Strange Mercy

Album Review of Strange Mercy by St. Vincent.

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Strange Mercy

St. Vincent

Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter

86 Music-Critic Score
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Strange Mercy - Excellent, Based on 20 Critics

The Observer (UK) - 100
Based on rating 5/5
100

Texan Annie Clark's third album is a departure of sorts from 2007's Marry Me and 2009's Actor. The strings and woodwind have been turned down in favour of a harder sound, dominated by off-kilter drums and queasy synths, with Clark's electric guitar filling the gaps with intricate runs, riffs and fills. The modulations and switches in pace remain as bold as ever, and Clark has a knack for memorable melody and a winning voice with shades of Kate Bush and Leslie Feist.

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Rolling Stone - 100
Based on rating 5/5
100

You rarely know what's coming next in a St. Vincent song - an angelic faux-Forties Hollywood musical chorus, a stumbling tap-dance beat, a searing electronic noise burst. Annie Clark's third LP under the moniker is as busily inventive as ever. But it's also hookier, sexier, more unhinged. The title ….

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No Ripcord - 90
Based on rating 9/10
90

After two albums noted more for Annie Clark’s voice than anything else, St. Vincent has brought in producer John Congleton, and the musical growth could not be any more apparent. From the anxious, almost masochistic lyrics and heavily distorted and tampered guitar work of Chloe in the Afternoon, we already know that this is a much different St. Vincent than we have heard in the past.

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New Musical Express (NME) - 90
Based on rating 4.5/5
90

Virtuosity and accessibility have never been easy bedfellows, but ‘[b]Strange Mercy[/b]’ is one of those rare albums that makes you think and makes you fall in love. If [a]St Vincent[/a]’s previous studio album, ‘[b]Actor[/b]’, had us slavering on its release in 2009, it must now be regarded as progress in the historical sense, such is the inventiveness and cohesion here. [b]Annie Clark[/b]’s third is a record of such assuredness that it staggers on first listen and, equally, with subsequent spins.

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Drowned In Sound - 90
Based on rating 9/10
90

'Is it all a pose?' asks the girl, in a break between sucking on the last of her Gitanes. 'I mean,' she sighs, as smoke billows over her lips, 'I like St. Vincent, but is she, like, for real?' If there’s any pose at all, it’s merely to distract from the fact that Annie Clark cares. She cares about sounds as soft as petals which hide the thorns below.

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Pitchfork - 90
Based on rating 9.0/10
90

Directed by French New Wave great Éric Rohmer, 1972's Chloe in the Afternoon tells of a man caught between fidelity and a stylish old friend named Chloe, who usually pops up at his office after lunch. But just when it looks like the two are going to consummate their affair, the husband is struck with a crisis of conscience and runs back home to his wife. The opening track on Annie Clark's third album as St.

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PopMatters - 90
Based on rating 9/10
90

There’s a fine line between ambitious experimentation and pretentious navel gazing, and no one around these days discerns the difference between avant-rock adventurism and artsy-fartsy self-indulgence better than St. Vincent’s Annie Clark. Sure, she might cultivate a persona that’s a little cutesy in coy interviews and fashion mag press photos, but, when it comes down to her craft, Clark is as serious as they come.

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Sputnikmusic - 90
Based on rating 4.5/5
90

Review Summary: inevitably weird, by which I mean perfect.Since Annie Clark is such a one for contradictions, how about this one? Strange Mercy is, at the same time, her most shocking and most unsurprising record. I mean, it’s like she put the thing through a blender, but of course it’s like she put it through a blender. Who are we talking about? This is St.

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Consequence of Sound - 86
Based on rating A-
86

Describing Annie Clark’s work as St. Vincent comes down to a toss-up between cinematic and clever. Both in the studio and in her videos, Clark is captivating, expansive, and yet undemanding. She slyly earns your attention with bombastic hooks, witty turns of phrase, or by mentoring a kid who just got a merit badge for “mind sandwich” (all done together in the video for “Jesus Saves, I Spend”), and then she reels you in further.

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NOW Magazine - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, is an astounding electric guitarist, yet on her absorbing third album she never puts her mastery of the instrument ahead of a great song. Instead, the Manhattan-based multi-instrumentalist uses it - along with bits of synth, drums, violin, sax and woodwinds - to enhance, punctuate and unfurl breathtakingly original compositions.

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AllMusic - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

As clever and insightful as Annie Clark's first two St. Vincent albums were, she sometimes seemed slightly removed, and perhaps somewhat above, her songs’ subjects. However, she’s down and dirty with them on Strange Mercy, a collection of cracked veneers, eye-level confessions, and portraits of breaking points. It’s tempting to call this her most genuine album, but it’s probably more accurate to say it’s Clark's least academic-feeling set of songs.

