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Breaking: St. Vincent

May 20, 2009 3:16 PM ET

Who: Wide-eyed Brooklyn pixie St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, who sings like an angel but shreds like a monster on her second album, Actor.

Sounds Like: "You know when music is so elegant it sounds like the clouds are parting and feathers are falling from the sky?" Clark tells Rolling Stone. "I'd juxtapose that with something really gross." For example, on the opening technicolor ballad "The Strangers," Clark adds a high-hat that comes in just behind the beat to make the song sound seasick. Whether shredding on a guitar with a wall of feedback or letting her choirgirl voice carry the song, St. Vincent's music is always seemingly on the verge of ecstasy or disintegration.

Vital Stats:

• While writing Actor, Clark would stay up all night watching Disney films like Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast in her Brooklyn apartment and dream up orchestral scores for her favorite scenes, only to distort them with her black humor lyrics and "intentional" mistakes to give the songs their caustic feel. "I once heard Nick Cave's guitarist play a tone that was so disgusting, it literally made me want to vomit," Clark says. "It was awesome."

• Clark grew up in Dallas in an Irish-Catholic family of eight siblings before attending the Berklee College of Music. From there, Clark toured as a member of fellow chamber-pop all-stars Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree. She released her debut album Marry Me in 2007.

• "I have this song called 'Laughing With a Mouth of Blood'Ëœit's a term that comics use for being able to take a joke that's insulting to you, like you're laughing through your own shame and humiliation. Sometimes I feel that way when I'm performing," Clark told RS. "Being uncomfortable — maybe I'm just more comfortable that way."

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Song Stories

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Talking Heads | 1985

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