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The career move after St. Vincent’s unexpected windfall from “Cruel Summer” — the song that began life as a collaboration between her and producer Jack Antonoff, was completed by Taylor Swift and, several years later, ended up as the theme song of the “Eras Tour” juggernaut — would be to make a pop-leaning album to capitalize on that success, even just a little.

True to form, that’s exactly what the artist also known as Annie Clark has not done with her eighth studio album, “All Born Screaming,” which, as the title implies, may be the darkest and strangest outing in her discography. Which isn’t at all to say that this album is inaccessible or a tough listen — she’s always balanced melody with noise, beauty with awkwardness, usually at the same time, declining to be any one thing musically or visually. There’s plenty of her distinctively arch melodies, soaring vocals and memorable songwriting; there’s also lots of warped synthesizer textures, propulsive rhythms, mildly discomfiting lyrics and her awesomely jagged, aggressive guitar playing.

More than any of her previous work, “All Born Screaming” is a St. Vincent solo album — for the first time, Clark has produced it entirely herself, and there’s a freshness and sense of discovery that wasn’t as evident on her last two albums, which were Antonoff collaborations. And although there are certainly themes and an overriding concept, it’s much less specific and open to interpretation than 2021’s “Daddy’s Home,” which had a 1970s-themed sound and look, and a storyline about her father’s return from prison. (Having said that, some have taken exception to this album’s “Sweetest Fruit,” claiming the song, with lyrics that pay homage to the late hyper-pop pioneer Sophie, is exploiting her death; Clark has insisted she’s “an admirer from afar.”)

Clark has always made big or provocative artistic statements without necessarily feeling she has to explain them, but what often gets lost in her seeming self-seriousness is just how far-reaching — and funny — a lot of her work is, both musically and lyrically. Here, there’s wonky synth-pop and moments of rock so heavy that both drummers from the Foo Fighters play on the album (Dave Grohl and Josh Freese). The first half of the title track is downright perky — yes, a perky song called “All Born Screaming” — underpinned by an almost Talking Heads-esque funk riff on the chorus. “Violent Times” has a whiff of a James Bond theme in the melody; “Broken Man” has a playful lilt until Dave Grohl comes crashing in like an outraged gorilla; the gentle beginning of “Breathless” recalls the quiet intensity of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” And “Flea” starts off with the lines: “I’m just like a hungry little flea / Jumping on somebody’s warm body / When you start to itch and scratch and scream / Once I’m in you can’t get rid of me.”

“All Born Screaming” is focused and of a piece and all over the place at the same time. It’s a tribute to St. Vincent’s vision and skill that an album bursting with so many ideas is such a coherent whole.



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