Posted November 15, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

LOVE THIS GIANT | David Byrne & St. Vincent

Independent solo artist St. Vincent and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne released the long-awaited collaborative album Love This Giant on September 11, 2012.

The unity of aesthetics and content in Byrne’s newest collaboration, plus Clark and minus his usual partner Brian Eno, innovates with easily recognizable elements of urban music. This is executed without the fragmentation that marks even some of the best genre-crossing album efforts in recent years. Consistent presence of brass, guitar, and vocal harmonies throughout the dozen tracks on Love This Giant allow the listener to explore an ample array of rhythmic and lyrical surprises while remaining grounded in a familiar setting.

Keyboards and minimal synthesizers link a framework of live and electronic drums in the duo’s well-designed tour of New York’s rich musical history. Like an intersection of new and old buildings on a city block, jazz, musical theater, new wave and hip hop occupy a cohesive space with its own name and life. Lyrics lock into the soundscape with precision. Vignettes change within songs as well as from song to song, and also repeat rhythmically throughout Giant’s varied yet concise storytelling. Narratives and music together seem “unstuck” in time and guided by a lucid consciousness.

Equal artistic prowess and accessible packaging govern the arrangement of the track listing. The first song released, “Who,” is also the opening song. Its lyrics are a series of questions punctuated with a cycle of horns, drum kit, and electric guitar.  Giant begins with Byrne welcoming the audience into the collaboration. “Who’ll be my valentine? Who’ll lift this heavy load? Who’ll share this taxi cab? Who wants to climb aboard?” Clark answers, “Who is an honest man?” At once, listeners are bombarded with a representative sample of Clark and Byrne’s combined sound, and gently invited into a new way of processing sounds and ideas.

The title of track two, “Dinner for Two,” reminds the listener of the dual creative effort that makes Giant so masterfully balanced. Byrne’s loud, clear proclamation that,“Tanks outside the bedroom window will be okay with the curtain closed,” is preceded and followed by both vocalists melodically humming, “There’s something I should tell you/But we are never alone.”

More questions follow throughout “Dinner for Two”, questions with occasional answers show up again in the first line and refrain of the next song, “Ice Age.” Clark asks a newly-introduced character, “Old dime man, where have you been?”  Transitions between songs are so seamless, that “Dinner for Two” and “Ice Age”, and each song after, seem like a continuous piece of music.

The two artists generally take turns leading each song. Clark takes the vocal lead on “Weekend in the Dust”, “Ice Age,” “Optimist”, and “The Forest Awakes” which are separated by “I Am An Ape”, “I Should Watch TV” and “Lazarus” where verses feature Byrne. Equal writing efforts are obvious to fans who follow both artists’ work.

The final song “Outside of Space and Time” is the closest thing to a traditional duet ballad on Love This Giant. Like any good closing number, it brings the concepts and feeling of previous songs full circle and slows the pace in preparation for silence. However, Giant is designed for repeated spins. Track twelve easily transitions back to #1, if only to allow your ears to recover from their 44.3-minute odyssey enough to depart again—back through space and time.

By Cassandra Johnson-Villalobos