Home Geek LifeCulture Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 4 – St. Vincent

Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 4 – St. Vincent

by Patrick Phillips
St. Vincent

Prepare your turntable to receive some heavy rotation bangers vinyl fans, ’cause there’s a new, deep dive record box in town, and you’re gonna want to get your mitts on the band-themed short stack of wax they’re delivering every month. It’s called Bandbox, and it’s unlike any other vinyl subscription service out there.

Groove Is In The Box … The Bandbox

What’s the big deal, you ask? To begin with, the wax warriors behind Bandbox are delivering not just one album to your doorstep every month, but two! And not to overstate the obvious, but the only thing better than getting one new record in the mail every month, is getting twice that number. With Bandbox focusing their packages on a single artist/group every month (Neil Young, Weezer, and Ride have already been featured), you can be certain they’ll be digging deep into the archives to send some truly unsung sonic treasures your way.

To keep things interesting, Bandbox is throwing a hitch into their album selection process. That means the first of the mystery discs subscribers receive will be a staple album from said artist’s slate of releases. The second mystery disc is where the deep dive aspect kicks in, with Bandbox pledging to pick an overlooked gem from the artist’s back catalogue. And that gem may or may not be the same album for every subscriber.

If that bold choice isn’t quite enticing enough, you should know that Bandbox is also stuffing every box with a lavishly animated, track-by-track listening companion for the featured album – not to mention a stylish fanzine tracking the artist’s career and releases. And all that can be yours for the super reasonable price of just $49 a month.

Wondering what’s in the box for October? Well, prepare to bend the knee for the reigning high priestess of indie-pop with a pair of razor-sharp offerings from Annie Clark – whom you might know better as St. Vincent.

Before we get too far into this month’s box, those of you wary of letting a group of complete strangers “surprise” you with artist/album selections every month should know that Team Bandbox has already setup an exchange program which allows you to swap out records you don’t want for ones you do, so long as they’re available in the Bandbox archives. Hell, they’ll even let you integrate your Discogs account to ensure you never receive something you already have in your collection, thus limiting the need to make those swaps.

If you’re really, really wary of surprises, Team Bandbox will even let you tap out of the coming month’s artist and choose from their back catalogue of albums. If that’s still not good enough, you can even “pause” your subscription at any time you like. It’s unlikely you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up and experienced Bandbox for yourself. And for that relatively modest sum, you try to just chill out, have a little adventure, and get down with whatever vibes Bandbox is bringing.

Let The Great World Spin

It’s my great hope that you read the name St. Vincent a moment ago, and were instantly a bit giddy about which of the artist’s albums were selected for the October Bandbox – if only because, over the past decade-plus, she’s put together as compelling a slate of releases as any other artist on the planet. Simply put, no two St. Vincent albums sound alike, and every single St. Vincent release is utterly riveting in terms of structure and stylistic/tonal shifts from one track to the next … which means each record is endlessly rewarding on repeat listens. In fact, more than most artists these days, St. Vincent’s albums just seem to get better on second, or third, or 20th listen.

Now, if you’re one of the few who were less than giddy about a St. Vincent Bandbox, we’re gonna go ahead and assume it’s because you either hate music (which begs the question of why you’re reading a vinyl unboxing to begin with), or you’ve never actually listened to a St. Vincent album. Assuming the latter is the case, well, we can assure you that you need this particular Bandbox in your life more than most.

If you want to fully understand why, we’d first urge you to and listen to any of St. Vincent’s five solo studio efforts, or even her stunning collaboration with Mr. David Byrne (yes that David Byrne). In lieu of that course of action, we’ll simply offer a couple of intriguing facts about the artist formerly known as Annie Clark.

  1. She’s a profoundly gifted multi-instrumentalist who earned a slot at the prestigious Berklee School of Music just out of high school.
  2. She dropped out of Berklee to forge her own path in the music biz.
  3. That path quickly led to to join up with the gonzo indie rock group The Polyphonic Spree, before hitching on with the touring band of indie rock stalwart Sufjan Stevens.
  4. After cutting her teeth on the indie scene, Annie started recording solo work under the name St. Vincent in 2007.
  5. She’s released five increasingly complex and equally audacious albums under the St. Vincent moniker in the years since, earning waves of critical praise, and legions of fans along the way.
  6. With each album, she’s continued to dexterously blend pop-forward experiments with shred-worthy rock balladry fueled in equal parts by savagely incisive lyrics and bravura guitar work.
  7. That wildly experimental pop approach has led many to compare her to the likes of David Bowie and Prince.
  8. St. Vincent is not “the female Bowie.” Nor is she “the female Prince.” She’s St. f***ing Vincent. And if you’re not yet a devotee of indie-pop’s high priestess, now’s the time to bring her all your love.

