2021 • ROCK/ALTERNATIVE • LOMA VISTA
BEST NEW MUSIC
St. Vincent’s sixth record is her most cohesive so far. Featuring catchy yet elegant tracks, Daddy’s Home is a well-built and well-structured 1970s-based vintage universe.
Imagine this scenario: while classic rock is still relevant and is responsible for the emergence of several new trends, such as folk-rock and soft-rock, r&b and funk become more popular than ever and elements of classical music merge with the most diverse genres. On the other hand, blues accelerates and gains distortions, creating a new movement that would materialize in the next few years alongside psychedelic music. David Bowie and his great The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars witnessed the birth of punk and the ascension of pop music. There was a nightclub on every corner with people in bell-bottom pants and Michael Jackson was still taking his first steps in his solo career. This scenario is the 1970s, the columns for St. Vincent’s newest album.
Daddy’s Home, Annie Clark’s sixth album under the stage name of St. Vincent, began to be written in 2019, when her father was released from prison, where he’d served nearly a decade for his role in a stock manipulation scheme. The album is based almost entirely on her personal life, with her father’s release being the trigger for the record’s creation and the diverse and easily identifiable sonority of the 1970s — which Clark had contact with as a child when her father showed her David Bowie, Steely Dan, and Stevie Wonder albums — the catalyst for the realization of her idealized aesthetics. As she puts it, Daddy’s Home is “music made in sepia-toned downtown New York from 1971-1975.” With a wide variety of elegant instruments, from horns and saxophones to mellotron and organs, and poetic lyrics, the album co-produced by Jack Antonoff delivers catchy songs as well as proving Clark’s artistic vision.
The sequence of the first five songs on the album is the best of the entire album. It is at this point that Clark presents her aesthetic, develops and materializes it while delivering tracks that are fun, elegant, and extremely detailed. The lead single and the opener, “Pay Your Way in Pain,” is one of the best songs St. Vincent has ever released. While a psychedelic blues sound plays in the background, Clark screams, growls, and groans as she cautiously builds the album’s character. She starts, “I went to the store, I was feelin’ kinda hungry/But I didn’t have the money and the shelves were all empty,” and continues later, “So I went to the park just to watch the little children/The mothers saw my heels and they said I wasn’t welcome.” But, more than personifying this easily mentalized character from the 1970s living in 2021, Clark seals her destiny and desire. “Pay your way in pain/You got to pray your way in shame,” and then, “I wanna be loved.”
On the next tracks, Annie will continue to introduce her character while making it stronger and pulling us deeper into her sepia-vintage universe. With dreaming and mysterious strings, “Down and Out Downtown” shows her being held hostage by love. She sings, “Over the Empire State/Then you kissed me/And I crashed again.” In “Daddy’s Home,” she goes bolder with synthesizers and a choir that seems to be formed by herself. The track describes her father’s release process through her vision. She sings, “I signed autographs in the visitation room/Waitin’ for you the last time, inmate 502,” and then, “You still got it in your government green suit/And I look down and out in my fine Italian shoes.” Later, “The Melting of the Sun” appears as a tribute, a thank you for all the women who came before and made the lives of women today easier. She sings, “Saint Joni ain’t no phony/Smoking Reds where Furry sang the blues/My Marilyn shot her heroin/‘Hell,’ she said, ‘It’s better than abuse’.”
But, the best track on Daddy’s Home is “Live in the Dream.” According to what Clark told Apple Music, this track was born from a conversation she had with Jack Antonoff about a conversation between him and Bruce Springsteen. “Bruce was just, I think anecdotally, talking about the game of fame and talking about the fact that we lose a lot of people to it. They can kind of float off into the atmosphere, and the secret is, you can’t let the dream take over you. The dream has to live inside of you,” she said. Thus, the track carries this double meaning, one being the literal understanding of a person waking you up and the other figurative of someone trying to get out of the dream of the spotlight shine. She sings while synthetics make her voice dreaming, “Hello/Do you know where you are/You’ve been out cold.”
Although the rest of the record isn’t as good as these first tracks, it’s still pretty great. It is by far the most cohesive St. Vincent album to date even though it has some missing and out of the curve points. While “The Laughing Man,” a homage to a childhood friend of hers who passed, is really beautiful and melodic, “Down” sounds like a vintage retelling of a MASSEDUCTION’s song, with a strong presence of synthesizers both in the instruments and in her voice. Later, “Somebody Like Me” features smooth and usual strings while Clark materializes herself like a poet by singing, “Does it make you a genius or/The fool of the week/To believe enough/In somebody like me?” After the marriage, “My Baby Wants a Baby” shows up with an interesting thematic: Clark’s preoccupation with having a baby because she’s afraid that it will inherit all her flaws. She sings, “What in the world, what in the world would my baby say?/‘I got your eyes and your mistakes’/I wanna run, I wanna run.”
However, Daddy’s Home is not perfect. On the final tracklist, St. Vincent put three interludes, called “Humming.” Even though they make the experience a little bit more immersive, they are kinda unnecessary in the aftermath. Meanwhile, although “Candy Darling” is pretty nice, it is weak to close the album. A better option would be the previous songs, “…At the Holiday Party,” where Clark picks up a guitar and sings it raw, “At the holiday party/Red wine-lipped a little early/Reminiscin’ got us laughin’/And that’s when I saw your face crackin’.” On the hook, a horn and a saxophone appear, giving even more charm to the track. But, at the end of the day, Annie Clark is finally at home and you are at her side.