With experience playing with the Polyphonic Spree
, Sufjan Stevens
, and Glenn Branca
, Annie Clark is more than qualified enough to start writing her own loosely ornate, lush pop songs. But while Clark, who chooses to use the name St. Vincent
here, does incorporate the frilly strings and horns, background choirs, and various keyboards (most of which she plays) of her past employers in Marry Me
, her solo debut, she also has an edge to her -- something that shows up in the distorted electric guitar solos of "Jesus Saves, I Spend" or "Now, Now," the drums in the ominous "The Apocalypse Song" or "Your Lips Are Red," the growing intensity of the vocals "Landmines," the funereal waltz of the fantastic "Paris Is Burning" ("I write to give the war is over/Send my cinders home to mother," Clark sings sadly over electronic drumbeats and acoustic guitars) -- that pushes her away from the overly sentimental and quaint. Not that Marry Me
doesn't have its fair share of happy love songs ("All My Stars Aligned," "What Me Worry?"), but the album isn't seeped in that kind of joyfulness that sings blind and insincere. It's an mix of good and bad, of light and dark, of the woman who purposefully sets up the obstacles she must get through to find her lover ("I'm crawling through landmines/I know 'cause I planted them," she sings disarmingly), of sweet self-deprecation ("Marry me, John, I'll be so good to you/You won't realize I'm gone"), honest and quirky and totally enticing. Clark is young enough that she's still able to retain that sense of wonder about the world without seeming naïve, and old enough that she can say things like "My hands are red from sealing your red lips" and you believe her. It's an orchestral record for those who prefer the simplistic, a darker one for those who prefer theirs twee, love songs for the scorned and sad songs for the content, an engaging and alluring combination that makes Marry Me
nearly irresistible, and one of the better indie pop albums that's come around for a long time.