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Miraculous Axes: St. Vincent on Her New Album and Being the 93rd Greatest Guitarist Ever

St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark.
Tina Tyrell

All hail Annie Clark, indie rock's patron saint of distortion and raw spirit.

Clark, known by fans as St. Vincent, is set to make her Miami debut at the Stage on Thursday. But just because she's new to South Florida doesn't mean this lady hasn't been around the block. Three records deep into an already acclaimed career, the 29-year-old singer and rock 'n' roller was even recently recognized for her ax-handling skills, being named the 93rd best guitar player ever by Spin magazine. But it hasn't gone to her head one bit.

"If you're going to make a list of 100 greatest guitar players, you're going to leave off thousands and thousands and thousands of amazing guitar players," she says. "And you're going to accidentally put on some guitar players who you think, Yeah, maybe. Maybe, not actually. So a list is kind of pointless. But I appreciate the nod."

As a master of her instrument and a writer of songs, she pulls away from the crowd with her relentless penchant for sonic experimentation.

"I think that with the last record I made, a record called Actor, I was trying to take organic instruments and make them sound and feel synthetic," Clark explains. "With this newest record, Strange Mercy, I was trying to take synthetic instruments and make them feel organic."

Her records aren't just a handful of emotional songs played on guitar or halfhearted forays into electronic effects. They're deeply focused, carefully cultivated attempts to challenge the audience's expectations. "I think anything is fair game with a sonic palette," she insists. "I just want to take some of my favorite bits of music and then try to mix them in a way that feels fresh for your ear."

Though her inclination to push the aural envelope has won over critics and fans alike, she isn't really seeking awards and adoration. Her creativity is not driven by praise but by an inner artistic vision. "It's more rewarding for me to take a conventional form and turn it on its ear slightly and see if you can't breathe a little bit of new life into it," Clark explains.

"I tend to think of songs as people. If you have a person who has their head, torso, arms, feet, and hands, you can put any kind of clothes on it and you'll still be a sound, solid person. Musically, you can do that too. As long as you have the song, you can dress it any way you want. You can style it however you want. And it'll still be whole."

With Strange Mercy, Clark continued to push herself musically. She wrote much of the album while hiding out in Seattle, simply seeking to escape media attention and the hectic nature of everyday life. Somewhat ironically, the release has quickly become her most successful to date, peaking at number 19 on the Billboard 200 chart.

"It seems like this record is really resonating with people, and that's reflected in the bigger shows and the really awesome energetic crowds," Clark says. "I couldn't be happier."

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