Today’s Sounds: David Byrne & St. Vincent
David Byrne & St. Vincent Love This Giant (4AD)
From the first notes of “Who,” the lead track of this curious collaboration bridging NYC art rock past and present, the distinct musical personas of St. Vincent and David Byrne are front and centre. Knees-and-elbows rhythms jut out in a fashion that feels refreshingly akimbo but is actually all neat and clean, not to mention brassy. After the distinctive vocals – David Byrne’s iconic geek speak and St. Vincent’s sinister seduction – trumpets and saxes get top billing, feeding the rhythm and punctuating the smooth interplay.
This kind of partnership is a first for St. Vincent, but not for Byrne. In 2010, he and Fatboy Slim released Here Lies Love, a concept record about Imelda Marcos featuring a stack of famous guests, including St. Vincent. That album was CRAP. But here he’s found a perfect foil, and a democratic process that seems to have provided more focus and more creative restraints (a good thing, in this case).
Fans of St. Vincent and Talking Heads will recognize how their rhythmic and melodic tendencies come together in a way that’s entirely complementary. Whether in duet (on songs like “Who”) or trading off lead vocals (as on the consecutive tracks “I Am an Ape” and “The Forest Awakes”), their strengths bleed out of the speakers.
Proceedings occasionally threaten to get awkward. I suspected the worst of “I Should Watch TV” before it built on the back of brassy fanfare and Byrne’s impassioned chorus kicked in. There are subdued moments towards the end of the record that aren’t incredibly inspiring. But the bulk of Love This Giant is exceptional. If you doubt me, check “The One Who Broke My Heart,” where the groove is bolstered by Dap-Kings and Antibalas. In fact, stream the whole goddamn thing here.
These Birmingham kids want to pump your blood without hurting you. Pacifism on the dancefloor.
Patrick Wolf, “Overture” (reworked)
For his career-spanning retrospective Sundark and Riverlight, this 29-year-old Irish-born singer, songwriter and violinist transforms the gorgeous lead track off his 2007 record The Magic Position from gut-punching glamour to graceful beauty.