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Week 403: “Human Racing” by St. Vincent

I have no excuse for not getting into St. Vincent earlier.

It’s not as if Annie Clark was some underground best-kept-secret who just flew under my radar. She was all over the radar: I had heard interviews, seen concert footage, enjoyed the tracks that got radio play. I’d read reviews that compared her to everyone from Bowie to Bjork.

But it’s only now, more than a decade after its release, that I’m finding myself captivated by her 2007 album, Marry Me.

Her music manages perhaps the trickiest balancing act in modern pop music: originality and listenability. It’s just unpredictable enough to keep your ears guessing, but predictable enough to keep your them comfortable.

The second half of Marry Me is more low-key, and in my opinion stronger, than the first. “We Put A Pearl In The Ground” is beautiful. “Landmines” is epic.

But “Human Racing” is a little bundle of genius. For me, it encapsulates all the quirkiness, creativity, and musicianship that’s been earning St. Vincent so much praise for so many years from so many people.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The guitar. I love the way it’s recorded, I love the delicate, jazzy finger-picking. Reminds me of Lianne La Havas.

2. The shifting time signature. Without breaking the song’s momentum, she slides from 4/4 to 3/4 to 6/8. Reminds me of Leah Kardos.

3. The outro. It ends with the repeated line, “you’re not the first to break my heart.” Reminds me of…well, you know how I feel about repetition.

Recommended listening activity:

Buying ‘Happy Belated Birthday’ cards for a friend; one for each birthday they had before you met them.

Buy it here.

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Week 403: “Human Racing” by St. Vincent


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