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Strange Mercy, the beguiling new album from St. Vincent, is an unsparing examination of personal catharsis cloaked in some of the most sublime music of Annie Clark's career. "Many of the songs are about wanting relief from pain, and searching high and low for release," attests Clark. Such powerful emotions prompted - demanded, really - not just a bracingly candid lyrical style but a new musical approach. St. Vincent's acclaimed 2007 debut album Marry Me was created almost entirely on a laptop; the exquisite follow-up, 2009's Actor, was a collection of arrangements fashioned into ornately structured songs. Strange Mercy, she says, is different. "I just wrote the songs first and didn't worry about the embellishments. On the last album, I could play about three songs by myself on guitar. On this album, I can play every song that way."