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Prefix Magazine - 80
Based on rating 8.0/10
80

“I make a living telling people what they want to hear,” St. Vincent, known to her mom and the tax man as Annie Clark, warbles more than half way through her splendid third album, Strange Mercy. The thing about that line though, tongue-in-cheek as it may be, is that it seems as much like Clark trying to convince herself of its truth as it seems like an earnest boast.

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Paste Magazine - 80
Based on rating 8.0/10
80

I’ll never forget the first time I listened to St. Vincent (the stage name of soon-to-be 29-year-old Annie Clark). I’d heard of her debut and wanted to like it after being told she named it Marry Me because of a line from Arrested Development, but I never got around to giving it a listen. It wasn’t until 2009’s Actor that I sat down with headphones on and tried the music on for size.

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Slant Magazine - 80
Based on rating 4.0/5
80

Annie Clark may have cut her symphonic teeth touring with Sufjan Stevens, but the ominous grace with which she imbues her surreal, baroque sound is wholly her own. The deceptively demure Texan has enjoyed a quick musical evolution: Somewhere in between the prickly, quirky-cute ditties of Marry Me and the frightening splendor of Actor‘s offerings, Clark developed a taste for rich, biting indie pop dressed up in sinister production values, and her third album, Strange Mercy, plays out as a stark concentration of that dazzling but foreboding style. Unlike Actor, which built its creepy melodies on nebulous atmospherics, Strange Mercy is immediate—acute and razorlike in delivering Clark’s blistered romance and slithering compositions.

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The Guardian - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

"You're all legs, I'm all nerves," is an arresting way to start an album, but Strange Mercy's opener, Chloe in the Afternoon, is about the healing powers of S&M, all whips and black lacquer, so it sets the tone perfectly. Annie Clark's third record as St Vincent is clammy with sex, its characters swooning their way through a series of encounters and regrets, from Cheerleader's reluctant object of desire to Surgeon's woozy declaration: "I spent the summer on my back. " It's wonderfully at odds with the naivety of the fairytale strings and Clark's choirgirl vocals, conjuring up a hazy world in which nothing seems quite stable, a state helped along by the addition of magnificently oddball heavy riffs and stuttering synths.

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Tiny Mix Tapes - 70
Based on rating 3.5/5
70

The cover for St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy depicts a muffled mouth that’s probably being suffocated, a playfully dark illustration of the new album’s title. It’s also the first St. Vincent cover that isn’t a straight-up headshot of frontwoman Annie Clark, perhaps a strange kind of mercy itself.

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American Songwriter
Their review was very positive

They should’ve called it Own the Airwaves. When Lady Antebellum released their last album in January 2010, “Need You Now” had already been a radio hit for months. This time around, the band unleashes Own the Night nearly half a year after debuting its lead single, “Just a Kiss,” on an episode of American Idol. If there ever was a band that knew the ins and outs of radio – how to get on it, stay on it, and bridge the great divide between pop and country stations – it’s these Nashville cats, who bring a familiar mix of down-home earthiness and hi-fi production gloss to Own the Night.

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Austin Chronicle
Their review was positive

St. Vincent's appeal might be likened to Anne Taintor's illustration of a 1950s trophy wife hoisting a dinner platter, the text reading, "The secret ingredient is resentment. " There's a friction and duality to Dallas-reared Annie Clark's suspenseful character sketches, rigidly composed but easy to shatter, a feat evidenced by recent live revisions of Big Black's "Kerosene" and Tom Waits' "Tango Till They're Sore.

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The Quietus
Their review was generally favourable

Ouch. The thwack of John Congleton's trademark slap-in-the-chops production seems, for once, not so excessive, as Annie Clark's third outing as St Vincent kicks off with an account of a cathartic S&M session, voiced with tremulous yearning but powered by whopping great jagged riffs and blocky beats. The slaps continue. Opener 'Chloe in the Afternoon' is the only one that gets a horsehair whip out, it's true, but elsewhere the personae who populate this brilliantly uncomfortable album are still knocked for six.

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BBC Music
Their review was only somewhat favourable

Adequate third album from rising indie star. Wyndham Wallace 2011 With the critical mass now in her favour, a commercial breakthrough seems inevitable for St. Vincent, known otherwise as Annie Clark: poster girl for indie rock, former member of Sufjan Stevens’ touring band, beloved of Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear and Andrew Bird. Her two previous albums have revealed an intelligent, offbeat but charming talent, and her live performances – both with a band and solo, surrounded by loops stations and echo boxes – have proven her an impressive musician.

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