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Album Pick of the Month: David Byrne & St. Vincent

Album Pick of the Month: David Byrne & St. Vincent

By Mike Duffy

When news first broke that master auteur David Byrne and St. Vincent (otherwise known as Annie Clark) were collaborating on an album, it certainly seemed like an unnatural pairing.

But upon initial listens to Love This Giant, the newest dynamic duo comes up in spades.

The 12 tracks sound like a push and pull between both artists’ styles. Byrne’s bleating delivery and Clark’s sultry swoons surprisingly fit cozily together under a Warhol-designed umbrella.

Order Love This Giant here.

And while St. Vincent’s trademark guitar work takes a backseat on this record, the addition of a robust horn section keeps things interesting.

Before getting too deep into the individual songs, however, Love This Giant deserves some back-story.

The project began more than three years ago, when Clark and Byrne met at New York’s Housing Works bookstore where Björk was performing with Dirty Projectors.

One of the promoters planted the seed of a similar collaboration between Byrne and Clark. What was intended to be a one-off turned into a full album, with a horn section that originally sounded great in the bookstore becoming full-blown arrangements.

The general reaction to this super-team was wildly enthusiastic. How could two artists such as St. Vincent and David Byrne not work?

Byrne wonders where that idea came from.

“I’m curious why people thought that,” the Talking Heads frontman told New York Magazine. “We both think that we approach songwriting somewhat analytically, somewhat like puzzle-solving. I don’t know if other people sense that. Maybe it’s that we both have a slightly odd stage presence?”

The first single – “Who” – confirms the initial expectations.  Yes, this will work.

The womp-womp of the brass gives the track a poppy quality that provides a perfect backdrop for Byrne’s unmistakable voice.

“Weekend in the Dust” offers more of an electronic vibe, with a hip-hop beat that could find horns back in the club for the first time since DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat.”

“The One Who Broke Your Heart” gets supremely funky with the toots of the Dap Kings and the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. 

One more highlight is the orchestral “Lazarus,” which has a rollicking chorus that would make any Talking Heads fan nod in approval.

Aside from a mostly-Byrne-less “Lightning,” the elder statesman of art pop takes up more of the vocal duties on Giant than Clark. Or perhaps hearing him in vintage form just tugs at the heartstrings a little more.

Whatever the case, Giant is still a beautiful matchup.

Byrne and Clark seem to bring out the best in each other, as their chemistry is undeniable. One might say natural, even. 

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