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St. Vincent Meets David Byrne

By Britt and a Brit

Daryl's Take

"Love This Giant"- David Byrne and St. Vincent

she is flawless. 
   I usually can’t stand brass bands; they’re so needlessly loud, like every band member is trying really hard to be heard over each other. “Love This Giant” is different, however. It’s more subdued and gentle, which is much nicer. On the track “The Forest Awakes,” for example, there’s a melody in the background (I think it might be the French horn), almost keeping the pace of the song and then a trumpet comes into play over the top of it. Both instruments are audible and clear, neither is trying to be louder than the other and it sounds great. 

I prefer the slower-paced songs on the album because I find brass music can be annoying if it’s too fast and loud. “Lazarus” is a good track because of this; it’s soft and slow (though it speeds up a little, mid-way through) and the lyrics are just as softly sung; Annie Clark almost breathes the words “cool water”  after David Byrne sings a line and it’s beautiful.

 “Who” is my favourite song on the album. It’s a nice introduction to how the brass instruments will be used and will work with the lyrics and other instruments. I love the guitar on the track and it reminds me of “Northern Lights” from Clark’s album “Strange Mercy” with its stripped down sound. I like the exploration of the ‘who’ in the song and the repetition of the phrase “who is...”The video is a typical Byrne kind of video; odd dancing, an odd story, just odd. It suits the song well; “who” are these people dancing down a country road?

My other favourite song is “Optimist” because it’s subdued, slow and Clark really shows off her beautiful voice. The brass instruments really frame her vocals with their strong sound and her soft voice. The instruments build up a nice sound in some sections and I really love it, though I can’t say why for certain. The song just gets in my brain which is what a great song should do really.

 I was really excited for the album but also wasn’t sure what to expect with the brass band and I was pleasantly surprised, I think because the brass band wasn’t in your face and loud and over the top; it’s a subdued album and that’s a good thing. However, it is just good and not as great as I was expecting. The strong tracks are really strong but I think “Who” and “Optimist” are the only strong tracks and the rest are just average. The vocals are amazing from both Byrne and Clark, as is to be expected. I like the album because it’s a quiet album. I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of loud noise and it’s nice to just relax to “Love This Giant.” I’d like to see it performed live but there are no UK tour dates as yet! Sad face.

Britt's Take (note the American English)

He is so cool! 
I, like Daryl, am intolerant of loud noise. For example, every morning the traffic outside my apartment scares the crap out of me. I have not really enjoyed loud music since high school (Sleigh Bells being an exception). This is when I discovered NPR.

And when I discovered David Byrne, "Stop Making Sense" David Byrne, "you haven't lived in Brooklyn until you've seen David Byrne on the train," was making music with St. Vincent, I peed a little.

This is not the first time the two have worked together, however. They've collaborated on and off for the past several years. Remember "Here Lies Love?" Plus, they've played shows together and, being fellow New Yorkers, I'm sure they enjoy organic coffee together when time permits. 

The lead single is "Who," which Daryl mentioned as one of his favorites. It does kick off the album on a memorable note; the song really sticks itself in your head. It's bizarre and kind of 1980s. Actually, it reminded me of the "Ghostbusters" theme when I first heard it. But the goofy video inspired a greater love of "Who" for me. Take a look and admire the pair's robotic dancing:

The whole album consists of a backing brass band, which is a nice and usual touch. I mean, I would have never guessed that before; I would have figured something more like a traditional orchestra. Sometimes it's grating; other times refreshing. It's more hit and miss, but I think overall it complements these two amazingly talented people. 

"Love This Giant" seems like a natural fit for Byrne, who is wholeheartedly one of the most unique voices in pop music, possibly ever. If you've followed his work for the past few years, you will not be surprised. However, it's Annie Clark (St. V) who is taken for a ride here. I'm so used to her sounding creepy, haunted or just all-around dark! However, on this album, she's rather subdued and even calming at times. It's really an interesting change of pace for her- and shit, I bet she's besides herself that she was chosen to such an intimate project with David Byrne! Seriously, if you ignore everything I've ever written, take this with you:  listen to St. Vincent. Annie Clark for President 2012.

Now:  my initial listen of this album was, dare I even type this, was magical. It put me in SUCH a good mood. It's generally an upbeat album and although 2012 has been a landmark year for quality releases, they've all been kind of sad (with the exceptions of No Doubt and Hot Chip). Not this case! Even on its more somber moments, "Love This Giant" will not leave the listener with a heavy heart.

That being said:  this album can also wear off easily. As much as I enjoy(ed) "Love This Giant," it wasn't as great the second or third or fourth time. And really, I guess I was a bit disappointed, because I thought this album would have been a supernova of genius. Oh well guess I was wrong. Not trying to detract too much, but it never fully encompasses what both these musicians are capable of doing. "Ice Age," also, I can't stand. It's just- I can't stand it. There you go.

The standout tracks are, to me:

"Dinner For Two"- literary-sounding, if that makes sense. The horn on here is gentle...and it just builds up so pleasantly. "But we are never alone." 

"I Am An Ape"- so weird.

"The Forest Awakes"- whimsical and paired with amusing instrumentals.

"Weekend in the Dust"- Annie's voice has been compared to Karen O on this track and I can hear it. A frantic number that's nonetheless a joy to listen to and wouldn't be extremely out-of-place on a St. V album.

"Lazarus"- This song is a sublime mix of equal parts David, equal parts Annie. Their voices never go better together than here. This track initially grabbed my interest....still has it!

"Optimist"- Understated and beautiful:  it's almost like a hymn. Why do the Vivian Girls get a shoutout here? 

"The One Who Broke Your Heart"- Guest starring the Daptones, Mark Ronson's oft-used band (RIP Amy Winehouse) and the ensemble to Sharon Jones:  this song is catchy and almost kind of a celebration. I adore it, as embarrassing as that potentially is.

And my favorite:
"Lightning"- A tour de force. It had to grow on me for me to appreciate and now I'm enthralled.
The rest are forgettable and mediocre, sad to say. 

I hope this isn't this pair's last work together; that it represents a new start, actually. Because that would be promising. Except, the cover art to "Love This Giant" could afford to be better...ugh. 

And no, like Daryl, I will not be seeing their North American tour, because Phoenix is not a stop. And thank god Tucson isn't either. :(

Rating:  87/100


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