Monday, January 20th, 2014

St. Vincent – Digital Witness

Please take the stand…


Juana Giaimo: For those who weren’t sure what to think of “Birth in Reverse,” “Digital Witness” is a relief. While the first one follows the rough style of the “Krokodil/Grot” single, this new track shows what St. Vincent has learnt from her collaboration with David Byrne in Love This Giant. None of them, therefore, may be new stuff for her, but “Digital Witness” sounds more familiar for her characteristic subtlety. Its thrill lies in finding out what she is hiding from us behind her playful mask. She silently begs the listener to discover her twisted voice games, her macabre facet, the desperation in the changing intensities of the trumpets and her edgy guitar lost in between this messy harmony. Only St. Vincent can feel so comfortable and confident in between so much tension to randomly drop those indifferent “yeah”s.

Anthony Easton: I continue to be interested in St. Vincent’s voice, and she seems to travel over every hill and dale that intrigues her, but I am wondering both if dance music is the most natural fit, and if everything has to be dance music. 

Jonathan Bradley: Annie Clark’s voice drunkenly traverses an agreeable marching band honk that nonetheless makes me wish I were listening to “Tusk” instead. There are some good ideas here, but its so cluttered and half-assed that digging into them seems awfully trying.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Despite vast critical acclaim, a cooler-than-bubblegum persona, and actually having seen Annie Clark shred through a small stage at the Ugg-sponsored wasteland that is London’s Wireless Festival, I still seem reticent to actually listen to her St. Vincent project. Perhaps she recognises that there still are people like me that seem cautious of turning into avid listeners of heavily acclaimed music (i.e. weird jerks). “Digital Witness” is the turning point: if I can resist “Sir Duke”-style horns over strutting, sardonic descriptions of TV Nations, then what else am I missing out on? 

Katherine St Asaph: I don’t know if St. Vincent meant to be so conversant with pop, but that’s what she did. As much as the fustified brass recalls her David Byrne collaborations, it’s also a lot like the Bee Gees and, more to the point, all the ’10s hacks who wish they were Bee Gees. “Get back to your seats!” and “what’s the point of even sleeping?” work both as stuff vaudeville emcees say and sly takeoffs on 2013’s two songs of the summer. Those blase “yeahh” interjections are Pop 101, as is the shimmery chorus; the medium’s so exuberant and fashionable — and comes with so much lush HD synthwork — that it mucks up the message. But much like that metaphor, the message’s stale anyway. TV’s been criticized for decades, if there wasn’t TV we’d invent some other terrible trivium to replace it, and nothing here’s as timely or biting as it could be; something like “Watch me jump right off the London Bridge!” could be about oversharing and clickbait and social networks, or it could just be about Network. Annie Clark even said all this already: “I Should Watch TV.” But fortunately, Clark’s a musician before she’s a polemicist; the former’s so much more enticing to be.

Patrick St. Michel: The lyrical content is well-worn techno-phobia, but at least Annie Clark delivers it with a grin rather than soapbox seriousness. Also helping: the faux-marching-band stomp.

Iain Mew: The brass as uneven hard edge is tremendous, giving the impression of St. Vincent coolly balancing on shifting stones as she works towards her usual bits of snatched tranquillity. I don’t feel any kinder towards the screen as window than the screen as reflektor, though, and what elaboration there is on the idea amongst the abstractions doesn’t help to get over that.

Brad Shoup: It’s not much brighter than “Reflektor,” but at least she introduces the counterargument, and she lets it carry her on aways. She teases her metaphors out; Byrne would (and maybe did) approve a line like “people turn the TV on/fallin’ out the window.” The pugnacious brass is a classic Maya move, and it bears St. Vincent unto the crowded chorus: full-screen, filled with poppy leaps into her upper register. Her crossover is nigh.

Alfred Soto: Fart bass! Love it. Imagine a Latin Playboys-Dave Sitek hybrid. The vocals are too “pretty” though, not to mention not “digital” enough. Less “witness,” more “display” next time. Try this as a forbear. 

Reader average: [8.5] (8 votes)

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One Response to “St. Vincent – Digital Witness”

  1. I think Katherine and I are tracking pretty closely here. If she gets her pop (read: chart) moment, I will be so delighted.