All Saint’s Day: St. Vincent’s Big Win for Women in Art-Rock

Annie Clark’s been making waves in the art-rock scene since 2006 under the name St. Vincent.  At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, she claimed her first Grammy for Best Alternative Album, the first female solo-artist to do so since Sinead O’Connor in 1991. She triumphed over the fierce competition of Jack White, Alt-J, and Arcade Fire, and accepted the award while on world tour in Australia. She’s been touring non-stop since 2014, and if you saw her perform at Stage AE back in April you know how magnificent her performances are. She co-ordinates dance moves while playing guitar and adjusting effect pedals. She’s intense, she’s talented, and she’s out there doing her thing.

St. Vincent can’t be bothered by people who say her music’s weird and unusual—to her ugliness is its own type of power. To write music that challenges expectations and norms, yet keeps you coming back despite yourself, is her specialty. In an interview with  tUnE-yArDs’ Merill Garbus she once said “I feel like every time somebody asks ‘what’s it like to be a woman in music’ the only difference is, you get asked ‘what’s it like to be a woman in music.” She strives for the control of her narrative, to not be fenced in by reporters into being the poor girl in a boy’s industry. It seems she’d rather teach an interviewer a few of her soccer tricks, or talk about that one time she wandered naked through a desert, than follow a gendered line of questioning.

Respecting this, I’ll only say once more how great it is for a female solo-artist to take a Best Alternative Album again. For artists like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Bjork to be nominated multiple times over decades to no avail, and for all aspiring Indie-Rock artists, to see a 24-year draught in female winners come to an end is a big deal. For St. Vincent, the Grammy’s an honor that’s being mailed home so her mother can display it in the living room. For decades we’ve lived in a world where women write the year’s best albums, it’s important for the Grammy’s to acknowledge this, but you can’t put your life on hold for an award show. She has to pack her bags in Australia, do a show in Taiwan, then three in Japan closing off February, before doing a South-American leg in March.

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What’s Up? (2/26/14)

A job interview doesn’t need to be this formal thing, why should it be? There’s room for being polite, yes, as there should be, but what do you get from asking me: “Can you tell me about a time that you had to act quick on your feet and hit the ground running?”
“Well, yes, there was this one time during a job interview that I had to come up with a solid answer that wouldn’t make me sound like a loon.”
Trust me, if we sat down and had a conversation, I’d learn more about your business, and you’d learn more about me, than we could from going through a questionnaire together. Let’s talk politics, let’s talk television, let’s vent our frustrations and tell stories like two human beings; especially when this job is all about talking to people, why not test a candidates ability by talking to them? Two interviews went in two very different directions in the last two days. Two nights with two hours’ sleep, two buses to one bus stop, two mornings in one suit. One brief questionnaire, one two-hour conversation, one bagel, one cup of tea, three pleasant folk, one neighborhood, nine blocks, three dogs, two men in lady liberty costumes. One hell of a week.

St. Vincent released a self-titled album today, er, yesterday (I’m up at 4AM again, so, to me it’s still February 25th). I think it’s really telling about the way my life has gone, or where it is, that even as an avid Beck fan, it’s St. Vincent’s new album that I’ve purchased and listened to – and not Beck’s “Morning Phase” (2014). I know where Beck is on his new album, a callback  to “Sea Change” (2002) which might be my least-listened-to Beck album; which is to say, he’s in a dark, sad place. St. Vincent isn’t exactly in the happiest place either, though it feels lively and smiling through confusion and disillusion; and I know I’d rather ride along with St. Vincent right now than Beck. I’m going to need to review both albums at some point, though I have some reviews from 2013 I promised I’d write, so perhaps I should get to writing those first… 

I feel like a lot of people reinvent themselves during their Freshmen year of college, but I find myself feeling very renewed and perhaps even a little reinvented this semester. New clothes, new synthesizer, a new rotation of music on the iPod, new clubs, new friends, new interests, new habits, new, new, new. And yet, there’s a lot of old coming back ’round. Autobiography and The Creative Impulse has put me down a path of deeper self-examination, just as I wanted it to, which means I’ve dusted off some memories and passages of life to put them on paper. Even outside of class, I’ve been experimenting with trying to figure out just how I’ve ended up where I am. In the last post, “On Revisits” I tried tracing the roots of my present life to coincidences and odd beginnings. I think chiptune culture has to have been the hugest coincidence-launcher of my life, butterfly-effect style. The music and art of 8-bit videogames has formed friendships, networks, and potentially even jobs, and realizing that has only increased my love for it. So I’m not out with the old, in with the new; but rather cultivating a better preservation and appreciation for the old, and recognizing and using it to create the new.