There’s something fitting about the revelation that Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) discovered David Byrne’s music through the pre-Urkel movie masterpiece Revenge of the Nerds. Left-field pop is awash in nerds, but Clark and Byrne are both known for geeking out to the max over the minutiae (both technical and thematic) of their songs.
Love This Giant, their unlikely collaboration, is no uprising, but it’s a fascinating exercise in combining two artists who—like the musical equivalents of capers and lychee—have pungent, wholly individual aesthetics. Rising from stuttering brass-band arrangements and crisp beats, the songs have an angular, knock-kneed energy that feels spiritually in synch with the polyrhythmic freakouts and new wave jams that dominate Byrne’s catalogue.
Clark’s influence on the arrangements is less obvious, save for a gloriously unhinged, tooth-rattling guitar breakdown in the coda of “The Forest Awakes.” But partly because these backdrops feel like less familiar territory for her, the moments when she assumes lead vocal duties are the most interesting: On “Ice Age,” her voice glides over a warm, spongy surface like a water bug, and on “Optimist,” the album’s most conventionally pretty song, her sung melody acts as the accompaniment for a lovely swirl of brass in the front of the mix.
As a whole, the album doesn’t gel—too often, you can hear the jarring contrast between Byrne’s caffeinated oddball vibe and Clark’s laser-focused detachment—but as a collection of dynamic experiments by two of the most talented and visionary nerds making music today, it gets a solid A.
Playlist picks: “Lazarus,” “The One Who Broke Your Heart,” “Optimist”
David Byrne and St. Vincent play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (190 Princes’ Blvd.) on Sept. 20.