After two previous releases, St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark) finds a way to channel her avant-garde instincts in more accessible directions, displaying a firm grasp on pop songwriting forms even as she subverts them. In tandem with producer John Congleton, she plays nervous industrial beats and quivering keyboards against billowing ‘60s-ish melodies. Her cooing vocals on “Cruel” and “Surgeon” insinuate dark scenarios of betrayal and abandonment, transcending mere irony into something palpably sinister. More direct in their intentions are “Cheerleader” (an anthem of personal liberation) and “Champagne Year” (a jaundiced look at success). If Clark’s lyrics tease and dazzle, her music hits hard sonically, clattering to a galloping groove on “Hysterical Strength” and erupting into guitar-fueled cacophony on “Northern Lights.” The otherworldly grandeur of Kate Bush or Björk is recalled on tracks like “Chloe In the Afternoon.” But St. Vincent is in a class all her own as she exorcises sexual demons, grapples with psychic breakdown, and achieves an uncanny catharsis.