Ladies and Gentlemen, after a slew of interesting teaser videos involving strange social mercy via YouTube, St. Vincent is thankfully on her way back to our eardrums and has released a download of a song off her upcoming third release, Strange Mercy, called “Surgeon” for free via the promotional website for the album.
First, let’s get things straight: everything about the structure and composition of this song is beautiful. Instruments, vocals, and mixing aspects of the song all play off of each other in that subtle way that allows everything to be brought together to make a track that sounds consistent. Different musical phrasing varies drastically depending on where you are throughout the track, becoming warm and laid back to busier and more aggressive. It’s all done in pieces with a guitar, sometimes played jazz style and sometimes sounding more funk, giving itself the lead position in designating when a section of the song ends and when it begins, giving warnings through the ending of phrases through changes in how it’s being utilized. There’s a cool effect at the end of the track that causes it to insanely oscillate and drop off to end the track. Various pauses throughout the musical composition lend hands to allowing smooth transitions.
The strongest example of the strong arrangement comes at the beginning of the track where layers of vocals melodically soar above airy synth chords and as the vocals drop out, they give way for St. Vincent to deliver the opening line of the first verse, which is where we segue into the next section of musical masterpiece, the lyrics. “I spent the summer on my back” is the polysemous opening line, giving way for operating table, sexual innuendo, and just plain summer laziness interpretations, amongst any others you could think of. Lots of meanings could lyrically apply to a song with a hook that consists of one phrase: “The best, finest surgeon can’t cut me open”.
If we cut open the mixing aspect of “Surgeon,” we find a lot of time spent on ensuring the vocals and guitars are at the forefront and sounding great, while the drums, strings, synths, and other aspects of the song are supporting, but still give away great presence. There is an interesting synth that comes in to compliment the repeated vocal phrase “get along” that sounds quite abrupt through the left speaker, probably in part with how the envelopes were set on the synth settings. It throws off the stereo balance a small bit, but nothing too terribly noticeable unless you’re listening closely through headphones. However, at a 192kbps free MP3 giveaway, we can’t exactly dive too deep into what went on through the engineering aspect. As always, we’ll save this for the album review.
It’s an extremely unique blend of sounds that gives us a little bit Kanye West experimentation, or something as summery and warm as a Goapele record, while giving us some of the best lyrics we’ve seen all year. Bring on Strange Mercy, St. Vincent. We’re ready for it.
Track rating: 4/5
Click here to be directed to St. Vincent’s promo website for the new record and get your free copy of “Surgeon”!