It was in Texas that Clark got his first real break: an audition for platoon-sized indie-pop band The Polyphonic Spree, based in his hometown of Dallas, as one of the two. guitarists of the group. His concert with the Polyphonic Spree, known for his emphatically sunny and slightly spaced hymns, led him to work with Christian indie-folk phenomenon Sufjan Stevens; at the same time, an MP3 of “Now Now”, a song that would become the opening track for St. Vincent’s debut album, was causing a stir on the Internet. Clark was approached by the first of a number of major labels, and she eventually signed with Beggars Banquet, a large, reputable independent. The name St. Vincent came about more or less by accident, as group names tend to do. “It was arbitrary, really,” Clark said, shrugging. âEverything else was very helpful, but not that. The name just seemed to follow me everywhere.
Throughout her time rehearsing, recording and touring in other bands, Clark has retained a sense of being a self-sufficient and almost entirely self-sufficient artist, and “Marry Me” is the product of years of lonely trial and error. Released last July, the album is almost recklessly heterogeneous: each of its 11 tracks has its own very idiosyncratic frame of reference, from flamboyant songs to New York no-wave from the 80s to Parisian songs. âThis album took forever to make, most of the time just me alone with my computer,â Clark said with a cheerful sigh. âI call the time I spent there ‘invisible hours’, because no one knows how long it took except me. ”
On some tracks, the hours are less invisible than on others: “Paris Is Burning”, a protest song disguised as a fantasia of the fall of Paris at the hands of the Nazis, is an opera in itself, beginning with a dark trio of horns and passing through an elegantly condensed history of 20th century popular music before landing, a little drunk, in a stiff-legged apocalyptic waltz. The title song, on the other hand ?? a deceptively dulcet piano ballad that manages to hide a disturbing critique of marriage behind its seemingly simple proposal ?? is a study on effective restraint. Like Pallett, Clark plays virtually every instrument on the record, although she relies much more on synthesized sounds and effects; the handful of other featured musicians (including Mike Garson, longtime David Bowie pianist) seem to have been brought in less out of necessity than as the sonic equivalent of the icing on the cake. From start to finish, “Marry Me” succeeds in fostering the illusion of ease, almost carefree expertise, both in production and arrangement and in writing and performance ?? far from low-fi and brutal indie debuts like “Dear Sir” by Cat Power or “Come On Pilgrim” by Pixies. It’s a safe bet, however, that “Marry Me” was considerably cheaper to record.
âIt’s a whole different situation these days,â Clark said when I asked her how she recorded her album. âWith the ?? can I call that a technological revolution? ?? and the advent of the Internet, there is this idea of ââglobal access, and to a certain extent that is true. I came to music. at a time when the internet was still mostly for freaks, but I kind of fall into that category; I discovered all kinds of crazy things this way. I asked if that might explain, in part, the wide range stylistic influences on âMarry Me,â and Clark nodded thoughtfully. âThe home recording situation ?? having it affordable and easy ?? It was also a big part of that: I had so much time to try out weird ideas, then throw them away or keep them if I wanted to. I never really fantasized about joining a band, or thought, this song would be really good if I could just find a drummer, because that I didn’t need to think of things in those terms. It was more fun for r me to try it for myself.
IF PALETTE AND CLARK GET POP liberation through technology, “chops” and a sense of performance, a third variation on the theme of musical self-sufficiency is presented by the curious case of Noah Lennox. Lennox records and performs, both solo and in a wide variety of partnerships and collectives, under the moniker Panda Bear. Although he is an accomplished drummer and guitarist, he did not use any instruments in the recording of his acclaimed third album, “Person Pitch”, and the technical aspects of his performances have more in common with the “invisible hours” of Clark than with Pallett’s assured showmanship. You could almost describe Lennox, whose character is extremely low-key, as the drummer who got fired.
Panda Bear has been well known for several years ?? at least in the island world of experimental pop ?? for his involvement in the particularly elliptical group Animal Collective, of which he was a founding member (in 2000, 2001 or 2003, depending on who you ask). Animal collective ?? which features Lennox and three longtime collaborators named Avey Tare, Geologist and Deakin ?? are arguably the most innovative band to emerge from New York’s progressive music scene since Sonic Youth. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the band unique, as their tone varies widely, from ethereal and open psychedelia to something Owen Pallett has described, with awe, as “panicky folk”; However, what all of the group’s projects have in common is a shameless embrace of eccentricity.
Side projects are often seen as a threat to the balance of a group ?? Metallica has banned its members from participating in anything ?? but everyone in Animal Collective seems to have at least one, and Lennox clearly considers his two efforts to be mutually supportive. âWe’ve been more into sampling lately, all kinds of electronic sounds, moving away from conventional rock band instrumentation, all that guitar-oriented stuff,â Lennox told me when I spoke. visited him in Lisbon, where he now lives with his Portuguese wife and their child. He gave a quick, self-deprecating smile. “I guess my solo record is proof of that.”