Soaked in the sounds of the 70s, St. Vincent’s latest project is vibrant, immersive and without a doubt her best album yet.
Four years after the release of her acclaimed electropop album Masseduction, Annie Clark takes us in a new musical direction on Daddy’s Home, reflecting on her father’s release from prison, as well as her experience as a woman in the music industry, over a series of ferocious funk grooves and sultry, soulful jams.
Daddy’s Home is everything the cover artwork suggests: the sepia-toned image of Clark sitting regally, looking both glamourous and dishevelled, accurately reflects the album’s unpolished intimacy, its domestic themes and its retro sonic palette. Along with co-writer and producer Jack Antonoff, who has also lent a vintage flavour to albums by Lana Del Rey and his own band Bleachers, Clark fills the record with electric piano, rich vocal harmonies and plenty of wah-wah, crafting a colourful and highly-textured musical landscape.
Despite this meticulous attention to detail, the music has a raw, primal energy, best demonstrated on ‘Pay Your Way in Pain’, a powerful burst of wailing Prince-like funk that opens the album. Further down the track list, ‘Down’ has a deep, groovy sting to it, with Clark demanding ‘go flee the country, go blame your daddy, / just get far away from me’.
While unafraid to get nasty, the album is not at all short of beauty, from the gauzy shimmer of ‘Live in the Dream’ to the soft, rippling groove of ‘Down and Out Downtown’. The lush, pastoral ‘Somebody Like Me’ is one of the most vulnerable and poignant tracks. With a nostalgic twang to the guitar and cooling, liquid vocals, Clark asks, ‘Does it make you an angel / or some kind of freak / to believe enough / in somebody like me?’
Most gorgeous of all is ‘The Melting of the Sun’, a tribute to female musicians and film stars of the past who broke unwritten gender norms or suffered abuse at the hands of the entertainment industry. Flowing with molten guitar and luscious, laid-back funk, the track namechecks Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Marilyn Munroe among others.
The jagged and smooth collide on the title track, where Clark deals directly with her father’s return home after his 12-year incarceration for white-collar crime. Embellished with animalistic yowls, warbling guitar and menacing backing vocals, the song is stirred with unease and ambiguity, with Clark reflecting on the similarities between her and her father. Ever self-reflective, she tells him ‘yeah, you did some time, well, I did some time too’.
She returns to themes of family on ‘My Baby Wants a Baby’, a rich, soulful track which ironically combines the jubilance of gospel harmonies with anxious lyrics exploring Clark’s reluctance to start a family. Her baby wants a baby, she just wants to ‘play guitar all day’. At the end of the song, however, she expresses her fear she will always be viewed as incomplete without a child: ‘No one will scream that song I made, / Won’t throw no roses on my grave. / They’ll just look at me and say / “Where’s your baby?”’
Far from a straightforward pastiche, Daddy’s Home is retrospective with purpose, reflecting on how the entertainment industry, gender roles, and Annie Clark herself have both changed and not changed over time. Despite a heavy focus on groove, the melodies are as strong as any Clark has written before, with every track contributing to the album’s vibrant musical landscape and expanding its emotional range. Doubtless when St. Vincent returns with her next LP she will have reinvented herself and her music once more, but until then we are left to bask in the glow of this truly glorious set of songs.
Listen to Daddy’s Home:
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