St. Vincent’s 10 (or, Actually 11) Essential Songs


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This wonderfully abrasive track from “All Born Screaming” features percussion from Dave Grohl and a crunching, industrial-tinged sound that compels Clark to holler herself hoarse. As she told me in one of our conversations, putting this track out as the album’s lead single was, for once, a no-brainer. “Other records, I’ve been like, ‘Oh that could be good, or this could be good for people to hear first,’” she said. But for “All Born Screaming,” “I felt very adamant that ‘Broken Man’ was first. Let’s throw some TNT.”

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St. Vincent’s 2017 album “Masseduction,” featuring production by Jack Antonoff, was in some ways her sleekest and most pop-friendly, but as the title track shows, it still oozed with her own strange style. “I can’t turn off what turns me on,” Clark intones on this cartoonish exploration of desire and repulsion, while her expressive guitar growls and shrieks.

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St. Vincent’s second album, the 2009 release “Actor,” further warped the eerie beauty of “Marry Me,” as you can hear on this highlight, which blends a refrain reminiscent of a nursery rhyme with the asphyxiating mood of a horror film. A tiny sonic detail I love here: the physicality of the keyboard’s creak on that riff right after the first chorus.

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The campy and chameleonic “Daddy’s Home,” from 2021, is probably St. Vincent’s most polarizing release, and while I was mixed on the album overall, I do love this bit of drifting, Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelia. Even if it’s pastiche, Clark pulls it off with aplomb.

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This “Strange Mercy” track takes its chorus lyric from a line Marilyn Monroe once scrawled in her journal: “Best finest surgeon … come cut me open.” (Clark once said she wanted the song “to sound like it was kind of in a Benzedrine and white-wine coma — like a housewife’s cocktail.”) St. Vincent’s music often interrogates both femininity and depression, and those themes entwine here with haunting effectiveness, culminating in a gloriously unnerving guitar solo.

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This wry, devastating piano ballad cuts through the polish of “Masseduction” and aims straight for the heart. “Remember one Christmas I gave you Jim Carroll?/Intended it as a cautionary tale,” Clark sings, setting the scene like a short-story writer. “You said you saw yourself inside there/Dog-eared it like a how-to manual.”



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