With modern cameras capable of capturing colors we don’t even have names for, the decision to shoot in black-and-white is not a decision to be made lightly. In his video for the David Byrne/St. Vincent collaborative song “Who,” director Martin de Thurah not only uses black-and-white to establish a sense of Twilight Zone-esque otherworldliness but he also utilizes his limited color palette to reemphasize the importance of both artists in the creation of the song.
The video begins with a dapper David Byrne cautiously getting out of his car to inspect an unresponsive Annie Clark who happens to be lying on her back in the middle of the road. While the cinematography is magnificent and the way Byrne approaches Clark with his back hunched over is both hilarious and highly expressive, the element that strikes me the most in the introduction of Byrne and Clark’s characters is how colors contrast and complement. Unlike the extremely ham fisted Kanye West directed “Runaway” that also attempted color juxtaposition, Byrne’s gray hair and suit and Clark’s stark black hair and dress create an intriguing visual and symbolic polarity. In a world comprised of gray skies, pavement, and houses, Clark stands out as an alluring figure of mystery and possible danger.
Following a stilted dance sequence where Byrne and Clark twist as if manipulated by marionettes, Clark confessing her life story to Byrne, and the reveal that Byrne’s character might possess a dark side as well, the video reaches its climax with a final dance number rapidly cutting between night and day. At night, Clark is in her domain. Accompanied by a marching brass section, Clark’s movements become erratic as she allows her entire being to be possessed by the funk. At day, Byrne leads the duo in a robotic (in movement, not in passion) two-step before the video ends right back where it began.
Love This Giant will be out on September 10th via 4AD and Todo Mundo Records.
There are a few artists whose album announcements actually get my fingers shaking and breathing erratic. David Byrne is one of ‘em, and his forthcoming project is an exciting one.
There’s been talk of him collaborating with St. Vincent, a.k.a. musical eccentric and songstress Annie Clark, but there wasn’t any clarity as to when some material would actually drop. Well, with the first track from this collaboration coming out today, the project actually feels pretty tangible right about now.
The amount of collaborative albums Byrne has done over the years has been quite limited. Though not all of them successful, I imagine the guy doesn’t work with anybody he doesn’t think the world of, and that certainly seems to be the case with Annie considering how affectionately he speaks of his experiences enjoying her music in the press release tagged with this new track. He sounds even more excited to be creating music with her:
“Annie suggested we use a brass band rather than the typical rock ensemble—which would brilliantly solve the sound problems inherent in performing in a small joint like Housing Works. A brass band wouldn’t need mixing and could be heard acoustically in a room that size. They’d balance themselves. Easy. We’d only need vocal mics.
I loved this idea—we immediately restricted ourselves given all the possible directions we could have taken—and suggested we write some tunes based on this brass concept, just a few to see if we could actually work together and to see if we both liked the results. That was a few years ago. The writing was truly collaborative: sometimes Annie would send me some synthesized versions of brass or guitar riffs and I would arrange them a bit and write a tune and words over them; other times this process would be reversed and I would send some musical ideas to Annie for her to write over. This material would get passed back and forth—each of us adding and elaborating on it. There are songs on which one of us sang on the demo and the other ended up singing the finished version. Eventually we had a handful of songs and mutually decided that the concept was working and we would continue.”
The first track to drop from this collab, “Who,” easily justifies David’s excitement. Not only is it a new, fresh approach for either of these artists to be relying so heavily on brass to get their songs across, but the track is actually pretty, well, catchy. It’s got a steady danceable quality, which you’d expect from Byrne’s side of the aisle; however, the angular quality of some of the horn phrases seem like something Annie could draw up in a moment’s notice. Yeah, it’s all a guess as to who worked on what at this point. All I know is this is a pretty surprising collaboration that’s off to a pretty great start.
The forthcoming album will be titled Love This Giant, and it’s currently looking at a September 11th release date. You can stay in-tune with info on the LP and some tour dates through this site.
Stream: St. Vincent- Strange Mercy
NPR’s First Listen series offers a great way for fans to preview hyped albums before their release date–or before you download them. One of the latest additions to the series is Strange Mercy, the brand new LP from St. Vincent. Strange Mercy is the third release from this New York-based singer-songwriter, and probably her most accomplished. It’s a more fleshed out work than her two previous LPs Marry Me and Actor, and finds frontwoman Annie Clark really coming into her own as a talented and versatile songwriter with a luminescent personality.
The distorted, occasionally overdriven snarl that constantly emanates from her guitar calls to mind PJ Harvey’s 90s material, while her voice and melodic sensibilities recall the more recent work of the Dirty Projectors. Although the record is very catchy throughout, she manages this without ever settling for traditional pop structures or melodies. When she comes close, the results almost make me wish she did so more often. “Cruel” would be a banging pop song if it weren’t for the intentionally sloppy-sounding guitar solo and the sporadic choir-like vocal segments, but this makes it even better and keeps the listener paying attention.
The opening trio of “Chloe In The Afternoon,” “Cruel,” and the surprisingly heavy “Cheerleader” packs a pretty big punch, and while the album feels a little top-heavy because of it, other moments make a pretty serious impact as well. The single “Surgeon” is a fuzz-washed slice of synth-laden art pop with great lyrics, and the understated closing track “Year Of The Tiger,” which features some rare acoustic guitar playing, stands out at first and hits harder with each subsequent listen.
Strange Mercy will be streaming on NPR until its release date on September 13th. The album is available for pre-order from 4AD here.