St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) is an artist who plays with form rather than popularity. Her music is often robotic, frantic and upbeat — meaning it’s tons of fun and recklessness without the emotion. MASSEDUCTION, is all the electronic artistry but this time tenderness pushes its way through.
The album is about love, heartbreak and drugs. The first song introduces us to the dichotomy of the album, ‘Pills’. It’s playful, with a sing-song chorus and a great mini-guitar solo. The song feels very St Vincent until the experience gets flipped at the end and the electronic beat transforms into a sweet, long guitar strum. The song becomes Beatles-esque, Clark’s voice becomes tender as she sings out to us: ‘come all you wasted, wretched and scorned ... come join the war.’ Now we know how this album is going to go. Now we know two musical identities Clark will inhabit. There’s also a steamy saxophone ending to the song.
Clark has said that this is her most personal album yet. And for the first time, I really do feel invited into her life experiences, as opposed to just the surreal artistic landscape of her mind. The best songs on the album are the ones which embody both the crazy robotic sound she’s known for and the vulnerability she is introducing us to.
‘Savior’ does this exceptionally. It starts with a funky beat, clear vocals — it’s stripped back and synthetic. ‘I can’t be your savior ... dress me in leather, that’s a little better’ Clark spits out, almost spoken word-like. Then the chorus comes in and the song transforms into a romantic epic. ‘But then you say, please.’ The whole chorus is that one sad six-letter word but it’s enigmatic hearing Clark sing it, a wave in her delivery.
Transitioning from ‘Savior’ to ‘New York’ (another tender tune) is lovely both musically and thematically. When ‘Savior’ deals with Clark being unable to take on the role other people want from her, in ‘New York’ she mourns the loss of ‘the only motherfucker in this city who can handle [her].’
This album is not exactly easy-listening. The execution of the passionate, acoustic moments is so good that it will grab your attention back and make you really feel it. That’s not to say that there aren’t any purely pop beats to enjoy. ‘Young Lover’ is a fun, poppy tune with just the right amount of guitar and electronics in the concoction. ‘Masseduction’ is a glamorous song with the timely lyrics ‘I can’t turn off what turns me on’ — which I can just see being everyone’s caption on Instagram for the next couple of months.
All in all, MASSEDUCTION is classically a St. Vincent album, with a little extra. Whether this one will become a cult hit, like the previous album, is hard to pick. But, give it a listen, it’s worth letting yourself open up to its emotion.