As far as collaborations go, the fact that David Byrne (front man of the band The Talking Heads) and St. Vincent (songstress Annie Clark) have an album out together is kind of surprising. Though I've usually liked what I've heard, I've never been a big David Byrne follower, and St. Vincent has kind of flown under my radar thus far. What I do know about these two would have been enough to give me pause if someone a few years ago had told me, "Hey, these guys are going to put out an album together."
Truth be told, I can't quite recall where it was I first heard about Love This Giant. What I do know is that my friend Jason and I had a sort of back-and-forth about listening to it, one of us asking, "Hey, have you listened to that album yet?" and the other one responding, "No, but I really need to." Over and over again for about a month.
When I finally did put listening to it on my plate, it was one of those experiences that catch you off guard - like going to a foreign country, sitting down for dinner, and finding that the food doesn't want to make you vomit. In fact, the more you chew, the more you realize you like it. The first bite, the album's opening track "Who," was an instant bit of alt pop goodness. Serving as the album's first single, the song does its duty well, bringing in listeners with an easy to digest cadence and rhythm. It really showcases the way in which Byrne's and St. Vincent's voices mix, blending in harmony before breaking and braiding back together. It's catchy, the way singles should be, and it's a nice intro to the kind of music that these two are going to give you.
The majority of the songs here are mid-tempo beats with a few forays into quicker arrangements. Some of them lean more heavily on Byrne and others showcase St. Vincent. Listening to the album, you get the feeling that some of these songs are experiments - one of the most interesting things I noticed about the album was the strong presence of brass instruments. I later learned, in fact, that the album eschews the more traditional rock/pop sounds and instead primarily makes use of a 26-piece brass ensemble throughout.
Some of the more successful attempts (at least in my opinion) are songs like "Ice Age" and "I Should Watch TV." Another good one, "I Am an Ape," is a Byrne-centric track and sounds like something that could have sprung from Mark Ronson's album Version. "Lazarus" is, like "Who," a good example of how these two different voices can really work together.
Let it be said that not everything here works. At least not fully. But, at about 45 minutes, this isn't a meal you need to throw on the stove and let cook all day. Byrne and St. Vincent do a good job of keeping the album in check. Even people who aren't necessarily familiar with these two should at least sit down at the table and give this album a taste.