I’ve already come to the conclusion that Masseduction, St. Vincent’s latest, is a very good album. But that kind of goes without saying, since St. Vincent at this point has entered the small pantheon of modern artists who can be depended on to do something interesting with each new album, but while also being undeniably themselves. But is this the best St. Vincent album yet? That I’m not sure of, though it’s probably the most accessible St. Vincent album yet. Which I’m not trying to use as a backhanded compliment, since it still manages to be accessible in surprising and unconventional ways.
Namely, that on this release, Annie Clark seems to be peeling away a bit of the persona that she’s built upon on her last couple albums. It seemed appropriate that her last release, 2014’s St. Vincent, was self-titled despite not being her debut album. Because there, it seemed like she’d completed this transformation into this persona as a tech-obsessed rock star supervillain, and the music certainly reflected that. As always, confidence is an attribute I’d ascribe to both Annie Clark as a person as well as her music, and her last two St. Vincent releases seemed to reach the peak of her confidence in being artfully weird, and I’d say Masseduction is an extension of that, to an extent.
However, this time, it’s a kind of confidence in being more human. The effervescently poppy “Pills”, as well as the album’s title track, show a leniency towards sensuous debauchery. But at the same time, maybe the two best tracks on the album are its bare bones piano ballads – “Happy Birthday, Johnny” (which I assume is a sequel to St. Vincent‘s “Prince Johnny”) and “New York”. Both of which are songs about absent dudes, but also about the way your relationship with your home city changes over time based on the people who are in it.
Not that St. Vincent has ever been an artist to shy away from writing more personal songs, in addition to making herself into a kind of walking art project, not unlike David Bowie or David Byrne. Her lyrics have often walked that fine line of critiquing the coldness of modern life, while also exploring the messiness that lies beneath the order and control we seem to think we have in these particular times. And there’s probably a bit more order to Masseduction‘s production than previous St. Vincent releases – seeing as there’s less of the fuzzed-out guitar freakouts (though they’re still there), and more of a pop-based precision. But in that precision comes a kind of madness, that can’t help but come out as she seems to constantly be asking whether or not to fear the future.
Favorite Tracks: “Los Ageless”, “Happy Birthday, Johnny”, “New York”