In September of this year, St Vincent took a giant leap forward with the release of third album, Strange Mercy. This time out Annie Clark was to combine her long-celebrated musical virtuosity with ambitious songwriting that ran a gamut of emotional cadences, all the while underpinned by a colourful sense of melody.
Recording these songs live for the first time, St Vincent has performed four tracks from Strange Mercy for the tenth visual installment in the 4AD Session series. Shot at Shangri-La Studios in the heart of the Brooklyn film and photography district in Greenpoint, the session was recorded with Annie's new band, Daniel Mintseris (keys), Toko Yasuda (moog) and Matthew Johnson (drums). Given St Vincent's transgression from the underground to the pop spotlight over the course of three studio albums, it's somewhat fitting that Shangri-La host the session having initially earned its name as a secret spot known only through word of mouth.
As with all of the sessions in the series, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard filmed the four tracks with a clear artistic vision. In this instance, the inspiration came from an unlikely source – the memory of seeing a 1968 Shirley Bassey performance of 'This is My Life' on Rai Uno for Italian TV. With that reference point in mind, Annie takes centre stage against the backdrop of a projected live-feed, resplendent in glamorous eye make-up and with her always-impressive guitar work brought clearly to the fore. More interestingly still, the classic showbusiness styling of the session is held in stark contrast to the affecting and darkly-tinged emotional undertones of 'Chloe In The Afternoon' and 'Surgeon', representing perfectly the themes that run throughout Strange Mercy.
Taking Strange Mercy on the road, St Vincent finishes her current US tour this month before embarking on a European tour in November, starting on the 10th at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
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The 4AD Sessions are an ongoing series of video recordings with various acts from the label's roster. Following on from the Deerhunter session at the Studio Plateaux on Platts Eyott island in 2008, the recordings will see 4AD artists performing back-catalogue covers and alternative versions of their own material.