When Annie Clark was a kid, she wrote the score to her high school's rendition of "Alice in Wonderland."
After seeing the play, her surprised parents said, "This is really good. We didn't know what you'd been doing in there," reported the LA Times. It was enough to convince them that she had a gift, and soon, Clark was on her way to the renowned Berklee College of Music.
After some gigs working more as a collaborator than as a solo artist, Clark came into her own -- and she now goes by the name St. Vincent. Marry Me, St. Vincent's debut, was widely praised, and her follow-up, Actor, was released last year to similar acclaim.
Clark is someone who likes going down the rabbit hole. If her past work -- as a member of the "choral symphonic rock" group the Polyphonic Spree and later bandmate in the decidedly religious Sufjan Stevens -- could be characterized as Alice, her solo work is more like the Queen of Hearts.
With lyrics like "Marry me John/I'll be so good to you/you won't realize I'm gone" (from Marry Me), or song titles like "Laughing With a Mouth Full of Blood" (from Actor), it's easy to see that she's not as saintly as she seems, yet the wide-eyed gaze that graces her album covers says otherwise.
Clark is touring in support of Actor, an album initially conceived in a Paris hotel room. As she wrote the album, Clark was looking for a way to reflect her own sinister sweetness in a style of music similar to the dichotomous scores of The Wizard of Oz and Sleeping Beauty. In a 2007 AV Club interview, she said, "Everybody's got a dark side, but ... I like to deal with my dark side in a creative way and just sing about killing people instead of actually doing it."
Anyone who's ever seen St. Vincent live or listened to her records knows that she can certainly kill on the guitar as well. She's clearly put a lot of thought into her compositions, and each of her songs is nothing short of fully realized. It's in the live setting, however, that one gets a real sense of how St. Vincent's sensibility swings between sweet and scary.
T. Loper is a writer for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.