St Vincent Daddy's Home Loma Vista Recordings
If any artist is worthy of fulfilling the legacy of David Bowie, it’s St. Vincent. The guitar virtuoso’s string of artistic reinventions, elaborate theatrics and swaggering sexuality is comparable to no other. Following in her spiritual forebear’s footsteps, her sixth solo album, Daddy’s Home, cashes in the glamorous pop stylings of her recent work for something altogether more loose and louche. St. Vincent has entered her Thin White Duke-era – long live the Thin White Duchess.
She evokes this spirit right from the opening track, with the wailing chorus of Pay Your Way in Pain casting a winking homage to the moans of Bowie’s plastic-soul classic Fame. It is, however, a St. Vincent jam through and through, a slinky synth strut which casts our heroine as an unloved washup, too poor for the store wearing heels too sexy for the park.
It sets the tone for a record devoted to the outsiders and misfits of the world, conjuring visions of the seedy underbelly of early 70s New York. This era and its inhabitants were an explicit influence for St. Vincent, who began this album’s journey by revisiting the records her father introduced her to in childhood. And while the title Daddy’s Home fits her career-long explorations of domination and submission like a latex glove, it comes from a far more literal place. In 2019, her father was released from prison after nine years of incarceration for a stock manipulation scheme, a facet of her private life which went undiscussed until it was unearthed by tabloids in 2016.
This is never directly addressed in the music, but the soulful harmonies and guttural shrieks of the title track convey the weight of years of suffering with gusto – “Where can you run when the outlaw’s inside you?” she tellingly coos amid loop-de-loop guitar licks. It exemplifies the constant state of contrast that defines the project, see-sawing between some of the most measured, mellow moments in her songbook since her first two albums and the tightly-coiled dynamism which reached its apex with 2017’s MASSEDUCTION.
Mega-fans of that project may be disappointed to find there isn’t any one song as flashy as Los Ageless or Pills, but Daddy’s Home is undeniably a more consummate work of total musicianship. Once again teaming up with Jack Antonoff for co-production duties, the songs here have grit and character, an earthiness in stark contrast to the at times overproduced sensations of her recent work. The woozy, electric sitar-enhanced psychedelia of Down and Out Downtown is a jazzy dirge of longing, while Down is a contender for the sexiest song she’s ever written, a feat accomplished through the sheer force of her vocal playfulness.
But it’s the record’s disarming, quieter moments which course with the most feeling. …At the Holiday Party is an astonishingly rich ballad, casting a Joni Mitchell-esque spell toward a lover who can no longer hide behind their hedonism. It’s followed by the even more luminous Candy Darling, wringing out the dirtied glamor of a Warhol superstar-aura and twisting it into an open-hearted courtship of “bodega roses” and “perfect candy dreams”.
It bears mentioning that though this is her most referential album by a longshot, never once does Daddy’s Home veer into mere caricature. It already feels like an essential detour in the broader St. Vincent cosmology, proof that the Duchess can attach both her inspirations and her heart on her sleeve without ever losing sight of the wild, weird chanteuse at the centre of it all.