After almost three years of bouncing lyrical and musical ideas off of each other via email, Annie Clark, who performs under the name St. Vincent, and Talking Heads’ front man David Byrne, released their collaborative album, “Love This Giant” on Tuesday.
The two songwriters met back in 2009, after being longtime admirers of each other’s work. David Byrne, a 60-year-old musical veteran, began his career in the early ’70s with his band Talking Heads and expanded his talent since then with many solo and collaborative projects. 29-year-old Annie Clark started as a member of the band The Polyphonic Spree in the early 2000’s, and toured with Sufjan Stevens before creating her own band, St. Vincent. After they met, it was suggested that they should work together, and a match was made that sparked years of musical exchange.
Annie Clark, better known as “St. Vincent” performing Saturday night at Boulder Theater. (CU Independent/James Bradbury)
It’s usually exciting to discover new partnerships, especially when one of the artist’s best known works was being recorded before the other was even born. Clark and Byrne both have wonderfully odd, theatrical styles which make for an interesting combination. However, their trademark sounds are rarely recognizable throughout most of the album.
Combining any two strong voices and personalities will often lead to some compromise on both ends, but it was especially disappointing to see Clark’s passion so toned down in “Love This Giant.” In her previous albums, “Strange Mercy” in particular, there was hauntingly beautiful emotion. In “Love This Giant,” it appeared to be less about the raw talent and more about added technicalities. Curiously placed horns and orchestrations predominated some of the songs, which distracted from Clark and Byrne’s captivating voices rather than enhanced them. Although the track ‘Who’ had a fun sound to it, this song is a great example of these added instrumentals intruding on the duo’s talents.
Byrne’s style is relatively apparent in this over-the-top approach with the horns, which overpowered Clark’s idiosyncrasy. She admitted in a Rolling Stone interview that the horns were Byrne’s idea, while it was her instinct to stick to her well-known guitar use. Clark is a creative mastermind, and it did not benefit their album for her to not bring forth many of her musical tendencies.
Nonetheless, because both artists are outstandingly talented, it would be surprising if the album was not effective. Clark and Byrnes each have a quirky personality to bring to the table, which remained evident through their combined work. Although some of their signature techniques were downplayed, their voices never lost the power to reel you in. The joint effort was still incredibly entertaining (especially their impressive dance moves in the ‘Who’ music video) and the album carried a vibe all its own.
If I were to listen to this duo without being accustomed to each artist individually, it would have been a pleasing discovery. However, it’s a little bit dissatisfying to not have the full experience of the musicians that caught your attention in the first place. They are both brilliant artists, and although it was not what was expected, they offer a fresh, new sound together.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Taylor Dunn at Taylor.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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