Monday, July 24th, 2017

St. Vincent – New York

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…


Will Adams: Trading in the unique electronics of her last album for sweeping orchestral pop, Annie Clark mourns the loss of a love and a city that housed it. The fragile pulse is lovely, but were it not for another similarly paced song built around piano and the harsh loneliness of a big city, I could recommend this more.

Ryo Miyauchi: I can’t recall a song where Annie Clark sounded more like us mere mortals than “New York.” Friends, lovers, or, hell, even a mention of geography: these details seem so foreign for a St. Vincent song as much as her straightforward writing, which clearly spells out this cloud of deep, deep loss.

Eleanor Graham: The way the soft-focus piano and electro pulse are twin forces here reminds me of “Supercut.” I’m obsessed with this one taut, pained line that looks almost as good on paper — “New love wasn’t true love, back to you you, love/So much for a home run with some bluebloods” — as it sounds over those quivering synths. There are so many amazing production flourishes on that line alone: the sound of the synths “powering up” at the beginning, the seamless build, the sound that’s an electric guitar until it’s violins, then the sheer drop into silence. That’s the high point. The chorus is cinematic but the strings over-sweeten it. This song needs a sharp edge or a lit fuse. Make it Plath’s New York; send something fizzling along the slick marble and plate-glass fronts.

Juana Giaimo: Many could argue that “New York” is St. Vincent going back to her roots — when her voice was angelic and her noisy guitar didn’t invade her songs. The church-like backing vocals and the return of violins may remind of her beginnings, but, unlike then, now there is no place for irony and fake innocence. Only the title of the song proves this is a new road for her: New York is the city of chaos where there is only one “you” who could give her warm comfort; New York is the city where she tries to find herself; and above all, New York is a city of loss and reminiscence. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I’m reminded of “Champagne Year” and “I Prefer Your Love,” two relatively straightforward but highly personal songs from Annie Clark. Both are reflections on truths that become clear during young adulthood — the former on the disenchanting reality of one’s career and life, the latter on the mortality of one’s parents. The pangs of heartbreak find Clark in a similar situation here, but instead of crafting a meditative space in which to find serenity, she shoots for widescreen melodrama to transmit her new-found loneliness. The verses are beautifully intimate: keys flutter like snowflakes, providing warmth to the racing heartbeat of a synth line. In contrast, the chorus is spacious and laden with strings, capturing the numbing dejection of urban isolation. The problem is that the chorus sounds painfully corny, and it prevents the song from feeling as personal as it could. Even worse, it makes clear how uninteresting these lyrics are in comparison to the rest of St. Vincent’s oeuvre. If this were to soundtrack a film, I’d suggest one by Baumbach, but only if he started working for Hallmark.

Alfred Soto: A multitracked beauty of a chorus anchors a cool person’s lament for a New York that perhaps never existed — she loves it but it’s bringing her down. Sentimentality is like that.

Stephen Eisermann: Prediction: I’m the only motherfucker on this site who won’t “get it.”

Micha Cavaseno: How do you manage to make “motherfucker” sound like you’re affecting a possibly racist caricature-accent and come off like a haughty blueblood matriarch who everyone wants to die, but they can only wish for that in silence? Moreover, why do you do that on this tepid break-up ballad? Why is Annie Clark out here writing tepid break-up ballads?

Hannah Jocelyn: I want a mix with less Antonoffiness – the songwriting is simple but strong, so there’s no reason for the kick drum and gang vocals (his only major contributions, apparently) The wistfulness and nostalgic rush worked well with Lorde, but it clashes here to the point where the “motherfucker” line feels forced, and the song doesn’t feel as intimate as it should. I love how Annie draws out “forgiiuives me” like Laura Marling, and the chorus’s chord progression is surprisingly minor key when I expected I-vi-IV-V, but it also contributes to the overall feeling of self-consciousness — as if the mind-meld that producers and singers often talk about didn’t quite happen. Still gorgeous, though!

Kalani Leblanc: Out of everything in the St. Vincent catalogue, “New York” must be the strangest, since it’s more of a Harry Styles or 2013 Vampire Weekend (without Rostam) ballad than what St. Vincent is known for. Not to imply that I expect Annie Clark to be David Byrne’s puppet forever but something is missing in this single — hence the lyrics. Clark leaps out to deliver each line to you — gripping your hands and staring in a “I need to let this all out” way. Yet, Annie cuts herself off after hardly two minutes, like “Oh sorry did I divulge all of that? Uh bye now.” There’s no way to not make this sound like a sad YA novel line, but Clark should’ve let herself break further.

Reader average: [9.08] (12 votes)

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One Response to “St. Vincent – New York”

  1. I was disappointed with this when it dropped, but the melody is strong enough to keep me coming back to what initially felt like a tease of a lead single.

    Maxwell, I get so much life from your blurbs, but I’m not hearing the “possibly racist caricature-accent” – “tepid, break-up ballad,” on the other hand, rings too true.