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Thursday October 23rd 2014

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Ears & Fingers 2/27/14

by Jason Leger

St. Vincent—St. Vincent
Annie Clark has built one of the more impressive resumes in the alt rock world. Only 31, she has put out four critically acclaimed albums, including one with the legendary David Byrne, she’s served time in the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ touring band, and has surrounded herself with an impressive list of character references, including The National, Bon Iver and Andrew Bird. She built an empire around her particular frenetic blend of jazz-funk and baroque pop, mostly centered around her almost effortlessly flawless style of guitar playing, which has found itself to be very appealing to an ever growing audience. Annie Clark is slowly becoming unstoppable.

A new album, simply titled “St. Vincent,” isn’t going to contribute any loss of steam to Clark’s budding popularity. We’ve already been privy to singles ‘Birth in Reverse’ and ‘Digital Witness,’ and as of last week, the glossy, shimmering ‘Prince Johnny.’ All serve well as defining the dimensions of not just this new album, but the exuding style and talent of Annie Clark. “St. Vincent” is eccentric but not easily misunderstood, urgent but not rushed, and possibly most important, wholly able to slide into the rest of the St. Vincent catalog, without feeling stale or refraining from being a leap forward.

Highlights are the very animated opener ‘Rattlesnake,’ the bouncy ‘Huey Newton,’ the aforementioned first single that I just can’t quit on, ‘Birth in Reverse’ and the riding off into the sunset closer, ‘Severed Crossed Fingers,’ Clark makes it clear with each passing song that she is daring us to define her. As soon as we think we understand, she will drop us on our asses and make us start over—this is what most trailblazers do. “St. Vincent” is out now via Republic Records.

Rest in Peace: The Walkmen
Last weekend, a friend and I traveled to New Orleans to see The Walkmen somewhat on a whim. I knew the band had announced an indefinite hiatus on the horizon, so I figured I would never get to see them and made peace with that. When it was brought to my attention that they would be playing nearby one more time, I knew that I had to be there—a lot of bands don’t make it back from the “indefinite hiatus” thing.

I’ve been a fan of the Walkmen since they released “You & Me” in 2008. Up to that point, we had evaded one another, not on purpose, at least on my part. I delved into their back catalog and grew to really love their second album, “Bows + Arrows,” mostly on the back of mega jam ‘The Rat.’ “You & Me” seemed to be when they found themselves and got comfortable, which culminated in 2012’s masterpiece “Heaven.” So when the dreaded announcement of “we’re moving on” hit me, I was bummed to say the least.

The show was bittersweet and very succinct, as it felt like less than 45 minutes, but they were on point with the set list. They played songs from every album, and brought the house down with the title track from “Heaven” right before walking off stage. Once being encouraged to play one more song, they finished with ‘We’ve Been Had,’ but not before front man Hamilton Leithauser broke our hearts.

“It’s so fun playing with these guys. These guys are the best. Anyhow, you know what? This is the end. This is the last thing we’ll ever do. But this is great. This is the first song we ever wrote together.”

The Walkmen are dead. Long live The Walkmen.