Love This Giant (September 2012) – David Byrne & St. Vincent

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Indie rock pixie Annie Clark, who performs under the moniker St. Vincent, and Talking Heads’ vocalist David Byrne come together to bring us this collaborative one-off, Love This Giant.

The instrumentation on this album is almost exclusively brass, giving the album a texture not unlike the Talking Heads 1988 album Naked.  Overall the songs are peppy, upbeat, and in a way very formulaic, like a brass-heavy pop record.  There is some real lyrical depth here, though.  The vocals suggest, probe, and question, and in “I Should Watch TV”, many of the lyrics are even taken from Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem “Song of Myself”.  Go figure.

Clark and Byrne each take a few songs on the album to sing solo, and they team up on the rest.  Both artists have distinctive sounds, and it’s almost uncanny to hear the two sounds mesh.  In an interview, Clark describes Byrne’s music as having a tone that is “a rare combination of paranoid mania and ecstatic joy”, and that tone dominates the feel of the album perhaps more than Clark’s own darkly beautiful music.  Both artists do contribute meaningfully, however, and they seem to bring the best out of each other: Clark makes Byrne’s singing a little more melodic and a little more beautiful, and Byrne grounds Clark’s songwriting and makes it a little more accessible and a little snappier.

As always, Clark reveals herself to be remarkably vocally versatile, alternating between a gentle, breathy, dark tone; a lower, grittier sound; and a more theatrical middle-range that matches Byrne’s own singing style.  Her entrance 45 seconds into the opening track, “Who”, is gorgeous and agile.  Throughout the album she is often multi-tracked—sometimes in octaves, sometimes in unison, and often in harmony (as is her way) —and this gives her vocals an ethereal, floating quality.  In many of the tracks, her voice weaves in and out of the background, enveloping itself around Byrne’s manic lead vocals.

The album is a cool experiment, and although perhaps a little heavy on the horns and saxophones, it features some really catchy and interesting songs.  My favorite tracks: “Who”, “Dinner For Two”, “Ice Age”.  Honorable mention to “The One Who Broke Your Heart”.

I’m seeing these guys tomorrow in concert!  Can’t wait.

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