St. Vincent & quirky female cohorts pack ’em in @ Antone’s, 3/20

22 03 2009

I was faced with one of the most difficult choices of the entire trip last night: Should I see DEVO or St. Vincent? Since I couldn’t get in to the showcase I was most excited about (Peter Bjorn & John, Grizzly Bear, Dinosaur Jr. @ Cedar Street) because I’m only twenty, I figured the songstress Annie Clark known as St. Vincent or the new wave nerds known as DEVO were my best bets. After much consideration I chose St. Vincent, whom I saw on tour with John Vanderslice tour two years ago. She was unknown at the time, and as she prepares to release her second album on May 5, she is far from obscure.

(Check out our interview with Annie Clark here)

photo by Jillian Mapes

Performing before the Dallas native at Friday’s showcase by the Billions Corporation were other imaginative female artists, two of whom I had the pleasure of watching. I walked right into Antone’s having now idea that Theresa Andersson was about to captivate me with just two songs. The most striking performance quality of the Swedish singer, who now resides in New Orleans, is the layering in her songs. She’s a one-woman band, incorporating loops of vocal effects to harmonize with herself. While plenty of other artists use looping as a means of giving a song a bit more depth, Andersson constructs her whole sound by deftly maneuvering the layers. And did I mention she has one helluva voice, too? The girl sings quite well in a style that is clearly influenced by soul cuts and 1960s girl groups. Mix in a dash of upbeat indie sensibility and BAM! — brilliance is born. Andersson ended her set with a cover of a classic New Orleans blues song, of which I sadly did not catch the name.

Portland songstress-guitarist Mirah followed Andersson, and I wasn’t immediately awed. After a few songs, Mirah seemed a bit more dynamic than she initially did with her teeny, tiny voice and casual strumming. Her last song, titled “Cold Cold Water,” rose with a warmth until it erupted with powerful snare drum cadences and creeping guitar. As the song swelled to its full potential, Mirah took to her tip-toes, which were perched bare atop a small square of carpet upon the stage. The crowd was right there with her.

St. Vincent took to the stage around midnight, with extended band in tow. A recognizable face — former John Vanderslice violinist Daniel Hart — jumped out at me from my days as a professional JV lover. Clark and her band ripped into a new song immediately, making it oh-so apparent that her upcoming album will be a colorful effort complete with flutes, clarinets and violin. The song was pleasantly sophisticated until Clark went spastic on guitar, channeling the Talking Heads — a common trend on new St. Vincent tracks, from what I can tell.

As Clark mentioned in her interview with our crew, she enjoys the juxtaposition of hard and soft elements within music. Her poignantly delicate vocal style will always sway her more toward beauty than fury, but new tracks like “Out of Work Actor” come dangerously close to showcasing rawness like never before seen in St. Vincent’s music. I am tremendously excited to hear Actor upon its release.

St. Vincent fans got what they were looking for with one of the last tracks she played during her 45-minute set, “Marry Me.” The song is arguably the most well-known track off her first solo album of the same name, which is a thinly-veiled “Arrested Development” reference. The crowd erupted as she plays the opening chords, and marriage proposals were screamed from the audience. Never missing a beat, Clark responded by saying, “I think we know the punchline to that joke.”

We surely do, St. Vincent, and we’re laughing more than ever.

-Jillian Mapes

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