All Born Screaming

All Born Screaming

Few artists have done more for carrying the banner of guitar rock proudly into the 21st century than St. Vincent. A notorious shredder, she cut her teeth as a member of Sufjan Stevens’ touring band before releasing her debut album Marry Me in 2007. Since then, her reputation as a six-string samurai has been cemented in the wake of a run of critically acclaimed albums and collaborations (she co-wrote Taylor Swift’s No 1. single “Cruel Summer”). A shape-shifter of the highest order, St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, has always put visual language on equal footing with her sonic output. Most recently, she released 2021’s Daddy’s Home, a conceptual period piece that pulled inspiration from ’70s soul and glam set in New York City. That project marked the end of an era visually—gone are the bleach-blonde wigs and oversized Times Square-ready trench coats—as well as creatively. With All Born Screaming, she bids adieu to frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, who produced Daddy’s Home, and instead steps behind the boards for the first time to produce the project herself. “For me, this record was spending a lot of time alone in my studio, trying to find a new language for myself,” Clark tells Apple Music’s Hanuman Welch. “I co-produced all my other records, but this one was very much my fingerprints on every single thing. And a lot of the impetus of the record was like, ‘Okay: I'm in the studio and everything has to start with chaos.’” For Clark, harnessing that chaos began by distilling the elemental components of what makes her sound like, well, her. Guitar players, in many respects, are some of the last musicians defined by the analog. Pedal boards, guitar strings, and pass-throughs are all manipulated to create a specific tone. It’s tactile, specialized, and at times, yes, chaotic. “What I mean by chaos,” Clark says, “is electricity actually moving through circuitry. Whether it's modular synths or drum machines, just playing with sound in a way that was harnessing chaos. I've got six seconds of this three-hour jam, but that six seconds is lightning in a bottle and so exciting, and truly something that could only have happened once and only happened in a very tactile way. And then I wrote entire songs around that.” Those songs cover the spectrum from sludgy, teeth-vibrating offerings like “Flea” all the way to the lush album cut (and ode to late electronic producer SOPHIE) “Sweetest Fruit.” Clark relished in balancing these light and dark sounds and sentiments—and she didn’t do so alone. “I got to explore and play and paint,” she says. “And I also luckily had just great friends who came in to play on the record and brought their amazing energy to it.” All Born Screaming features appearances from Dave Grohl, Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, and Welsh artist Cate Le Bon, among others. Le Bon pulled double duty on the album by performing on the title track as well as offering clarity for some of the murkier production moments. “I was finding myself a little bit in the weeds, as everyone who self-produces does,” Clark says. “And so I just called Cate and was like, ‘I need you to just come hold my hand for a second.’ She came in and was a very stabilizing force, I think, at a time in the making of the record when I needed someone to sort of hold my hand and pat my head and give me a beer, like, ‘It's going to be okay.’” With All Born Screaming, Clark manages to capture the bloody nature of the human experience—including the uncertainty and every lightning-in-a-bottle moment—but still manages to make it hum along like a Saturday morning cartoon. “The album, to me, is a bit of a season in hell,” she says. “You are a little bit walking on your knees through some broken glass—but in a fun way, kids. We end with this sort of, ‘Yes, life is difficult, but it's so worth living and we've got to live it. Can't go over it, can't go under it, might as well go through it.’ It's black and white and the colors of a fire. That, to me, is sonically what the record is.”

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