"We're just scampering down memory lane, aren't we?" says Annie Clark, the exuberantly talented singer-songwriter who makes music under the name St Vincent. In the 29-year-old's lyrical telling, her upbringing in a Dallas suburb was an idyllic one of road trips and long, sunny days by the pool, accompanied by a reliably eclectic soundtrack. "Texas is great for long car rides and that's how I ever experienced music," she recalls. "Then finally getting my own car and driving around with a six-pack of Keystone Light in the back praying you didn't get stopped by the cops. Suburbia has its charms." St Vincent's third album Strange Mercy is out now.
CHILDHOOD CAR JOURNEYS
The Royal Scam by Steely Dan (1976)
I grew up in Texas and we used to go to Padre Island, eight hours in the car down to the beach. The resort was built up in the 1960s and 70s, but my family were going there in the 1980s and 1990s so it was a little run-down and not very fancy. My dad used to love Steely Dan, the Stones, Jethro Tull and all that. There was always Steely Dan going in my dad's car, but I remember The Royal Scam in particular because it has "Kid Charlemagne" on it. There's that weird, deconstructed Larry Carlton guitar solo, which I finally learned in the last couple of years – it's just a fantastic guitar solo, probably the only one I know.
THE SONG THAT REMINDS ME OF TEXAS
"Fancy" by Reba McEntire (1991)
One of my favourite things about country music is that, at least until recently, you could always count on a solid story, a punchline and a pun. I think it has that in common with hip hop, where they're not afraid of wordplay and I really appreciate that. When I was a kid, we would drive up between Dallas and Tulsa quite a bit and we'd always pass through Kiowa, Oklahoma, where Reba was born. There was a big sign that read, "The birthplace of Reba McEntire" and we'd listen to "Fancy", such a wonderful song.
MY TEENAGE YEARS
Ten by Pearl Jam (1991); Pick Up by Solex (1999)
This one has to be divided into two parts. From the age of 10 to 13, the record that went everywhere with me – I guess I should say the tape and Walkman – was Pearl Jam's Ten, which came out when I was almost 10 myself. My stepmother got word there were F-bombs on it, so she tried to take it away, but I found it in her drawer. Then at high school, I got really into this Solex record called Pick Up. It was right around the time I started really doing theatre and hanging out with the weirdos and this record just reaffirmed my place in the world to myself, "Oh, I like weird music."
STRIKING OUT ON MY OWN
The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake (2006)
I started playing guitar when I was 12 and probably from that age knew that I wanted to make music and make my own music. Playing with other bands like the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens was more like an apprenticeship for me than anything. The Trials of Van Occupanther came out just as I was about to tour with Sufjan and I have very fond memories of listening to that record all over Europe. I had just finished my first album, Marry Me, and I could feel that things were starting up after a long period of working, writing, whatever. So I still get incredibly nostalgic when I hear that album and it's just a great record, it holds up.
THE SONG THAT TURNED ME ON TO JAZZ
"Moon Dreams" by Miles Davis (1950)
I must have been 15. My friend had a car and I remember driving around White Rock Lake near my house listening to this song I found on Birth of the Cool. It was one of those times when you are precocious and pretentious, and you feel that if you know something about jazz you have inherited the secret knowledge of the universe. There might have been marijuana involved. It felt like we were leaps and bounds above everyone in our level of consciousness but, looking back on it, I was just trying to show off.
THE SOUND OF SUMMER
The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973)
I have great memories of hanging out by the pool with my junior-high friends, summertime, someone's parents were out of town, listening to Pink Floyd. Usually it was my friend Katie and maybe her older brother or sister would have gotten us pot or terrible Lone Star beer or both. Or a screwdriver: Smirnoff vodka and orange juice. The thought of a screwdriver now is totally nauseating, but back then it would be, "Oh man, cool, we've got screeeew-drivers! We'll have fun today!" We'd be lying there: braces, vacillating between bony and chubby, so awkward, thinking, "We get Pink Floyd, this is so heavy." We were the top 1% for sure.