Home Music St. Vincent: Daddy’s Home

St. Vincent: Daddy’s Home

In the past decade Annie Clark’s aesthetics have skewed towards starkness and deconstruction. She’s broken down the archetype of each of her albums into elusive shapes like “Housewives on Pills” and “Near-Future Cult Leader”. Clark toyed with angularity, gender expression and vulnerability through a myriad of lenses. On Daddy’s Home, she assumes the role of daddy, the smoky, swarthy ‘70s inspired image not of masculinity but of swagger. By the law of equivalent exchange, Vincent sacrificed something of equal value to fully embody – or rather adapt to, as she’s always been domineering in her own manner unlike the vascular mafioso man of the decade – daddy. That being her glam rock overtness. Here she grounds herself into rhythms, grooves and funks. In fact, Daddy’s Home is a rather tethered album, whether due to the subject matter of her father’s prison release or her infatuation with dingy ‘70s New York.

The gravity of Daddy’s Home could stem from Clark’s admittance that she has clear responsibilities of her own now, responsibilities she laments on the top-of-the-line cut “My Baby Wants a Baby.” Clark expresses muskiness with an equal serving of her own coping mechanisms. Her lover pines for commitment. St. Vincent wistfully lists all the freedoms she’d be losing, like wanting to dress up only if she gets paid and living off of microwave dinners. “My Baby Wants a Baby” exists in a subdued R&B sphere. The tastefulness of Clark’s guitar recalls Prince more than her former glam rock tendencies.

As Daddy’s Home progresses it simmers from the overflowing embellishment of “Pay Your Way in Pain” towards a valley of isolation and longing and lovers. It orbits the space of textural significance with the interplay of acoustic guitar, sitar smatterings, jazzy drum beats and R&B-owing bass. Returning producer Jack Antonoff palpates the record’s pungency except when he forgets he’s working with St. Vincent on “…At the Holiday Party” and drabs in her a folk pasture recounting his work with Taylor Swift. It’s not until the crooning horns arrive that Clark reasserts herself as daddy.

“Pay Your Way in Pain” is the buoyant opposite of “My Baby Wants a Baby,” sniffing the fumes out of its own funky ass. Clark shimmies in her twelve-inch-high boots and a backing chorale echoes her opulence. Sadly it’s as performative as it is vapid. “Pay Your Way in Pain” provides no insight into Clark’s new schemata beyond hinting at the sonic palette of Daddy’s Home. It’s not the only tonal misstep here. Clark howls like James Brown on the soulful title track but the subject, her father’s time in prison for a white-collar crime, isn’t bolstered by the execution.

Clark’s new direction coalesces with itself in meta-fashion on “The Melting of the Sun.” She aptly combines her charisma with a syrupy Marvin Gaye approach to examine her own self-image. It’s the best type of St. Vincent track, effortless and indulgent with Clark’s self-analysis thickening the garnish. “Candy Darling” explores similar themes of self-identity to close out the album in longing, lip smacking fashion. The track is short enough to fit a snug lid on Daddy’s Home, and even ends with the perfect reprieve of, “Candy I hope you’ll be coming home to me,” but Clark caps off the record with a repeated misstep, the humming interludes.

Daddy’s Home woozes at a nursing pace and temperature that bubbles and sizzles. Its mid-tempo haze bloats only due to the trilogy of humming interludes. They appear then vanish without leaving an imprint. They’re tracked in between already somber pieces. They add neither to the overt ‘70s flair nor the domineering daddy persona. They are as they are marketed, interludes.

St. Vincent’s transition to daddy mostly functions because of the depth of the compositions. Daddy’s Home veers on unctuous at certain points but there’s always another layer, another guitar lick, another buried groove, on these intricate mixes. Daddy isn’t the diametric opposite of St. Vincent. But how could anything be the opposite of a pop figure prone to prioritizing silky versatility over coarse definition. It’s been nearly seven years since Clark was angular enough to prick, yet she still has enough androgens to excite the basal human need for groove. Just listen to “Down” and tell me she isn’t guilty of a crime.

Summary
On Daddy’s Home, Annie Clark assumes the role of daddy, the smoky, swarthy ‘70s inspired image not of masculinity but of swagger.
70 %
No Daddy Issues

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