Music Preview

Music Preview: St. Vincent at the Black Cat

(By Annabel Mehran)
Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 22 at the Black Cat

(, 202-667-4490)

Multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark, who records and performs under the nom de rock St. Vincent, has toured with Sufjan Stevens, played guitar and sung backup for the Polyphonic Spree, opened for Arcade Fire and covered Jackson Browne. None of which offers any reliable hint of the lush, oddly syncopated sound she pioneered on her 2007 debut, "Marry Me," and has further refined on the just-released follow-up, "Actor."

Indie pop is blessed with a surfeit of strong female voices at the moment, but while Clark's sinuous vocals can conjure the icy temptation of Annie Lennox or the grit of Patti Smith, it's her asymmetric arrangements that stick in your brain. Her songs abruptly change tempo and swing from elegy to whimsy to violence without feeling fabricated or -- the dreaded word -- twee. And when it's time to sing a straight-up torch song like the sultry "What Me Worry?," she discards all irony and goes straight for the heart. If Bjork had grown up in Dallas, she'd sound just like this.

-- Chris Klimek

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