St. Vincent comes across as pretty harmless at first, but Annie Clark's songs delight in revealing sharp teeth beneath her neatly composed exterior. For one thing, she's an authoritatively shredding guitarist, an arresting singer and a seasoned performer, having toured with both the Polyphonic Spree and as part of Sufjan Stevens' band. For another, her songs as St. Vincent subvert prim appearances and stately musical arrangements with sharp jabs of noise and lyrics detailing troubled characters and deceptive emotional turbulence. "Cheerleader" starts with a gentle strum, but from the first pristinely-sung line ("I've had good times with some bad guys"), it positions her as a dangerous, if alluring, heroine. By the time it explodes into the lurching bass fuzz and widescreen swells of its chorus, it's clear that St. Vincent is a minor force of nature. The video pulls a similar pattern, starting with close-up, slow pans of Clark's black shoes, white dress and wide doe eyes, before pulling back to reveal she's in a museum and larger than life-size. Of course, she breaks free even at the risk of falling apart. Underestimate this giant at your peril. Get a free download of "Cheerleader" at Google Music and purchase the entire album, Strange Mercy, right here. – Eric Grandy, Google Music
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