Strange Mercy

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Strange Mercy
Studio album by St. Vincent
Released September 12, 2011 (2011-09-12)
Genre Indie rock, Art rock, Baroque pop
Length 40:51
Label 4AD
Producer John Congleton
St. Vincent chronology
Actor
(2009)
Strange Mercy
(2011)
Love This Giant
(with David Byrne)
(2012)

Strange Mercy is the third studio album by musician St. Vincent, released by 4AD on September 12, 2011, in the United Kingdom and a day later in the United States. The album's cover art was designed by St. Vincent, and was photographed by Tina Tyrell.[1] The album peaked at #19 on the Billboard 200, making it St. Vincent's highest charting album yet,[2] only to be surpassed by her next solo album, St. Vincent. In addition, Strange Mercy also received significant critical acclaim.[3]

Background and recording[edit]

Strange Mercy was written in Seattle while Annie Clark spent time in isolation there, an experience Clark described as a "loneliness experiment" and "a cleanse."[4][5] The reason she spent time in isolation was to escape from the information overload she was experiencing with New York and modern technology.[6] Clark arrived in Seattle on October 2010 and stayed at the Ace Hotel. She used a studio provided by Jason McGerr to record her materials.[7]

The album was first announced in a Twitter post on January 12, 2011.[8] In early March, producer John Congleton, who also worked with Clark on Actor, commented that he and Clark were nearly a third of the way through recording the new release.[9] The album was recorded at Elwood Studio in Dallas, Texas.[10]

In July 2011, Clark announced that a track from Strange Mercy would be unlocked when enough Twitter users tweeted the hashtag "#strangemercy."[11] During the campaign, teaser videos for the album, which Clark described as riffing on the idea of "strange mercy," were released.[5] On July 22, 2011, a track from the album, "Surgeon," was released as a free MP3 download following the Twitter campaign.[12] On August 25, 2011, a music video for the track "Cruel" was released.[13] The music video, which featured Clark being kidnapped by a motherless family, being forced to be a wife in the family and being buried alive, was filmed around San Francisco and on Mare Island.[14][15] On September 4, 2011, Strange Mercy was streamed in its entirety on NPR Music.[16]

Music videos[edit]

The first music video from the album, "Cruel," was released on August 25, 2011.[13] The music video, which featured Clark being kidnapped by a motherless family, being forced to be a wife in the family and being buried alive, was filmed around San Francisco and on Mare Island.[14][15]

A second music video from the album, "Cheerleader," was released on February 7, 2012.[17] The video, directed by Hiro Murai, was inspired by the artwork of Ron Mueck. It featured a giant Clark tied to the center of a gallery space, surrounded by onlookers.[18]

Lyrics[edit]

Strange Mercy was described as being more personal than previous St. Vincent albums.[4][15] "Chloe In The Afternoon," the album's opener, explores Clark's misgivings about monogamy, particularly the societal pressures on and assumptions about human relationships.[5] The lyrics "Best, finest surgeon. Come cut me open" in the track "Surgeon" were taken from a line written in Marilyn Monroe's journal. Clark found that line to be "brilliant and really strange," saying "And I was - I put, you know, inspiration from my own life for various situational depression or what - call it what you will. And this line, best finest surgeon, really resonated with me." The album closer "Year of the Tiger" was written about the depression Clark experienced in 2010, the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar.[15] Clark did not elaborate on what caused her depression.[7]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 85/100[3]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[19]
The A.V. Club A−[20]
BBC Music Mixed[21]
Consequence of Sound 4.5/5 stars[22]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[23]
The Observer 5/5 stars[24]
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10[25]
Popmatters 9/10[26]
Q 4/5 stars[27]
Spin 9/10[28]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[29]

Strange Mercy has received critical acclaim. On the review aggregate site Metacritic, the album has a score of 85 out of 100, indicating "Universal Acclaim."[3]

Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal gave the album a Best New Music designation, writing "Here, Clark's role-playing is grounded in emotions that are as cryptic as they are genuine and affecting. And when her voice can't bear it, her guitar does the screaming."[25] Drowned In Sound's Sean Adams also gave the album a positive review, writing, "Don’t be fooled by them saucer-like bambi eyes[...] or her tip-top indie-rock-positioning system[...] because this is an album that rockets toward you, ricochets through your emotions and finally decides to lay you down on the floor, headphones on, tumbling around like a blissed-out cat in the sun."[30] Spin's Stacey Anderson called Strange Mercy St. Vincent's "most mercurial [album] yet", continuing: "Clark's complex femininity, both self-possessed and keenly evolving, is what makes her music so powerful and fascinating."[28] Q magazine also gave the album a positive review, writing: "Combining elegance and menace expertly, Clark's vocals drift languidly amid swimmy guitars, siren-like choirs and strings, while lyrical undercurrents of anger, hysteria and black humour tug beneath the surface."[27] Arnold Pan of Popmatters praised the album for balancing experimentation and accessibility, writing "It’s as if Strange Mercy is making the case that high art can have a popular dimension—and the reverse, too, that pop culture can be high-minded and artful. Like peers such as Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors, Clark creates challenging music that doesn’t go over your head even though you realize there’s more going on with it than you can wrap your mind around."[26]

In a more mixed review, BBC Music's Wyndham Wallace called Strange Mercy "a little underwhelming," writing that there was a lack of standout tracks. Wallace continued: "[...] ultimately Strange Mercy sounds like her best record still lies ahead, once she feels a little more at ease with balancing her obviously multiple talents."[21]

Accolades[edit]

Strange Mercy has appeared on a many end-of-year lists. Paste ranked the album #11 on its list of the best 50 albums of 2011.[31] The same website also called the track "Cruel" the 13th best song of 2011, writing "The simple lyrics about how hurtful and painful the pressure of looks can have on a person are accompanied by a Talking Heads-like progression. It is difficult to be upset when this song gets stuck in your head."[32] Q ranked the album #8 on its list of the top 50 albums of 2011, while NME ranked the album #7 on its end-of-year list.[33][34] Uncut placed Strange Mercy at number 43.[35] Pitchfork Media ranked the album #11 on its list of the Top 50 Albums of 2011, with Stephen Deusner writing: "Strange Mercy is always on its toes, always toying with some new idea, always building toward the oddly satisfying payoff. The song might be a narrative or an uncomfortable explication of the life of an indie rock artist, and the ambiguity, not to mention the ambivalence, stings. By totally embracing that off-kilter danger, Clark opened up a raw and brave new vocabulary."[36] In 2013, NME listed the album at 369 in their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[37]

Tour and performances[edit]

On January 20, 2012, Clark announced a tour in support of Strange Mercy. The tour included a performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as well as two co-headlining shows with Tune-Yards.[38]

St. Vincent has also performed songs from Strange Mercy on several television shows. On January 16, 2012, She performed "Cheerleader" on Conan. On February 13, 2012, St. Vincent performed "Cruel" and "Cheerleader" on the Gossip Girl episode "Crazy, Cupid, Love."[39] On May 1, 2012, she performed "Cruel" and "Cheerleader" on Later... with Jools Holland.[40]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Annie Clark, except "Year of the Tiger", by Annie Clark and Sharon Clark. 

No. Title Length
1. "Chloe in the Afternoon"   2:55
2. "Cruel"   3:34
3. "Cheerleader"   3:28
4. "Surgeon"   4:25
5. "Northern Lights"   3:33
6. "Strange Mercy"   4:28
7. "Neutered Fruit"   4:13
8. "Champagne Year"   3:28
9. "Dilettante"   4:03
10. "Hysterical Strength"   3:16
11. "Year of the Tiger"   3:28
Japanese bonus tracks
No. Title Length
12. "This Wave"   3:25
13. "Year of the Tiger" (Live: 4AD Session) 4:10

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2011) Peak
position
Canadian Albums Chart[41] 63
UK Independent Albums[42] 19
US Billboard 200[2] 19
US Independent Albums[2] 6
Belgium Heatseekers (Flanders)[43] 6
Belgium Heatseekers (Wallonia)[44] 10

References[edit]

