In the wake of 2017’s MASSEDUCTION, St. Vincent mastermind Annie Clark was in search of change. “That record was very much about structure and stricture—everything I wore was very tight, very controlled, very angular,” she tells Apple Music. “But there's only so far you can go with that before you're like, ‘Oh, what's over here?’” What Clark found was a looseness that came from exploring sounds she’d grown up with, “this kind of early-’70s, groove-ish, soul-ish, jazz-ish style in my head since I was a little kid,” she says. “I was raised on Steely Dan records and Stevie Wonder records like [1973’s] Innervisions and [1972’s] Talking Book and [1974’s] Fulfillingness’ First Finale. That was the wheelhouse that I wanted to play in. I wanted to make new stories with older sounds.”
Recorded with MASSEDUCTION producer Jack Antonoff, Daddy’s Home draws heavily from the 1970s, but its title was inspired, in part, by recent events in Clark’s personal life: her father’s 2019 release from prison, where he’d served nearly a decade for his role in a stock manipulation scheme. It’s as much about our capacity to evolve as it is embracing the humanity in our flaws. “I wanted to make sure that even if anybody didn't know my personal autobiography that it would be open to interpretation as to whether Daddy is a father or Daddy is a boyfriend or Daddy is a pimp—I wanted that to be ambiguous,” she says. “Part of the title is literal: ‘Yeah, here he is, he's home!’ And then another part of it is ‘It’s 10 years later. I’ve done a lot in those 10 years. I have responsibility. I have shit I'm seriously doing. It’s playing with it: Am I daddy's girl? I don't know. Maybe. But I'm also Daddy, too, now.” Here, Clark guides us through a few of the album’s key tracks.
“Pay Your Way in Pain” “This character is like the fixture in a 2021 psychedelic blues. And this is basically the sentiment of the blues: truly just kind of being down and out in a country, in a society, that oftentimes asks you to choose between dignity and survival. So it's just this story of one really bad fuckin’ day. And just owning the fact that truly what everybody wants in the world, with rare exception, is just to have a roof over their head, to be loved and to get by. The line about the heels always makes me laugh. I've been her, I know her. I've been the one who people kind of go, ‘Oh, oh, dear. Hide the children's eyes.’ I know her, and I know her well.”
“Down and Out Downtown” “This is actually maybe my favourite song on the record. I don't know how other people will feel about it. We've all been that person who is wearing last night's heels at eight in the morning on the train, processing: ‘Oh, where have we been? What did I just do?’ You're groggy, you're sort of trying to avoid the knowing looks from other people—and the way that in New York, especially, you can just really ride that balance between like abandon and destruction. That's her; I've been her too.”
“Daddy's Home” “The story is really about one of the last times I went to go visit my dad in prison. If I was in national press or something, they put the press clippings on his bed. And if I was on TV, they'd gather around in the common area and watch me be on Letterman or whatever. So some of the inmates knew who I was and presumably, I don't know, mentioned it to their family members. I ended up signing an autograph on a receipt because you can't bring phones and you couldn't do a selfie. It’s about watching the tables turn a little bit, from father and daughter. It's a complicated story and there's every kind of emotion about it. My family definitely chose to look at a lot of things with some gallows humour, because what else are you going to do? It's absolutely absurd and heartbreaking and funny all at the same time. So: Worth putting into a song.”
“Live in the Dream” “If there are other touchpoints on the record that hint at psychedelia, on this one we've gone completely psychedelic. I was having a conversation with Jack and he was telling me about a conversation he had with Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was just, I think anecdotally, talking about the game of fame and talking about the fact that we lose a lot of people to it. They can kind of float off into the atmosphere, and the secret is, you can't let the dream take over you. The dream has to live inside of you. And I thought that was wonderful, so I wrote this song as if you're waking up from a dream and you almost have these sirens talking to you. In life, there's still useful delusions. And then there's delusions that—if left unchecked—lead to kind of a misuse of power.”
“Down” “The song is a revenge fantasy. If you're nice, people think they can take advantage of you. And being nice is not the same thing as being a pushover. If we don't want to be culpable to something, we could say, 'Well, it's definitely just this thing in my past,' but at the end of the day, there's human culpability. Life is complicated, but I don't care why you are hurt. It's not an excuse to be cruel. Whatever your excuse is, you've played it out.”
“…At the Holiday Party” “Everybody's been this person at one time. I've certainly been this person, where you are masking your sadness with all kinds of things. Whether it's dressing up real fancy or talking about that next thing you're going to do, whatever it is. And we kind of reveal ourselves by the things we try to hide and to kind of say we've all been there. Drunk a little too early, at a party, there's a moment where you can see somebody's face break, and it's just for a split second, but you see it. That was the little window into what's going on with you, and what you're using to obfuscate is actually revealing you.”