St. Vincent’s Evolving Musical Persona Takes An Analog Rich Turn On ‘Daddy’s Home’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Daddy’s Home, the sixth solo St. Vincent album, marks another abrupt turn for the musical chameleon. Following two art-pop albums drenched in electronic influences, this release is Annie Clark’s most analog since 2009’s Actor. It is a retro album steeped in the musical styles of the 1970s, pop, and psychedelia melding with rock and world music. 

It is also Clark’s most personal work, with the songwriter at times eschewing her usual fictional characters for moments of introspection. Partly inspired by the release of Clark’s father from prison in 2019, Daddy’s Home explores themes of abandonment, emotional disconnection, and familial dysfunction. 

Album opener “Pay Your Way In Pain” is a grimy pop strut that pairs an infectious keyboard lick with vocals that alternate between monotone and histrionic. Clark sings of trying to maintain her dignity throughout her struggles with judgment, finances, and relationship issues. “The road is feeling like a pothole,” she sings.

In the outlandishly funky “Down,” Clark gives a defiant middle finger to an abusive partner. “You were a creep from the cheap seats thinking that my little scratch was like your big victory,” she sings over a bubbly electric piano groove. “Tell me who hurt you. No, wait; I don’t care to hear an excuse why you think you can be cruel,” she snarls. 

As with other St. Vincent albums, Daddy’s Home is packed with complex arrangements. The sonic terrain is comprised of thickly layered textures of a wide array of instruments — from guitars and bass to pianos, brass and string sections, and even frequent use of sitar. 

  The hazy “Live In the Dream” is one of several songs with a strong Pink Floyd influence. “Welcome, child. You’re free of the cage,” Clark sings, layers of her raspy voice echoing through a slow, disorienting soundscape. “Trying to seem sane makes you seem so strange.”  Clark aims her sardonic wit on love itself in the boozy ballad “The Laughing Man.” With a cracking, disinterested tone, she muses about birds “singing like the day is perfect, but to me they sound psychotic.” 

On “Down and Out Downtown,” a flowing jazz groove and sitar flourishes accompany Clark’s tale of doing the walk of shame home in the previous night’s heels. “I was flying over the Empire State; then you kissed me and I crashed again,” Clark sings, her emotional vocals given extra punch by a dramatic Mellotron arrangement.

The title track is arguably the most vulnerable St. Vincent song to date, with Clark singing explicitly of her experience during her father’s incarceration. “I signed autographs in the visitation room, waiting for you the last time, inmate 502,” she sings, a staccato Wurlitzer lick creating a sense of anxiety.

With a few exceptions, Daddy’s Home doesn’t have the show-stopping, what-just-happened hooks of other St. Vincent releases. Yet it is the most eclectic St. Vincent album, juxtaposing calm soul-searching acoustic ballads with funky dance grooves, frenetic claustrophobia with sprawling psychedelia, fuzzed-out guitar with clean finger-picking. It is a new style for St. Vincent but because of its attitude, humor, and off-kilter compositions, it still feels very St. Vincent.   


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