  1. ^ "St. Vincent Unveils New Album Details, Tour". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  2. ^ a b c Strange Mercy - St. Vincent. Billboard.com. Retrieved 22 September 2011
  3. ^ a b c Critic Review for Strange Mercy at Metacritic. Metacritic. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b Petrusich, Amanda. Interviews: St. Vincent. Pitchfork Media. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b c O' Neal, Sean. Interview: St. Vincent. The A.V. Club. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  6. ^ Comaratta, Len. Interview: Annie Clark (of St. Vincent). Consequence of Sound. 3 November 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2011
  7. ^ a b Klausner, Julie. The Style Issue: St. Vincent. Spin. 14 August 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  8. ^ "Twitter / st vincent: Did I mention I'm working". Twitter.com. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  9. ^ Hopkins, Daniel (2011-03-02). "Between Production Work With St. Vincent and David Byrne, Paper Chase Mastermind John Congleton Launches New Band Nighty Night - Dallas Music - DC9 At Night". Blogs.dallasobserver.com. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  10. ^ "Thrilling, Unnerving" St. Vincent To Release New Album 'Strange Mercy' Sept 13 Via 4AD. Shore Fire Media. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  11. ^ Tweet #strangemercy to help unlock a St. Vincent track. ilovestvincent.com. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  12. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry. New St. Vincent: "Surgeon". Pitchfork Media. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  13. ^ a b Fitzmaurice, Larry. Video: St. Vincent: "Cruel". Pitchfork Media. 25 August 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  14. ^ a b Clark, Annie. The Premiere of 'Cruel': Getting Buried Alive on Camera (EXCLUSIVE). Huffington Post. 25 August 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  15. ^ a b c d Greene, David. For St. Vincent, Music Is The Easy Part. NPR. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011
  16. ^ Katzif, Michael. First Listen: St. Vincent, 'Strange Mercy'. NPR. 4 September 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  17. ^ Young, Alex. Video: St. Vincent – “Cheerleader”. Consequence of Sound. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  18. ^ Pelly, Jenn. St. Vincent: "Cheerleader". Pitchfork Media. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  19. ^ Phares, Heather. Strange Mercy - St. Vincent. Allmusic. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  20. ^ Adams, Erik. St Vincent: Strange Mercy. The A.V. Club. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  21. ^ a b Wallace, Wyndham. St. Vincent Strange Mercy Review. BBC Music. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  22. ^ Kivel, Adam. Album Review: St. Vincent – Strange Mercy. Consequence of Sound. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  23. ^ Nicholson, Rebecca. St Vincent: Strange Mercy – review. The Guardian. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  24. ^ Woodcraft, Molloy. St Vincent: Strange Mercy – review. The Observer. 11 September 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  25. ^ a b Dombal, Ryan. St Vincent: Strange Mercy – review. Pitchfork. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  26. ^ a b Pan, Arnold. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy. Popmatters. 12 September 2011. Retrieved September 2011.
  27. ^ a b Carnwath, Ally. Q, November 2011 #303 issue. Review NEW ALBUMS, p.128. Uneasy listening from honey-tongued, dark-hearted singer.
  28. ^ a b Anderson, Stacey. St. Vincent 'Strange Mercy'. Spin. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  29. ^ Liedel, Kevin. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy. Slant Magazine. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  30. ^ Adams, Sean. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy. Drowned in Sound. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  31. ^ Josh, Jackson (29 November 2011). "The 50 Best Albums of 2011". Paste. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  32. ^ Josh, Jackson (30 November 2011). "The 50 Best Songs of 2011". Paste. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  33. ^ Florence + The Machine named Q's album of 2011 - listen now. Q. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  34. ^ NME's 50 Best Albums Of 2011. Stereogum. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  35. ^ Uncut‘s Top 50 Albums Of 2011. Stereogum. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  36. ^ The Top 50 Albums of 2011. Pitchfork Media. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  37. ^ http://www.nme.com/photos/the-500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-400-301/324199/1/1#32
  38. ^ Phillips, Amy. St. Vincent Announces Tour. Pitchfork Media. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  39. ^ Pelly, Jenn (February 1, 2012). "St. Vincent to Appear on "Gossip Girl"". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  40. ^ Snape, Laura. Watch: St. Vincent and Damon Albarn Perform on "Later With Jools Holland". Pitchfork Media. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  41. ^ Canoe - Jam! Music SoundScan Charts. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  42. ^ UK Independent Albums Chart 24th Sept 2011. Theofficialcharts.com. Retrieved 3 October 2011
  43. ^ "ultratop.be/nl - St. Vincent - Strange Mercy". Ultratop 50. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  44. ^ "ultratop.be/fr - St. Vincent - Strange Mercy". Ultratop 50. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 

External links[edit]