St Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
No point in wasting any time here. St. Vincent’s new album MASSEDUCTION is one of the best albums of the year and the best of her career.
For newcomers to the world of St. Vincent, it will sound like an ambitious, masterfully crafted work of avant-pop. And that’s enough to make it worthy.
For those who are already rusted on devotees to Annie Clark’s wondrous creative world, it will sound like the perfect, measured progression from her brilliant eponymous record of 2014. This is not a monumental detour for Clark, but it is still an ambitious progression, and she’s going in the right direction.
This is a record that refuses to be ignored. You can’t hear it without having an opinion of its value and quality, one way or the other. It works around the edges of pop, funk and rock, and yet, despite its dizzying diversity, MASSEDUCTION still sounds a remarkably focused album.
The ideas here just feel that tiny bit more ambitious than her previous work. The big moments hit harder (‘Pills’, ‘Los Ageless’), the low moments (‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’, ‘Smoking Section’) are more paining, and the pop moments (‘Hang On Me’, ‘Masseduction’) more brash and insidious than ever.
Clark sounds like she’s exorcising demons when she nails the soaring highs of ‘Young Lover’, you feel the anxiety coursing through her veins in the frenetic ‘Sugarboy’ and the pain of loss in ‘New York’ is oddly – but beautifully – counterbalanced by Clark’s unwillingness to regret the relationship that’s brought her to this place of solemn reflection.
The stilted, wonky groove that pumps through so much of her work is still here, as is the left-of-centre guitar shredding that’s been so key to much of her work in the past.
These aspects continue to display her hyper-adroit musicality, but on MASSEDUCTION they work in tandem with the skills and vision of producer Jack Antonoff (Fun, Bleachers).
Having two fiercely creative forces together is almost terrifying in its potential for weird compromise and overblown ideas that water down the ultimate concept for the song. While the very presence of Antonoff – whose recent writing credits include Pink, Taylor Swift and Troy Sivan – threatens to steer it into ‘palatable pop’ territory, it’s testament to both that this collaboration has resulted in music as weird and affecting as this.
Annie Clark is one of the world’s most exciting artists. Exciting in the same way that Talking Heads, Prince and Björk are exciting. You never knew what their next move would be, but when it’s made, it all just makes perfect sense.
Hopefully the day when we start to predict St. Vincent’s next move never comes. Her fans trust Clark to deliver music that engages, challenges, entertains and provokes an array of emotions. She’s done that again here, with greater success than ever before.