By Tyler Keown
When the announcement of Annie Clark (of St. Vincent) and David Byrne doing a collaborative album together came about, eyebrows were raised. Both artists are highly regarded for their individuality and willingness to break through genres to create unique sounds. As evident in David Byrne’s “Like Humans Do” and St. Vincent’s “Save Me From What I Want,” both artists can be self-involved, deriving art from their idiosyncrasies and bad habits. The idea of the two of them working together, however initially enticing it may have been, was a cause for concern. Would they even sound good together?
Turns out the answer is a horn-filled yes.
Because both artists are known for their unique voices, their album, “Love This Giant,” works as a balancing act. The album opens on the track “Who,” in which both artists sing to create an interesting harmony. But after it ends, the album alternates back and forth between Byrne and Clark, only popping up occasionally to sing backup for the other.
From a sound perspective, the album seems to be more influenced by Byrne. Each song features an entire brass section that often plays in sporadic, blunt blasts to emphasize what the vocalist is singing. Most songs are up-tempo, which works with the horns to create a feeling of summer and warmth, even in the track titled “Ice Age.”
The back-and-forth between the two artists is a large part of what makes this album so fun to listen to. David Byrne’s voice has a slight tinge of crazy, much subdued from his days in the Talking Heads, but it is still very audible if you listen. Like in her other albums, Clark’s voice is still soft and melodic; at times, it is nearly motherly.
The juxtaposition between the two doesn’t end there, though. Byrne is 30 years older than his partner, creating a sense of bold naivety whenever Clark sings. This is largely evident in the back-to-back tracks of “The Forest Awakes” and “I Should Watch TV.”
The first is a swelling adventure in which Clark sings about being there when her friends need her. The song, one of the best in “Love This Giant,” changes keys dramatically halfway through, and Clark’s voice becomes drowned out by the moaning horns building behind her. It’s achingly personal and one of the only times we hear the trademark St. Vincent-style electric guitar.
Then “I Should Watch TV” plays and you hear Byrne muse about how he should watch TV more to help him understand those around him. It’s a much different perspective; this is a man looking at his life and casually trying to solve problems.
This difference is what the album is all about. These are two artists with widely different experiences and ideas, but they’re able to put their individual puzzle pieces together without the use of glue or too much effort.