When: Wed., Oct. 5, 9 p.m. 2011
Annie Clark spends the first half of the "The Strangers," the opening track from 2009's Actor, carefully preparing pristine orchestral waters, then cruds them up by uncaging a thick, grotty guitar line. The song was my introduction to St. Vincent, and it quickly illustrates the multifarious nature of Clark's songwriting—her brand of indie rock has a fantastical reach, shifting effortlessly from haunting and pretty to bizarre, disjointed, and artsy. The newest St. Vincent album, Strange Mercy (4AD), is a chilling tour de force, showcasing a seemingly bottomless talent that's becoming more self-aware with every release. From the very first song, "Chloe in the Afternoon" (a nod to director Eric Rohmer, who died last year), the instrumentation is creaking and eerie, moving at a stalking pace, and Clark's airy, ominous vocals regularly creep into the foreground as things get strange. Standouts like "Surgeon" and "Northern Lights" feel so tense and white-knuckled from the get-go—it sounds exactly like Clark is trying desperately to control an outburst—that when each does finally explode into a thousand different directions and sounds, it's as liberating and cathartic as anything I've heard in I don't know how long. Even the album's designated single, the relatively ironed-out and accessible "Cruel," is a quirky, magnetic masterpiece. Oh, and if you haven't seen St. Vincent onstage, do yourself a favor—go watch Clark slay it on guitar and be otherwise fucking gorgeous. —Kevin Warwick Cate Le Bon opens.