Singer-songwriter Annie Clark—better known as St. Vincent—has famously said that she’s never been a proponent of nostalgia or looking to the past. But on her newest and most deeply personal album yet, Daddy’s Home, Clark seems to have realized that looking back does not always have to be painful. And what a statement it is, that while you don’t have to look back, you still can.
Daddy’s Home trades the punishing, acidic drug-trip of her previous record, Masseduction, for a sepia-toned psychedelic dream. The album packs absolutely no punches on songs like the show-stopping glam opener, “Pay Your Way in Pain,” and the brutally distorted “Down.” This album sees Clark wearing her influences on her sleeve in the most reverent ways, interpolating ‘70s and ‘80s classics like Sheena Easton’s “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” on my favorite track, “My Baby Wants a Baby,” and the melodies and rhythm patterns of David Bowie’s “Fame” on “Pay Your Way in Pain.” She pulls from Lou Reed, Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, and even Yes—that’s right, Yes. But the overall soft and twangy reverb-infused sonic palette clearly resembles Clark’s most prominent and upfront influence, which is Steely Dan.
This new era feels like a breakthrough moment for Clark. The album is a lovely homage to her personal heroines from Joni Mitchell, to Tori Amos, and Candy Darling. “There’s something glamorous and tragic and incredibly strong about those characters I was writing about,” Clark recently told Vogue, before going on to say, “And I’ve been that girl. I’ve been the girl wearing last night’s heels on the morning train.” Whether she is channeling Gena Rowlands in a Cassavetes feature film, or taking on the persona of Candy Darling’s ghost haunting the corridors of the Chelsea Hotel, she doesn’t ever shy away from identifying with these women who history wasn’t always kind to.
St. Vincent has always written from personal experience, but never like this. On other records she normally kept her guard up, her personal experiences shrouded in metaphor and fictional characters. This time she throws all of that to the side and brings her personal experiences to the forefront—recounting signing autographs in prison visitation rooms, toxic romantic relationships, and a strong reluctance to have children out of fear that her identity and her lifetime achievements will evaporate completely. It is a form of oversharing that is so unexpected for Clark, and yet—considering her constant willingness to reinvent herself and venture into unexplored territories—it makes perfect sense.
This album is a very sharp left turn, yet it’s still quintessentially St. Vincent—a sweet and sour, blues-filled acid trip of elation, self-destruction, and stinging confrontation—but this time, it’s unapologetically in-your-face and on-the-nose. Just when you think she’s fulfilled the listener’s expectations, she immediately rips the rug out from underneath them before lulling them back into an intoxicating trance equivalent to that of a subway ride at 5 A.M., when everybody around you is heading to work while you leave the party, clutching “last nights heels” in your arms as you ride the long “morning train” downtown.