st vincent


- Words Emma Do

You may have spent the past few years watching St. Vincent – real name Annie Clark – bound up in latex, commanding us with icy stares and sharp guitar lines. But her latest reinventio­n is, in typical style, a complete 180. Out goes the aggressive fetishwear and in come the flared suits, smudged eyeliner and blonde wig. Annie described her last Grammy-award-winning album Masseducat­ion as “dominatrix at the mental institutio­n”. Her latest record, Daddy’s Home, is “glamour that’s been up for three days straight”. Picture a starlet riding the subway home in the morning with dirt under her chipped fingernail­s – that’s where St. Vincent is now.

Annie landed on this vision of grimy New York opulence in the winter of 2019. She was in the renowned Electric Lady Studios with her friend and co-producer Jack Antonoff, playing an early version of her song “The Holiday Party”, when the vibe began to take shape. “You just start writing and the music tells you what it wants to be,” she explains. “Jack played on the Wurlitzer piano, I grabbed my acoustic guitar, and it felt fresh again. It was real takes of real instrument­s – just two people playing and capturing a moment in time.”

In contrast to the thrilling, angular sounds of Masseducat­ion, there’s room to breathe in Daddy’s Home. Annie built the album on the funky, soulful and psychedeli­c sounds of 1970s songs from New York – the stuff she’d grown up with and “listened to more than any other kind of music.” In a playlist she made for fans titled “Daddy’s Home Inspiratio­n”, she curated songs from Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed and Plastic Soul-era Bowie. “I never fully explored this music for myself,” she says. “I was like, ‘I want to know. I want to learn. This music has a lot to teach me.’”

Being a St. Vincent album, Daddy’s Home isn’t just a straight-up tribute to the early ’70s, though – it’s imbued with the witty, weird and

i've got shit to do, things to take care of, business to attend to

humorous, and feels just as sleazy as it does smooth. A keen history student, Annie was drawn to the similariti­es between the social and economic conditions of the 1970s and the present day. “It was a time of flux,” she says. “The idealism of the flower children hadn’t panned out as they thought it might. It was this period where there wasn’t a lot of escapism – it was just people talking about the real situation.” Annie was born in 1982, but credits her childhood obsession with ’70s music to her dad. (Steely Dan was her very first concert.) Notoriousl­y private about her family, she was distraught when her dad’s prison sentence became tabloid fodder in 2016 (he was sentenced to 12 years in 2010 for his involvemen­t in multimilli­on-dollar stock fraud). She’d kept mum about it for years, but her then-relationsh­ip with British model Cara Delevingne inadverten­tly dragged her personal life into the spotlight. “I felt like a piece of raw meat,” she says of the time. Her father’s release from prison in 2019 became one of the starting points for her new album. “Daddy’s Home” – the third track on the record – is the first time she’s addressed the topic directly in her music. “I wanted to be the one to tell my story, because I never got to – it was told for me,” she says. “I wanted to tell it with humour and compassion.” The song describes prison visits: the sorrow of the situation, but also the absurdity of it. (On one occasion, guards sent her away to buy looser-fitting clothes. On another, a fellow visitor asked her to autograph a receipt.)

The failings of America’s prison system aren’t lost on Annie. In the past, she’s spoken about its corruption and how the system disproport­ionately locks up people of colour. She emphasises, though, that “Daddy’s Home” is merely her own story, and doesn’t make her qualified to be a spokespers­on for prison reform. Her new record is more broadly about being down on your luck – each song tells the tale of a flawed character doing the best they can. Annie says she’s felt like every one of those people, from the girl trying to hold it together at a party to the one carrying her heels home at 9am. There’s a playful twist to the album title, too. Yes, her father is literally home from prison, but now the father-daughter roles have reversed. “The title is funny to me, and also a little pervy,” she says. “I’ve been through a transforma­tion. I’m Daddy now.” What does it mean to her to be ‘Daddy’? “I’ve got shit to do, things to take care of, business to attend to. There’s a ‘bring me a scotch’ kind of vibe,” she says.

For years, Annie’s lived on the road, touring her albums relentless­ly. But lockdowns forced her, like so many other artists, to stop all that completely – a scary prospect at first. “I was never in one place for more than two weeks at a time, but if this turn of events has shown us anything, it’s that people are adaptable,” she says. “Looking back, it was a wonderful reset.” To pass the time, she picked up tennis, home improvemen­t projects and read about the Russian Revolution. More often than not, she wrote songs and played guitar. In the track “My Baby Wants a Baby”, Annie bemoans her childish behaviour when it comes to the all-consuming process of making music. “If left to my own devices, I’d probably starve to death,” she laughs. “It’s a disgrace. I’m like, ‘Oh, it’ll be too difficult to microwave this thing so I’m just going to have a little bowl of fruit and nuts.’” Elsewhere on the track, she muses on what kind of legacy she’ll leave behind. She hopes she’s remembered for her work, and that her music meant something to someone. She’s been thinking, too, of how she’d like her family and friends to eulogise her one day. “In crime podcasts about a woman’s untimely death, everyone’s always like, ‘She was an angel, she walked into a room and it lit up,’” Annie says. “If someone was going to eulogise me, I’d want them to tell the truth!” Would she like to be roasted at her funeral, then? “Yes, I want them to be like, ‘She can even burn water!’”

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