Every St. Vincent Album Ranked, from Marry Me to All Born Screaming

To celebrate Annie Clark’s latest release, we’ve ranked all eight of the musician’s studio albums.

St. Vincent
Photo: Alex Da Corte

Annie Clark displays a remarkable facility for change, creating constantly morphing songs contained within a shifting panoply of modes, voices, and styles, cutting delicate, glittering pop with forceful fuzz and raunchy, preening guitar work. A multi-instrumentalist with a history of institutional training and anonymous backing-band work, she retains the guitar as her signature instrument and most potent tool, lacerating otherwise divine music with down-and-dirty grit, eyes heavenward and feet muddy.

The gradual expansion of sounds and textures occurring across her seven solo albums as St. Vincent has been accompanied by an inverse sense of simplification, the fine-tuning of music that’s grown less theatrical and more precise, imagery and language filed down to a sharp point. To celebrate the release of her latest release, All Born Screaming, we’ve ranked all eight of the musician’s albums, including her one-off collaboration with David Byrne.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 14, 2021.


Love This Giant

8. Love This Giant (2012)

Like David Byrne and Brian Eno’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which took on the mixed topic of humanity and technology through a pronounced gospel influence, St. Vincent’s collaborative album with Byrne, Love This Giant, has its own prevailing themes, with a concerted focus on surfaces, appearances, and societal mores, dominated musically by an endless parade of brass, from ringing trumpet bursts to soggy saxophone licks. Some songs are fronted by Byrne, some by Clark, a few have both dueling over vocals, but beyond the fact that each wrote their own lyrics, there’s not a distinct sense of demarcation between their generally separate songs. The biggest problem is that the all-horns concept is never developed beyond omnipresent scaffolding, which means that many tracks end up being dominated by redundant, irritatingly rudimentary backgrounds, resulting in songs that feel sluggish and often exceedingly ugly. Jesse Cataldo

Marry Me

7. Marry Me (2007)

St. Vincent’s Marry Me includes songs influenced by an Extraordinary Machine-like array of traditional genres, but it’s Annie Clark’s timely lyrical ideas—about war and revolution, love, fear, and faith—that linger long after the disc has ended, and her understanding of philosophy is just as well-versed as her musical prowess. Clark takes the biblical and literary parables that have been long engrained in our culture and regards them through her unique and distinctly modern perspective. Marry Me isn’t quite a religious experience, but it’s unequivocally divine. Sal Cinquemani



6. Actor (2009)

It opens on a typically coy indie-pop number, but St. Vincent’s Actor turns out to be an unflinching depiction of a woman’s mind as it comes unhinged. It just so happens that said woman has an impeccable ear for unpredictable songcraft, spiking her quietly desperate pop tunes with jagged feedback and squalling electronic samples. When best realized, as on “The Neighbors” and “Marrow,” the unresolved tension between immaculately arranged melodies and savage noise provides the perfect sonic analogue to Actor’s underlying lyrical motif: the struggle to maintain outward composure while falling apart inside. Matthew Cole

Daddy’s Home

5. Daddy’s Home (2021)

It’s always been easy to imagine Clark as an artist transported from the ’70s, cutting a lithe, androgynous figure on a concert stage right alongside Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, or the Spiders from Mars. The strutting “Pay Your Way in Pain,” the opening track of Daddy’s Home, will certainly do nothing to quell the Bowie comparisons, as the track is clearly indebted to the late icon’s classic “Fame,” down to the way Clark pleadingly elongates the vowel in “paaaiiin.” But the rest of the album doesn’t hit any of the obvious glam notes, as producer Jack Antonoff and Clark ensconce these songs in clavichord, Wurlitzer, electric sitar, and a dampened heartbeat drum sound that, in toto, perfectly capture the style and vibe of classic ’70s funk, soul, and folk-rock. Jeremy Winograd



4. Masseduction (2017)

St. Vincent’s Masseduction has all the hallmarks of a big, glossy chart-topper, but all the polish in the world can’t mask the manic desperation that churns just beneath its gleaming surface. Make no mistake: Although this is the most polished and melodically direct album Annie Clark has made to date, it’s still plenty weird and frequently sad. It’s an album about desire run rampant, unquenchable and unfulfilled; “I can’t turn off what turns me on,” she sings on the title track, a prisoner to her own flesh. That tension provides the emotional grounding for songs that overflow with humor and imagination. “Pills” subverts the peppy language of TV advertisements to highlight chemical dependence; “Savior” embraces Prince-style kink, but a role-playing savior can’t bring real redemption. “Los Ageless,” the booming first single, is the key to the whole album, riding along on a steely beat, chronicling love that’s soured into obsession and control. Eventually, Clark breaks down screaming: “Oh, my Lord, we really did it now!” Her anguish is recognizable to anyone who’s ever felt like they’re drowning in their own need. Josh Hurst

Strange Mercy

3. Strange Mercy (2011)

Strange Mercy thrives on the interaction between the said and the unsaid, with Annie Clark using her guitar to evoke the shuddersome feelings she can’t bring herself to vocalize. That means it has to make some pretty awful sounds, so Clark channels some of noise rock’s great guitarists (principally Steve Albini and Lee Ranaldo) to give voice to the voracious id lurking behind her coyly measured singing. Cole


All Born Screaming

2. All Born Screaming (2024)

Annie Clark’s seventh solo album finds the musician at her most fragile and ferocious, seeking beauty among the waste and wreckage of 21st-century life. Itself a beautifully ugly thing, All Born Screaming is a visceral examination of art and nature when both are pushed to the brink. Clark longs for a safe space, contextualizing the plight of the artist within the plight of the planet. “She isn’t smiling, but she’s happy you’re here, we’ll make a killing from her trauma,” the singer declares on the reggae-infused “So Many Planets.” The closest the album gets to answering the existential questions it poses is on “Sweetest Fruit,” which opens with a tribute to late electronic artist Sophie, who fell to her death from a rooftop in 2021 while trying to get a better look at the moon. “The sweetest fruit is on the limb,” Clark answers. Whether we make it or not, she seems to suggest, the beauty is in the reach. Nick Seip

St. Vincent

1. St. Vincent (2014)

On her fifth album, Annie Clark trains her focus on contemporary media culture, critiquing the vapid, self-indulgent aspects of social networking and the alienation and boredom that it produces. Whether singing about selfies or death, Clark probes the existential convergence between humans and their digital devices, as when she laments, “I’m entombed in a shrine of zeroes and ones.” The gorgeously laconic torch song “Prince Johnny” finds Clark imploring, over layered backing vocals and a discretely funky guitar lick, for someone “to make me a real girl,” another nod toward the blurred lines between humans, animals, and machines that she explores throughout the album. Despite its thematic weight, St. Vincent wears its politics lightly, as Clark makes space for her trademark experiments with guitar effects and playful lines like “I prefer your love to Jesus.” She’s an auteur perfectly suited for the age we’re living in: a heretic with her own sense of ethics, an eccentric with a conscience. Annie Galvin

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