St. Vincent – “Year of the Tiger”

One of the perks of being my father’s daughter.

I was born on July 27th, which makes me a Leo. I don’t “do” astrology–with the one exception of the time that I had the biggest crush on this one guy and I looked up my horoscope desperately hoping that it’d be like “Go get ‘im tiger!” (Lion?) but that never happened–

Anyway.

My father’s fond of giving me and my sister little nicknames, like “Big Bird” and “Little Bird,” but my favorite dad-bestowed nickname is, hands down, “Leo.” I suppose it’s close enough to my real name that the moniker makes sense while being astrologically appropriate (in my sister’s case, Emily =/= Taurus). Whatever the case may be, I’ve always had a positive and strong association between young women and big cats.

It is with this anecdote that I delve into what makes “Year of the Tiger” by St. Vincent such a beautiful song.

I’d been listening to a couple of tracks off of “Strange Mercy” on and off since the album came out. I’d never really listened to St. Vincent before, even though I have “Marry Me” (Arrested Development!), but then I watched the video for “Cruel” and was hooked on the catchy bass and Annie Clark’s tender but tough voice.

Yet I’d never listened through the whole of “Strange Mercy”; I would usually get stuck after “Cheerleader” and then switch to something else.

Then the other day, my boss was driving us to work and she put on KCRW, which is apparently, to paraphrase her, so my jam. And this sound, this beautifully heavy and lush and percussive sound, came on the radio. Cue lyrics:

When I was young, Coach called me the tiger…

My interest was piqued. And when the chorus kicked in, Living in fear in the year of the tiger, I had one of those “Oh shit!” moments, because I knew I had heard/read that phrase, “year of the tiger,” somewhere before. I Shazam’ed that shit, and lo and behold, St. Vincent.

After I got to work, I played the song again and again, trying to understand what about the song was so magnetic. Part of it has to be how the percussion and some spacey vocals kick off the song, but the selling point of the tune, so to speak, is about two-thirds through, when the drums build up and Clark launches into the final chorus.

For me, there’s always one point in a song where things just CLICK, and that’s the place for me. The bass gets so gnarly, and the juxtaposition of the background harmonies against Clark’s higher range gives me shivers, especially when it’s playing through the substantial speakers of good headphones or a car (laptop speakers, not so much).

Beyond that, I’ll always have a soft spot for album closers (and openers, but that’s a post for another day). There’s something about the silence after a great ending track plays that adds a certain resonance to the tune, no matter how good or bad within the context of the album it actually is.

With that, I’ll leave you with a video of St. Vincent’s live performance of “Year of the Tiger.” It sounds a lot poppier/summery live, or as poppy/summery as St. Vincent can ever possibly sound. Clark’s vocals are a lot more languid at the start, but the way they start to rough off toward the end of the song is golden. I dig the tinkling stuff at the end too.

(Image: After The Heist by Patrick Leger)

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