an anxiety disorder can understand how things can all of a sudden turn very quickly. I think I’m sublimating that into my music.”

Nevertheless, the new album isn’t all a mess of spastic energy. By the time we reach “Slow Disco” and “Smoking Section,” Clark has made peace with her fears, able to let go and face the future. The pair form a sonic elegy of sorts, closing the song cycle with an elegy to releasing the pain and looking to a new hope. Even still, you can’t help but feel that as St. Vincent stares off into the distance, the entire frenetic cycle will start over again soon. Rest assured, her fans expect nothing less and Clark has become a master at reflecting the struggles of life.

LOCATOR
St. Vincent
Brady Theater | 105 W. M.B. Brady St. | Tulsa
bradytheater.com
Feb. 26: 8 p.m.

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