For those of you less than familiar with the St. Vincent catalogue, what you’re looking at there is the artist’s debut album Marry Me, and her fourth offering St. Vincent, which is October’s featured album.

Be sure to dig on the slick track listing design on the back as well.

Not that awards matter all that much, but yes, St. Vincent is a Grammy winning album to boot.

St. Vincent (2014)

Speaking of savagely incisive lyrics and bravura guitar work, Team Bandbox wisely chose St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth release as October’s featured album. If you’re at all familiar with Annie Clark’s catalogue, you know it’s really hard to argue with St. Vincent being worthy of a spot in the featured album spotlight, ’cause not only is it St. Vincent’s most complete album to date, it’s widely recognized as the album where Annie Clark gave over to her musical alter ego and became St. Vincent.

It’s fitting then, that the cover art for St. Vincent features the artist essentially claiming her throne in all its plastic pink glory. After all, St. Vincent (with its meticulously programmed dots and loops and gargantuan guitar sound) is the album that introduced the world to the edgy, experimental art pop sounds of St. Vincent who, prior to the release of hit singles like “Digital Witness” and “Birth In Reverse” had long held the title of indie rock’s best kept secret.

Equal parts art rock extravaganza and biting, socially conscious exploration of the digital age, St. Vincent found the artist giddily shedding the folkie vibes that frequently populated her previous three releases, and fully embracing the power-pop majesty that always seemed to be lingering just below the surface of her sound. The result was an album that was bigger, more boisterous, and more groove-worthy that anything St. Vincent had previously recorded.

It was also an album less concerned with the deep, intensely personal emotional landscapes that had permeated her previous releases, with St. Vincent instead embracing a larger canvas approach to pop – one fueled as much by piercing wit as by staunch emotionalism in its exploration of the isolation and anxiety running amok in a society consumed by a vacuous digital realm.

The 11 tracks that form the heart and soul of St. Vincent are as wrapped in vapid social pathos as they are in slyly subversive song craft, feverishly fuzzed-out guitar riffs, and endlessly infectious beats. It was a sound that Annie Clark herself described as, “a party record you could play at a funeral.” And yes, as St. Vincent‘s sprawling sonic narrative unfolds, you’ll frequently find yourself smirking with delight, fighting back a tear, and banging your head all in the same moment. You’ll also find yourself tapping your toes fighting the urge to shake your rump.

My best advice to you is to embrace all of those instincts, and let the mirthful madness of St. Vincent do what it’s designed to do – consume you body and soul, and spit you back into the world ready to reshape it as you see fit.

Now, who’s ready to have a look at October’s deep dive selection – aka St. Vincent’s oft-overlooked debut album Marry Me.

Marry Me (2007)

Before I get started on St. Vincent’s stirring debut Marry Me, I’ll tell you that I’d never listened to this album prior to it showing up in my October Bandbox. Like so many listeners out there, St. Vincent was actually my entry point into Annie Clark’s sonic realm. After crossing that threshold, I’ve essentially been listening to her albums in reverse order, which is not always the best way to go about getting into an artist’s work. When it comes to a shape-shifting sort of musician like St. Vincent, however, charting her work in reverse makes as much sense as the opposite.

And so it was that after being bowled over by St. Vincent‘s predecessor Strange Mercy, I found myself feeling slightly underwhelmed by the uneven tones of Annie’s sophomore effort Actor, which made me a bit apprehensive of taking on St. Vincent’s endearingly titled debut Marry Me. In fact, I never actually got around to listening to it, and have instead spent the last few years reveling in the empyreal pop grandeur of St. Vincent whenever I wanted to get down in St. Vincent town. And frankly, St. Vincent is such a towering indie pop achievement it makes it difficult to imagine any other St. Vincent album could measure up.

Anyway, that’s the sort of the logic that led to my never getting around to listening to St. Vincent’s debut. That was entirely my loss as it happens, because Marry Me is an uncut gem of a debut rife with all the passion, precision, and pop-tinged precociousness one would expect in a St. Vincent album.

That being said, one look at the doe-eyed Annie on the cover of Marry Me is enough to tell you the album a very different sort of beast in the St. Vincent oeuvre – one that finds a young musician exploring a wide variety of styles and sounds in search of something that sticks. But Marry Me is hardly the formative sort of work you’d imagine it to be from the artist who would unleash St. Vincent on the world just a few years later. In fact, every style and sound Annie Clark explores throughout Marry Me sticks. So much so that – even if Marry Me lacks the visceral bite of a St. Vincent or Masseduction – the album still feels as fresh, and as vital as any St. Vincent album that’s followed. Most surprisingly, Marry Me is just as much fun to listen to.

