Beyond Two Albums Revisited

In a post a while back I explored the curse of artists only making two good albums. I argued that artists who died after their second album have a far better legacy than those who surpass that number and have careers that span decades.

In this post I want to explore the work of St Vincent and show that there is perhaps a way to overcome that trap.

In total St Vincent has 8 albums including a collaborative album with David Byrne and a film soundtrack for The Nowhere Inn. This does not include MassEducation which is essentially an acoustic version of MASSEDUCTION. In this post I want to look at 7 of these albums that make up a 14 year span of music releases. I shall leave out The Nowhere Inn soundtrack as it is mainly instrumentals.

I want to break down the six albums into four stages. The first includes Marry Me and Actor. Strange Mercy and Love this Giant make up the next one. The third stage is comprised of the album St Vincent and MASSEDUCTION. The last stage has only one album, the most recent solo record Daddy’s Home.

While sounds and styles do reoccur throughout all of the stages if we break down St Vincent’s career there is an argument to be made for the fact that none of these stages last for more than two albums.

The first two albums, Marry me and Actor are noticeably the softest albums, they have hints of what is to come but as the pictures on the covers suggest they are rather innocent. The cover of actor does hold a slight plastic quality with vivid green, glazed over eyes which leads has a foreboding quality. The cover for Marry Me is far more understated and once we look at the rest of the covers for the St Vincent discography is by far the most innocent and for want of a better word normal. But it is a normal that once seen in the context of the 8 albums screams out as a convoluted normal, not that I mean that in a negative way. There is certainly an awareness at the normal that is being portrayed at least it comes across as being so.

The next stage is an odd one, comprised of a solo album and her collaboration with David Byrne. It is a stage that almost lingers in a void between what has been and what is to come. A phase of reinvention perhaps. A phase of experimentation. The beginnings of a distortion of what has gone before both visually and sonically. I don’t have much to say about this stage as it is my least favourite.

Upon entering the next stage the distortion is kicked into overdrive. While not unrecognisable as the artist who made the first two albums the self-titled St Vincent album and MASSEDUCTION are bold, heavy and perhaps could be described as technological age plastic art. It is by no means pop art, it is not mindless repetition. The bubble-gum colours of pop art are replaced with richer and darker tones. The character St Vincent is accentuated in these albums, becoming almost overbearing (again not in a bad way).

The last stage, which as of yet is only one album long, again turns away from what has gone before. Daddy’s Home stands out visually as the only black and white album cover. It is also a throw back to the 1970’s. The album has a nostalgia which until this stage has not been noticeable. This album also marks the first where other voices are very there in the mix. While there are softer songs such as At the Holiday Party and Candy Darling these songs lack the innocence of the first stage. The harder songs such as Pay Your Way in Pain and Down don’t directly hark back to the previous stage. There is a noticeable difference which makes it a unique phase which I am interested to see where it goes.

Only time will tell if St Vincent’s next album fits within my two album theory….

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