St. Vincent’s absolutely breathtaking new album begins, as Annie Clark’s previous albums have, like some unearthly musical. Clark seemingly touches down from another planet, asking “am I the only one in the world?” on opener “Rattlesnake” amid all manner of alien guitar and strange percussive squelches. “Birth in Reverse” similarly paints a vivid picture, starting with the lines “Oh what an ordinary day … take out the garbage, masturbate.” “Birth in Reverse” explodes into an extraordinary, paranoid chorus of restless glee. Clark’s way with words has never been more cutting, as on “Prince Johnny,” which manages to be strikingly specific while keeping its deeper existential meaning vague (“Remember that time we snorted/That piece of the Berlin Wall you extorted?” is her best rhyming couplet yet.) Even her ballads bite—“I prefer your love to Jesus” is a thoroughly loaded line repeated on “I Prefer Your Love,” giving depth and conflict to what’s on the surface a beautiful, Kate Bush-inspired love song. Musically, Clark employs everything from decaying choruses (“Prince Johnny”) to hip-hop synths (“Huey Newton”) to Prince-esque atonal funk (“Digital Witness”), but it’s a remarkably cohesive listen, as though each element has been thoroughly considered and sanded down to perfection. As implied by naming her fourth album simply St. Vincent, it’s an album that seems to be about truly knowing oneself—or the thrilling discoveries that come with a lifetime of seeking that knowledge.
Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. I've worked in Hollywood for eight years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 - at the San Francisco store. This is my extensive list of 2012 releases that I fell in love with or had serious affairs over the past 365 days. 2012, for me, was a surprising and amazing year in music. Nearly all 50 releases here could have been a Top-Ten contender almost any other year, and the Top Ten is full of records that could easily have been #1.
50 Essential Albums of 2012
1. SCOTT WALKER Bish Bosch (4AD)
The 6-year-long wait was well worth it, as is usually the case with Walker. This isn't the latest indie background music du jour - It's an Absurdist's symphony. Melody is eschewed for repetition, but you still walk away with the damned thing in your head. E-bows, machetes as percussion and disturbing (as well as amusing) scatological metaphors are some of the unlikely ingredients that make up this terrifying (and weirdly infectious) beauty. There's really nothing else like it, so enjoy figuring it out for the rest of your life.