Whenever I imagined a St. Vincent Tiny Desk Concert, it was always going to be loud and electric. But I didn’t see this coming – the brilliant guitarist arrived at NPR with one steel string acoustic guitar and without a warm-up or soundcheck. Annie Clark stood at my desk, in front of a few hundred-plus NPR employees and close friends, and hit us hard with her un-amplified voice, unplugged guitar, her checkered wardrobe and most importantly, her songs.
These three tunes, “New York,” “Los Ageless” (not Los Angeles), and “Slow Disco” are all from her recent record MASSEDUCTION (not Masseducation). It’s not the guitar-heavy record we’re used to hearing from St. Vincent. In fact, album producer Jack Antonoff (of the bands Bleachers and Fun.) thought “New York” was a better piano melody than a guitar tune, so Annie had Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) perform it.
Stripped of texture and flash, the wordplay pops in these songs. The cross references between the first two bi-coastal songs are clearer. Her love of New York and her mere liking of Los Angeles and its obsession with youth and appearance are more apparent in these spare arrangements.
There’s a bravery here, too, that should not go unnoticed. Behind the sunglasses and red beret is an artist who usually presents herself as part of a choreographed production. St. Vincent’s current one-person shows are powered by backing tracks, lighting and lots of stage cues. It’s the sort of performance that feels more about execution in my mind. This stripped-down set is more about emotion, more about a one-on-one connection, and that’s the bravery. To come out from the lights and the effects, leaving the laptop sync behind, pulled me into these songs in ways both the album and her live show hadn’t. I’m not faulting the record or the concert, I just found something in these songs, in this setting that had glazed past me before. I’m curious if that will happen to you.
- “New York”
- “Los Angeles”
- “Slow Disco”
Anne Erin Clark
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern; Production Assistant: CJ Riculan; Photo: Jennifer Kerrigan/NPR
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