There's something about Annie Clark's laugh that makes her seem older than she is. With its genuine, genteel sparkle, it's how one would hope to laugh at a joke told by the Queen ... or by Michael Caine.
Or maybe it's just the fact that at 25, the multi-instrumentalist, who performs under the name St. Vincent, has the kind of life experience it takes most people a lifetime to rack up. She got her first taste of touring at 14, as a roadie for her aunt and uncle, jazz duo Tuck and Patti. With Tuck and Patti, Clark saw Japan, China and a good chunk of Europe, and began to develop her musical prowess along the way.
"Really, music I heard from a young age was across the board," Clark says. In her early teens, as she was becoming an avid jazz fan, she was also falling in love with Sleater-Kinney and Sonic Youth. "I've always found that it was pretty easy for me to assimilate things that I heard," she says. "I could imprint by listening, and whatever I played or sang, that influence would just naturally come out." As a result, St. Vincent's music is a seamless blend of Astrud Gilberto's loungy sophistication, Deerhoof's quirkiness and Woody Allen's satirical wit. (Clark's been listening to Allen's Stand Up Comic a lot lately.)
More recently, she had a stint with the Polyphonic Spree, and toured as a member of Sufjan Steven's band. In 2007, she released her first full-length, Marry Me, and showed off her musical dexterity by not only producing the record, but also playing about 14 different instruments, everything from guitar and keyboards to dulcimer and xylophone.
Between the title (copped from an episode of Arrested Development) and the cover -- which features Clark against a stark background, eyes wide, as if waiting for the answer to the title's question -- it's not surprising that the record is a slick combination of romance and bite. In the disjointed opener, "Now Now," Clark sweetly promises, "I'll make you sorry," and in "What, Me Worry," she channels Billie Holiday while describing love as "a blood match to see who endures / lash after lash."
Walking the fence between romance and harsh reality comes naturally for Clark. She balances romantic and pragmatic realism as effortlessly as she mixes her influences. "I want to make light of it all," Clark says, letting a hint of laughter glitter under her words. "There is a definite sense of humor undercutting my own earnestness."
St. Vincent with Foreign Born. 8 p.m. Mon., Feb. 25. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $12. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org