St. Vincent Melts the Sun with Brilliance
It was no April Fools joke. Last week on April 1st 2021, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) released a new song from her soon to be released album Daddy’s Home. Simple put, the song is brilliant.
I’ve been a fan of St. Vincent since 2015 when I first heard her album St. Vincent. It was quirky, theatrical, and intense. I dived into the rest of her catalog and just wondered “why didn’t someone tell me this was a thing?” There’s nothing worse than hearing groundbreaking, imaginative music and realizing that it isn’t all that new. This was her fifth album, including one with David Byrne.
Right about that time, I was looking to take my high school age daughter to her first real concert. Thankfully, St. Vincent was coming to Buffalo to play at Ani Di Franco’s Asbury Hall. Needless to say, great choice for Dad. At that point I had only heard St. Vincent’s music and had no idea what an amazing guitarist she is. It is an enormous understatement to say that she can really shred. For a good look at this, watch her performance of “Huey Newton” on Austin City Limits in 2018. At about the 2:40 mark she takes up a guitar and really tears into the song with it. Amazing.
Since that time, St. Vincent has released albums more slowly, with only 2017’s MassEducation (with the hit song “New York”) released since then, along with a bunch of remixes. However, that’s about to change. Over the past two months St. Vincent has trickled out some singles from the next album, due out next month. The April 1st single “The Melting of the Sun” is destined to be a major hit and, I predict, will be popular with older Gen X and Boomer crowds. The song itself is drenched in early 70s psychedelia. The guitar riffs sound so much like post-Beatles George Harrison that this song could easily have had a place on All Things Must Pass, if it hadn’t been written nearly 50 years later. The organ piece opening the song immediately reminds me of “Let It Be” while the vocal scream, barely heard in the background, sounds sampled from Pink Floyd’s “Speak to Me.”
“Melting of the Sun” is not a retro song though. While it is full of homages to the early 70s and mentions of famous woman such as “Saint Joni ain’t no phony”, “My Marilyn shot her heroin”, and “Proud Nina got subpoenaed/Singing “Mississippi good goddamn” – the latter about a Nina Samone song – this is purely modern and St. Vincent. The purred vocals, socially conscience lyrics, and backing gospel soul trio, along with the big guitar solo are exactly what one would expect from a St. Vincent song. Especially a great one like this.
The weekend after “Melting of the Sun” was released, St. Vincent played Saturday Night Live. She performed it along with “Pay Your Way in Pain”, another great song from the new album that sounds like an imagined collaboration between Aretha Franklin and St. Vincent. Her performances were audacious, theatrical, and a good sign for the rest of the album. In addition, to the SNL appearance, the video of “The Melting of the Sun” is worth a watch. It carries forward that early 70s theme with an animated Sun, featuring St. Vincent’s face, and earth tones (i.e. 70s) colored rays, radiating out over a cartoon turquoise ocean. This is a video that seem old and new at the same time. Just don’t watch it while high. Or maybe it would be even better if high. Either way.
St. Vincent is one of a class of multi-talented artists that have emerged in the 2010s. What is clear from “The Melting of the Sun” is that she has not run out of steam. Instead, her music, playing, and fashion have all continued to evolve in interesting ways. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album. If “The Melting of the Sun” is any indication of what to expect, it’s going to be one of her best yet.