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David Byrne & St. Vincent

Love This Giant (4AD)

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Oct. 5, 2012

Phases & Stages

David Byrne & St. Vincent

Love This Giant (4AD)

The spiraling, precocious collaboration of David Byrne and Annie Clark couldn't be better bookended. "Who" opens Love This Giant with a spark of horns that slides into the moody and aggressive back and forth of Byrne's contorted pop sensibilities and Clark's detached vocals. "Outside of Space & Time" closes with an epic love song extending the introverted microcosm of emotion into a sprawling combustion of universal relation. In between, the former Talking Head and the eclectic Texan songstress tumble atop an energized bed of brass – brash and invigorating at every turn. Though Clark's typically slanted guitar explosions are underutilized, her angular musical sensibility slots perfectly with Byrne's, culled together by the like-minded production of John Congleton, who layers world beats against the horned bass backbone. "Weekend in the Dust" positions Clark in the lead, punching hard-bitten lines challenging the whole project's dissection: "Once so mysterious/ Now decoded and used/ Now according to you/ What's so mysterious?" For his part, Byrne floats through the frustrations of connection on "Dinner for Two." That theme runs throughout, playing to the vagaries of emotion in Clark's depression-sunk "Ice Age" and hearkening Walt Whitman's cosmos not only in the album's title, but also the searching empathy that erupts with Byrne's staccato, Eighties delivery on "I Should Watch TV." When Clark and Byrne sing off of one another ("The One Who Broke Your Heart"), Love This Giant works best, even as the martial drive of "The Forest Awaits" and almost show-tuned "I Am an Ape" fall a bit flatter. Above all, this is an album of intensely dramatic arrangements, never allowing the listener to settle and continually rewarding anew. (David Byrne & St. Vincent hold court at Bass Concert Hall Friday, Oct. 5.)

****

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