Back when Talking Heads were taking the world by storm, David Byrne and co. ensured that their music was taken as a whole: respective albums that one could embrace and fall in love with. A few twenty years later, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark shares in the same joy and was famously dubbed an art rock musician, just like Byrne always was and is. Although the heaviest webzines and blogs will bamboozle you, the album is still where it’s at. There are still many of us that enjoy albums by the whole – often with or without any prior inkling of what is to come – and although the single(s) continue to permeate with flashing excitement, the best of musicians and artists still treat the album as the art form it richly is.
So it makes definitive sense that the two were paired together to illustrate what a world under the control of Byrne and Clark would feel like. The latter has assured herself a place amongst the supreme greats of current music – with each album being a dynamic tour de force of frenetic styles and grandeur – it goes without saying that Byrne is no slouch either. Regardless of what the lead single sounded like, regardless of what someone opines (perhaps that Clark is light years ahead of Byrne. She’s not.), regardless of me name-dropping Byrne’s duet with Selena on her final album, Love this Giant is not a disappointment.
Examining that aforementioned lead song, “Who,” as a standalone product, sure, it’d be foolish to go into this album with such notions. If one assumed that Clark and Byrne would churn out a haphazard effort, with no real attention to craft, they’d be sorely wrong. You see, both of these artists don’t make silly music for us to ridicule and erroneously grade with a decimal system; no, this duet is a shining winner on every regard. With each artist engaging their peculiar style into every song – there’s magnificent chemistry abound on Love this Giant that showcases utter greatness.
Their “Beauty and the Beast” cover plays off the two’s brilliant minds and although Clark is the grotesque creature in the depiction, it’s clear that neither lay too much importance to what disillusioned perceptions conjure. The songs in turn bask in innovative creativity and unabashed attention to detail: there is a tremendous amount of musical flair all over. On “Lazarus,” Byrne is allowed to sing in rousing fashion as Clark oohs and aahs underneath him. The two combine their songwriting with flashy horn sections that breathe a purely aesthetic vibe, to the pair’s clever and skillful styles.
Clark herself is peculiarly positioned at the peak of her game, perhaps. She’s got a lot left to give and with three winners under her belt, it’s as if she’s just begun. Byrne presents a wise and hardened veteran that is still full of tricks up his sleeve. On “I Am An Ape” Byrne is able to deploy a story circled around the evolution of man and perhaps, his admittance to what the subconscious feels. The horns behind him paint a Middle-eastern vibe where the sway of the song is the importance and the overall feel is a slinking, effervescent swoon. It leads strangely flawlessly into Clark’s “The Forest Awakes,” that finds her succeeding with a Sufjan Stevens spectrum, a la The Age of Adz, and she allows the instruments around her to plod and finely layer the staccato vibe to accompany her illustriously beautiful voice. The only song that Byrne wrote and Clark sings (the rest of the lyrics are their respective singer’s words), the discord and clash of the instruments against Clark’s stunning voice is a wondrous effect. The horns and layers are absolutely rendered to augment the songwriter’s style and it makes for a fantastic display of skill and songcraft.
The album art form itself is surely losing a lot of steam and it’s not just because of the digital world we live in. It lies in a lost ditch sometimes because of the immediacy people crave and the way it’s fed to us. It’s exceptional to hear Clark and Byrne asking who to start it all. Who will save us from such a mindless aim? The horns on Love this Giant are definitely remarkable and they’re never cloying, never show-stealing, never over-abundant. Byrne and Clark are fully aware of their scope and the instruments reveal a balance that is uncanny in the world of pop music. These pop sensibilities are allowed to swell over, into and around each other; each song blends the seams of the core into a fragmented, disjointed, appropriately-meshing of sounds and in the end, Love this Giant is a magnificent triumph because of it all.