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It’s not like we need more evidence that Annie “St. Vincent” Clark is a stunningly imaginative art-rock guitarist, but here it is. We’re talking sludge-fuzz blasts … fancy-ass Steve Howe runs … violent stop-and-start phrasing … and that’s just on “Birth in Reverse,” the lead single from St. Vincent’s fourth studio album.
Clark seems to have a honey badger’s regard for classic rock tones. Hers are harsh, even grotesque. They blat with flat, full-frequency distortion likely to fry the pacemakers of vintage tone snobs. With her overstated digital effects and flatulent synth filters, Clark can sound downright disgusting. Yes—she’s that good.
But you can’t view Clark’s guitars in isolation—they’re counterpoint to her idiosyncratic vocalizing, scuzzy synths, and sly songwriting/programming. Singing or playing, she boasts a wonderfully eccentric sense of rhythm, one that veers from smoove groove to dying insect. She never quite goes full Ribot on guitar, but she’s certainly got Marc’s knack for slashing across the grain of the groove. Throughout, Clark displays that rarest of guitar gifts: The ability to make you stop in your tracks every 30 seconds and mutter, “What the eff was that?”
Must-hear track: “Birth in Reverse”