Screeching dirty guitar blasts mixed with angelic vocal melodies, layers of swirling synths, and a tendency to make heads bob — they're all over St. Vincent's new album. But there's also jazz fusion madness, heavy metal fizz, and menacing couplets layered atop languid beats. It all makes for a complex web of a record, even more challenging than the dreamlands Annie Clark pieced together on her first two albums. Strange Mercy paints grim feelings of betrayal and protest throughout. The layers occasionally feel cluttered and claustrophobic, but the record becomes less noisy in its second half, with songs like "Champagne Year" quietly sliding by with muddled drums and slow-building synths. It's the highs and lows, the harsh and posh, the heavy and heavenly that make Strange Mercy both expected and entirely unbelievable. — Danielle Sills
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