David Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This Giant – album review

David Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This Giant (4AD)
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The first collaboration between David Byrne & St. Vincent is the brass inflected Love This Giant. One of our newer writers, Soph Lord, has been listening to the album for us & here’s her thoughts on it.

David Byrne: Musician, Artist, Bicycle enthusiast and notoriously awkward dancer. Known to occasionally don the odd over-sized suit or even sport a white tutu when the mood strikes. St. Vincent: A Berklee Music College Drop-out whose musical output has been described as \’teetering between happiness and madness’ all at once. However, St. Vincent herself claims to be going for a more \’panic-attack-set-to-music’ vibe. What happens when you combine all of this eccentricity and then add a funky brass section? \’Love this Giant’ is what happens, a collaborative work between David Byrne and St. Vincent and the sum of all the collective madness.

In reality, this review need only be one phrase long as David Byrne and St. Vincent’s brainchild can be accurately described in just two words: Truly Magnificent. However, their superb effort is worth further dissection.

Despite being a massive David Byrne fan myself (so much so that I have some of his lyrics etched across my back forever more, and no, before you ask, they do not merely state \’Psycho Killer’!), I was completely unaware of his intentions to release an album with St. Vincent, an artist who he is very much a fan of. In fact my first introduction was completely by chance upon stumbling across the fantastic music video for first single \’Who’, the album’s jerky opener. And what an opening – jumping and jolting from section to section, in a manner very similar to Byrne’s trademark dance moves, \’Who’ sees the horn section’s intermingling riffs providing a danceable foundation for Byrne’s wonderfully expressive vocals to lead the track asking an endless barrage of bizarre questions beginning with \’Who’, including my own personal favourite \’Who’s THIS!? Inside of me.’ All of this is greatly complimented by St. Vincent’s cool, airy vocals that float graciously in response to Byrne’s tourettes-esque outbursts. For those who dare, the track is available for free download here. Be warned, however, much like an unrelenting predator, when this track has you in clutches, it will not let go.

\’Ice Age’, led by St. Vincent, proves another highlight of the album ”“ with Annie Clark’s voice soaring elegantly and proving appropriately icy and ultimately refreshing. One of Annie Clark’s strengths throughout this record is her ability to pull off stunning multi-layered harmonies and \’Ice Age’ features the most spectacular example of this, leaving the listener with a case of the chills themselves.

Two of the more conventional, or perhaps more easily digestible, tracks on the album come in the form of \’Lazarus’ and \’One Who Broke Your Heart’, however this greater accessibility is at no sacrifice to quality. \’One Who Broke Your Heart’ sees Byrne’s voice at its most menacing and threatening, whilst the musical accompaniment remains very reminiscent of Talking Heads tune \’Nothing But Flowers’, with the flaring horn section of the chorus provisionally transporting the listener to a South American fiesta. Emotive epic \’Lazarus’ has the pairing sharing the vocal duties and contains some of the lyrical highlights of the album, with Byrne’s vocal delivery conveying real, passionate emotion, whilst St. Vincent’s vocals seem to sooth the angry undertones and accusations contained within Byrne’s voice.

Whilst the decision to orchestrate the songs around a brass section may have seemed a tad unconventional on paper, in practice David Byrne and St. Vincent have managed to do more than just make it work, they have made it succeed spectacularly. The horns add a sinuously sexy and seductive vibe to the tracks, with interlocking parts creating rich textures that ensure the ear is in a permanent state of arousal, meanwhile the listener’s head is kept bobbing courtesy of the many strong, pulsating grooves throughout the album.

Like Bread and Butter, some things in life are meant to be together ”“ after listening to \’Love this Giant’, it seems that the powerful combination of David Byrne and St. Vincent proves no different. The pairing is simply meant to be and, put bluntly, this record is similarly meant to be in your collection.

All words by Soph Lord.

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