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Alternative & Indie - Released September 12, 2011 | 4AD

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
As clever and insightful as Annie Clark's first two St. Vincent albums were, she sometimes seemed slightly removed, and perhaps somewhat above, her songs’ subjects. However, she’s down and dirty with them on Strange Mercy, a collection of cracked veneers, eye-level confessions, and portraits of breaking points. It’s tempting to call this her most genuine album, but it’s probably more accurate to say it’s Clark's least academic-feeling set of songs. Contrast has always been a major part of her music, and Strange Mercy's juxtapositions of harshness, softness, truth, lies, cruelty, and kindness feel especially pointed and potent. Most apparent is her use of opposing sounds; working with producer John Congleton, she focuses on luxurious strings and woodwinds that float above wobbly keyboards and ugly, distorted guitars that emphasize that these songs are under pressure. Clark finds plenty of range within this palette, though, busting out the talkbox on “Neutered Fruit”’s confrontational jazz-rock and a dance-pop beat on the subtly frantic “Hysterical Strength.” Less obvious are the emotional shifts many of these songs undergo, and how they blur the album’s contrasts. On the title track, Clark goes from vulnerable to protective to violent as she sings “I’ll tell you good news that I don’t believe/If it will help you sleep,” and on “Champagne Year,” she confesses and deceives at the same time. “Cruel” is Strange Mercy's definitive track, putting inspired lyrics like “They could take or leave you/So they took you then they left you” atop strings and woodwinds straight from a vintage musical and a messed-up, fuzzed-out guitar solo. The song gets increasingly anxious as it closes, a pattern Clark repeats throughout the album; indeed, while these songs are some of her most fragmented, each song on Strange Mercy is tied to another. “Surgeon” shares a stuttering beat with opening track “Chloe in the Afternoon” and a similar melody to the declaration of independence that is “Cheerleader.” There’s so much going on musically on Strange Mercy that it could be easy to overlook Clark's growth as a songwriter, but “Year of the Tiger” boasts fully realized storytelling as well as a melody that would do Joni Mitchell or Carole King proud. Full of great lyrics and great playing, Strange Mercy is St. Vincent's most reflective and most audacious album to date, and Clark remains as delicately uncompromising an artist as ever. ~ Heather Phares
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Electronic/Dance - Released July 11, 2011 | 4AD

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks - Disque Roi VoxPop
Titled in reference to Zomby’s father, who passed away during its completion, Dedication can be taken simply as another release from the enigmatic producer. From 2007 through 2009, Zomby issued a deeply concentrated yet somewhat whimsical blast of singles and EPs on Ramp, Hyperdub, and Brainmath. He also released an album of breakbeat rave-not-rave on Werk Discs, the label operated by the equally hard to classify producer Actress. His next move, then, could have gone in a number of different directions without being the least bit startling. On the other hand, Dedication is something of an event. After that flurry of activity, Zomby was mostly silent throughout 2010, so there was some suspense, and it intensified once news broke of his contract with 4AD. Furthermore, this is the producer’s most subdued and melodic set of tracks, in addition to his most developed work, despite keeping it as succinct (16 tracks, 35 minutes) as ever. It’s accessible to listeners who cannot be bothered to discern the differences and similarities between dubstep, wonky, and bass, yet it’s all too detailed and moving to be heard as some form of artistic compromise. A handful of the most effective productions are closer to liquid dancehall than his 2008 track of the same name, offering amiable bashment with plinking keyboards over slippery beats. Two of the most emotive Zomby tracks come with the hallucinatory “Natalia’s Song,” featuring softly jutting vocal samples from a female Russian vocalist, and “Basquiat,” a pensive piano-and-string-drone piece. Although it wasn't the intent, they’re more in the spirit of old-school 4AD -- Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, the Hope Blister -- than the majority of the label’s releases across the past ten years. The technicolor pellets over rat-a-tat snares return through “Things Fall Apart,” featuring a disjointed vocal from Panda Bear (the album’s only misstep), and the cycling “Mozaik,” which abruptly cuts off, and ends Dedication, shortly after the three-minute mark. Whether this is a one-off or a bridge to something more substantial, it's satisfying in the present and will likely increase in stature as years pass. ~ Andy Kellman
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 18, 2011 | 4AD

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
Merill Garbus' home-made patchwork of recordings and loops was so crucial to the success of her first tUnE-yArDs album, Bird Brains, that it seemed like lo-fi sounds were integral to her style. However, she recorded the songs that became W H O K I L L in a professional studio with an engineer and a crew of musicians, and the results are not only as vital and distinctive as what came before, they find Garbus coming into her own. Instead of confining herself to conventionally nice-sounding arrangements and techniques, Garbus sounds like a kid in a candy store, exhilarated by all the possibilities afforded to her. As on Bird Brains, she makes noise-pop of a completely different flavor. She tosses jazz, folk, R&B, hip-hop and whatever else strikes her fancy into fascinating collisions that are as melodic as they are abrasive, and as globally minded as they are distinctly urban. “Gangsta” is a dense crush of brass and beats topped with sirens and samples that make it sound like it’s unfolding on the street, while “Bizness”'s rippling layers evoke a futuristic hybrid of gamelan and Afro-pop. It’s Garbus' voice, however, that defines W H O K I L L. One moment, her singing is so unbridled it sounds like field recordings. The next, she hits a remarkable high note or turns a phrase with a torchy lilt like she does on “Powa,” where she sounds sexy, innocent, and demanding all at once. Her messages come through even louder and clearer than they did on Bird Brains, and they’re just as bold and complicated as their surroundings. Throughout the album, Garbus tackles violence, power and identity, shaping “America” into a love-hate anthem of her own on “My Country” and confessing her secret feelings about a policeman on “Riotriot”: “You had come to put handcuffs on my brother/I dreamt of making love to you.” Yet as clearly as she sees danger and corruption, she still leaves room for hope and innocence on the dark, delicate lullaby “Woollywollygong.” W H O K I L L is a tour de force of sounds and ideas that are as intimate as a conversation and as striking as a manifesto, and shows that Garbus is capable of just about anything. ~ Heather Phares

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