So I guess shame on me for waiting so long to engage with St. Vincent’s sparkling debut Marry Me. And a hearty thank you to Team Bandbox for forcing my hand this month.

A Cardboard Box For Sharing Music

Bandbox is chiefly concerned with living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition, not to mention their rep as the deep dive record club. With two full length albums inside, it absolutely lives up to both concepts. What’s so cool about Bandbox is that the founders fully understand that part of “sharing” music also means sharing discourse. The two magazines included in every month’s box are all about sharing thoughts and insights not just into the songs that form the selected albums, but the artists who recorded them.

But before we get into those zines, we should take a moment to remind folks that Bandbox’s swag game has been quite strong to date. October is no different with the inclusion of this insert from Masseduction era Annie. And that slick logo sticker will certainly remind folks that Bandbox’s logo game is quite strong as well.

Now, on to those zines! To the surprise of no-one, the Bandbox crew have put together another kick ass slate of content this month that should provide more than a little insight for both longtime St. Vincent fans and those just now coming into the fold. First up, a wonderfully insightful, track by track breakdown of St. Vincent, complete with another killer round of album-themed artwork from Bandbox illustrator Cou Feis.

While the “Fan Talks” zine continues to capture the vibe of having a late night conversation with a couple of buddies about an album you adore, it also serves as a pitch-perfect primer for the deep dive artist breakdown you’ll find in each month’s “Band Dox.” This month’s “Dox” also features some truly jaw-dropping photos if St. Vincent in her natural habitat – i.e. on stage shredding.

Now, let’s have look inside those sleeves arleady, shall we? First up is St. Vincent’s debut Marry Me, which finds a delightfully earnest Annie front and center on the cover.

For those who wish to sing along with every track on Marry Me, there’s a printed insert with full lyrics. There’s album credits on the flip side as well, though you should note that Ms. Clark pretty much did everything on her debut.

And if you’re wondering about the vinyl, it’s black, and it’s oh so beautiful.

Of course, with her fourth album St. Vincent, Annie was out to claim the throne of legit indie pop ingenue. Clearly, she’s become quite comfortable in that seat.

You can’t tell all that well from the pics, but that is some sweet, sweet embossed lettering on the cover.

Now, we’re betting most of you already know the words to the 12 track on St. Vincent. But just in case you’re a little fuzzy on a particular word or verse, there’s a printed inner with a full lyric breakdown included.

There’s also some pretty groovy artwork on the other side of that insert.

And don’t forget to claim your download code! ‘Cause we guarantee you St. Vincent is an album you’ll want to have pumping through your headphones on a very regular basis.

As for the wax, there’s another black beauty tucked inside that sleeve.

Battle Of The Bandbox

Here’s the thing, there’s two new records in every single Bandbox. While it’s truly marvelous that the B-box team is doubling down on the wax every month, subscribers are certain to find themselves in the unique position of choosing a favorite between the pair. In all honesty, that was harder than ever this month, if only because St. Vincent quite literally feels like a different artist from one album to the next. As the game-changing St. Vincent is the album that first exposed listeners to the sonic realm of St. Vincent (myself included), it seemed the likely pick to win our October Battle when this month’s Bandbox arrived. But in a shocking turn of events, I’m crowning St. Vincent’s stunner of a debut Marry Me (in all its exquisitely experimental, jazz-folk/not quite noise rock majesty) this month’s champ.

Trust me when I say that I’m as surprised as anyone by this choice. I mean, St. Vincent is legitimately the sort of soul-stirring indie pop banger Annie Clark was put on this Earth to make. But my guess is if you take chance and dive into Marry Me with an open mind and a eager ear, you’ll be as entranced by the songs therein as much as I was. So give it up to October’s Battle of the Bandbox surprise champ, Marry Me!

It’s the Bandbox You Want, And The Bandbox You Need

Look, the so-called “vinyl boom” is not gonna fade away anytime soon. If you’re one of the many who have found themselves giddily wrapped up in the madness, you already aware there are a million and one different options for getting your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, I also understand that subscription vinyl clubs are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.

If you’re looking to round out that collection a little sooner than later, a vinyl club that’s down to send you two worthy records every month is a pretty good way to go. With Bandbox delivering high-quality pressings of albums by popular artists, they’re giving you a chance to both grow your collection with killer popular discs and discover deep dive treats you might’ve overlooked. That savvy mix of quality and variety should make it easy for diehard vinyl fans and newbs alike to board the Bandbox bandwagon. Make sure you get on board today!

A huge THANKS to the folks at Bandbox for sponsoring this subscription. If you like what you’ve seen here, you can head over to the official Bandbox website and sign up to have a sexy new Bandbox delivered to your own front door every single month. So begins the angsty wait to see what Team Bandbox is boxing up for November!

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