Album Review: St. Vincent reinvents herself yet again with ‘Daddy’s Home’

The 38-year old “Daddy” commands attention even through her vulnerability, adding yet another layer to her already multi-dimensional discography.

St. Vincent has never been one to shy away from the taboo. Her last studio LP, 2017’s widely lauded MASSEDUCTION, bears a woman’s ass on its cover, boasts about BDSM and roleplay, all supported by a thesis statement of “I can’t turn off what turns me on.” She was the leather-clad dominatrix from a synthetic future, the seducer but also the seduced. Annie Clark is also one-to-one-up herself, and what could be a better affirmation of that positioning than the statement “Daddy’s Home?”

While she may be the figurative “daddy,” sitting precariously in a chair like a father waiting for a child after midnight on the LP’s cover, it’s also a direct reference to the release of her father from a 12-year prison sentence for stock manipulation. The title track makes it clear that she’s leaning into the twisted duality of “daddy” as a name for, of course, a biological father and also a metaphorical one. Why is screaming in the bridge of the title track? Is it pleasure or pain? The lyric “Well, hell, whеre can you run when the outlaw’s inside you?” also plays cheekily into the idea.

The sexuality and mind-twisting are still her defining lyrical feature, St. Vincent sheds her sonic skin, slinking out of the sleek electropop crafted for her last album cycle and into the psychedelic sounds of the sitar. Perhaps the defining sonic characteristic of the album isn’t the sitar, however, but how foggy the record is. Each of the interludes is hazy like a hangover, the album’s opening emulating the morning after, her voice coming in and out of focus across the project like a siren.

While her last record was probably her most pop, it was also her most thin: the sounds weren’t layered with wind orchestras like ‘Actor’ or blasting walls of sound like a David Guetta banger, but rather the productions were easier to sift through, single instrumental tracks carrying the bulk of the weight and amplifying the confessional tones of tracks like “Hang on Me” or “New York.” But ‘Daddy’ makes his (or her?) presence known through wild distortions of sound, with Annie Clark’s voice warped and warbling on the opener “Pay Your Way in Pain.” While pain and pleasure have gone hand in hand for Clark, here it’s more of a punishment.

For true Pop heads who climbed aboard during her last album cycle, or even during her self-titled, Clark backtracks a bit here, with only one and a half bangers in the LP’s tracklist: the vengeful “Down” and the aforementioned “Pain.” The rest of the album is far more quaint, again shedding the bombast of ‘MASSEDUCTION.’

The lead single and first track details the story of a social pariah, a woman, stumbling embarrassingly into parks and out of apartments, seemingly without order or shame but in sore need of it. Its title is a metaphor for prison, which “Pay Your Way” would describe as a pretty shitty day. With the album divided into three (uneven) chapters, this one ends with “The Melting Of The Sun,” the triumph of women over the patriarchy to contrast its beginning. It’s after this point that the record sounds more optimistic – “Somebody Like Me” is her most laidback track in eons – even if currents of tension lay underneath in the lyricism.

Although the album’s themes are numerous and intertwined, they are all impressively derived from or connected to the title. She’s only the parent of songs on “My Baby Wants A Baby,” and she veils her pain “At The Holiday Party” while her “daddy” is away. But for a record entitled Daddy’s Home (and a St. Vincent album nonetheless), the final product is a little more vanilla than one might anticipate.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this record is how it fits into and adds to her previous. St. Vincent has been a slippery musician, never one to make the same record twice, and she’s never seemed bolder or more versatile here. “Live In The Dream” is her longest track to date, and is every bit of the journey that it purports itself to be. Her augmented assertive attitude also leads her to end the album with an interlude – definitely not an outro goddammit!

Some have been preying for Clark’s fall, ready to end her virtually perfect streak of acclaimed records. But despite its minor shortcomings, Daddy’s Home isn’t the one to do that, as St. Vincent cements her name as indie’s untouchable valedictorian.

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