When St. Vincent — a.k.a. Annie Clark — announced her upcoming Fear The Future Tour last week, it sure sounded like a precursor to her first new album since 2014's awesome St. Vincent. In many ways, that record felt career-defining: As catchy as it was artistically bold and ambitious, it also cemented Clark's status as one of rock's greatest living guitarists. (Speaking of tours, St. Vincent's performances in support of that record were downright mind-blowing.)
Now, as days of Internet rumors have suggested, Clark has a new single to add to the slow trickle of buildup. But "New York" takes a sharp left turn from St. Vincent, starting with the disappearance of the guitars around which so much of her sound has revolved; in their place is a lovely piano part, some dramatic strings and even a grand, layered chorus of voices. In spots, it conjures images of Tori Amos' alternately tender and twisted intimacy.
The song feels bold in other ways, too: Whereas Clark's albums tend to cast her as a forbidding, even impenetrable figure, "New York" betrays an undercurrent of melancholy and personal loss. "You're the only mother****** in the city who can stand me," she sings, and the words sting harder for the gentility of the sounds surrounding her. "New York" doesn't feel like a breakup song so much as a song sung in a just-distant-enough aftermath — a reflection tinged less with regret than with loving resignation. When you're working through the five stages of grief, there are worse conclusions to reach than "For you, darling, I'd do it all again."