By ELI JACE >
Annie Clark tries to pogo the sadness away on new album.
For a few weeks I couldn’t find anything about St. Vincent’s new album, Masseduction. Her fifth album was to be the follow-up to 2014’s self-titled, a perfectly sculpted set of songs that brought new awareness, critically and commercially, to St. Vincent and headmistresses, Annie Clark. How could one of the year’s most anticipated releases not be searchable? Simple. Because when I looked at the title I saw, Mass e d u c a t i o n. An art-rock album about the dangers of state-sanctioned curriculum? Alright. Whatever you say. Eventually I squinted and figured it out. Clark has said the confusion of the title was a benefit because she wanted a very fluid meaning. Cheeky girl.
Musically, Masseduction works in the same room as self-titled.
She recorded with Jack Antonoff, currently one of pop music’s main men, so there’s an electric punch to every track, but the sound remains the same. The incense smoke of recent collaborator David Byrne still lingers. Big funky drums, horns and tempos that pick you off the chair. But Clark also finds sad melodies to tarnish the flame of love lost. Don’t ever fall for a model, subtext, [famous person]. She hurts here, too.
“Hang On Me” lurks into the room to start the album. It’s a drunken waltz of a song. Clark sings her heart raw over bruised keyboards, trying to will a lover to stay put. “Pills” is the two-step marching ode to pharmaceuticals. Clark makes catchy a list of all the prescriptions needed to make a society run and function in peak modern times.
One thing we don’t have yet is a pill that makes you play guitar like Clark.
Her unhinged playing continues to be a strong highlight on the album, following the distorted carnage of St. Vincent. The wordplay continues with, “Los Ageless,” about the tightly manicured lifestyles of the city its title mocks. And boy, is it seduuuuuctive. An outright cold slap in the face. Clark sings of candy-colored regret as she tries “to write you a love song.”
The album title track is far and away the best song here. Clark finds an earworm singing, “I can’t turn off what turns me on” — a phrase we should all live by. It’s a noisy guitar-ladened crush of a pop song. Clark whimpers in sexual grievance and the bass slaps down with heat.
In an instant the first tones of “New York” sound like it’s a beauty.
In big orchestral waltzes Clark sings about old times on the NYC grid and how people always seem to be on the move. On “Fear the Future” she seeks answers like she’s standing defiant before the man behind the curtain as a techno-lazered beat drills from start to finish. Rated song most likely to blow the festival crowd up. “Smoking Section” is a dramatic piano ballad where she contemplates suicide as retribution, but submits, hopelessly, to love.
Masseduction is filled with exciting songs and Clark finds a new quivering low in her tone, but it’s not nearly as solid start to finish, as St. Vincent. It’s a mere half-step from that album, but easily ranks as one of the best put out in 2017.