Collaborations are something to approach with caution, for every example where the combining artists bring out the best in each other (Iron & Wine and Calexico) there is another where the worst of both is brutally exposed (the appalling Lulu by Lou Reed and Metallica). The good news is that Love This Giant, the work of David Byrne and Annie Clark AKA St.Vincent, falls firmly into the former category and may well be my favourite album of the year so far.
Love This Giant has the sound of a true collaboration, both artists seemingly having an equal role in the creative process and performance here. There are a couple of moments where each could be guesting on the others record, ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Outside of Space and Time’ being the only songs credited to just Clark or Byrne on the album. On most tracks the sound is so cohesive that you’d think the pair had been working to together for much longer than the two years that it took to take this album from idea to public release.
Both artists come from an art school background, and have displayed tendancies in the past to let the concept crush the execution in their music, something that often leads to records that are moreinteresting than enjoyable. Love This Giant, from the opening seconds of the brilliant ‘Who’ shows itself to be a fun, high quality, set of pop music. It is clever and sophisticated, but never in a way that stops the music being accessible.
The decision to work with a brass band throughout proves to be a masterstroke, giving the album a clear identity. Combined with some brilliant guitar from Bryne and Clark, and some subtle drum programming you have an album that really does sound like nothing else you’ll hear this year.
It is hard to pick out key tracks on an album of such a consistantly high quality, but ‘The One Who Broke Your Heart’, featuring the Dap Kings and Antibalas, has “should have been a top 10 hit” written all over it.
Both parties seem to have been inspired by the collaboration, Clark sounds more natural and less mannered than on her solo work and this is the best thing that Byrne has done for years, even putting his most recent Eno collaboration in the shade.
By Dorian Rogers