Like the marriage of her wide-eyed, porcelain-doll visage and her buzz-saw guitar licks, St. Vincent leader Annie Clark has made a career out of jarringly pleasant juxtapositions. This year's Strange Mercy
, her third solo LP, continues that thread with spindly beats, fluid and metallic guitar lines and, at the center, her unflappable voice. As a singer, Clark conveys ennui and sensuality often in the same line, and she doesn't rely on vocal tricks or operatic delivery to make her mark. Like the rising undulations of "Cheerleader" or the increasingly desperate chorus of "Surgeon," Clark takes a small, simple idea and manhandles it until the song begins to bristle.
Last Time: Clark captivated the Firebird with guitar freakouts, a Beatles cover and an ace art-rock backing band.