Why is it that the world-breaking events always happen when I’m not at home? Case in point: as soon as I arrived at The Echo last night for The Paranoyds (another story for another time), my phone buzzed as if it would collapse under the onslaught of messages and notifications. What could inspire such urgency? Only the most important of matters. Namely, St. Vincent just released a new song.

Even in my bubble of music heads and journalists, this sort of fanfare is reserved only for the likes of Beyoncé or Radiohead dropping a surprise album. As my crew and I strained to hear “New York” for the first time through an iPhone speaker while dining on pizza at Two Boots after getting our ‘Noyd rage on, it hit me.

Annie Clark isn’t just another artist whose work we consume for our enjoyment or to make sense of ourselves and the world. At this point, she’s even transcended the idea of an enigma or post-modern rock star. Rather, Clark is an icon and game-changer. The urge to declare St. Vincent this generation’s David Bowie is reductive, but not without truth. After all, decades from now, her impact on music, fashion, film, the lives of fans and the world at large will prove similarly profound.

Now, how about that new single? Clark may have her signature Ernie Ball guitar, but she’s swapped the axe for keys. Yep, our favorite guitar innovator made her comeback with a piano ballad. As a result, the only reaction some diehards could muster is that they didn’t know what to make of “New York.” A piano ballad normally wouldn’t receive such scrutiny, but the one constant with St. Vincent is that her work commands attention and analysis while defying expectations and pushing the listener outside the zones of comfort and familiarity. The new single had to drop while I wasn’t at home, because that would have been too easy.

So, what happens next? Does “New York” reveal a different direction for the forthcoming album? Is it finished? When’s it coming out? Could the song actually be a case of a misleading first single? What’s in store for this upcoming tour in terms of sound, song, production, choreography, outfits and crowd-surfing, scaffolding-dangling feats of wonder? Why does that tour so cruelly skip the entirety of the west coast? But really these are only some of the questions raised by the latest work of today’s greatest artist.

Stream “New York” below.

Words and photos of St. Vincent at Green Man by Frank Mojica