Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, describes herself as “the place where poetry goes to die.” This is a fitting assessment. Her soft and quietly composed lyrics are, metaphorically, slain by her hard-edged guitar. Her unique combination has led to success with three major albums and gigs opening for Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie. The latest addition to her discography is a collaborative effort with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. The idea that St. Vincent would collaborate with such an esteemed, canonical figure had many indie music lovers salivating. Though their music is very different, people who like Byrne tend to like Clark. But Clark’s never done anything close to funk and Byrne is known for his loud, dominating voice and fans anticipated that the combination would bring out new approaches from both artists.
Their single “Who” takes the best from each. It is a fusion of the 80s dream pop and brassiness of Talking Heads plus the smooth, soft vocals of Clark. Unfortunately, it’s one of only a few tracks that shine. All of the tracks engage in cross-generational funkiness with the traditional funk A-B-A structure. And, as one would hope, the songs are brief and light-hearted. But it never sounds like either of the artists stepped out of their comfort zones in order to work with the other. At times it feels as though Clark is providing guest vocals on a David Byrne album. However, Clark’s melodic voice adds a delicate and sometimes ethereal element that cannot be replaced, especially on “Optimist.” The two contrasting figures balance each other well; it’s their best collaboration on the album.
Some of the tracks on this album seem a bit under-produced—imagine taking your copy of GarageBand, loading one of the pre-programmed keyboard beats and adding a few brass lines and a vocal melody. That’s what most of the album sounds like. “The One Who Broke Your Heart” features a salsa backbeat that’s very predictable, which is made all the worse given that this is David Byrne we’re talking about. Regardless of quality of the production, each track is undeniably catchy. “I Should Watch TV” performed by Byrne includes saxophone lines characteristic of Talking Heads with hip hop beats drawing on the dualism of St. Vincent’s music.
The album’s finale is a charming (and a bit cheesy) ballad. The dreamy “Outside of Space and Time” opens with a lyrical brass chorus that drives the track forward beneath Byrne’s vocals. The track also layers keyboard blips that reminiscent of satellites with space lyrics like “intergalactic matter” and “cosmic struggle” that are adorable but cliché.
Love This Giant is not the best work of either artist, but it is guaranteed to keep its audience charmed by the personalities of Byrne and Clark.