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New sound helps album find its place

Image courtesy of Lorna Vista Album cover for "MASSEDUCTION"


Annie Clark released her fifth album as St. Vincent in 2017, titled “MASSEDUCTION” (pronounced “Mass Seduction”). The album cover is a visual representation of the wide range sounds you hear in this album. Electric neon colors, nearly Day-Glo vibrancy mixes with sexual images of a woman missing body parts. St. Vincent’s fifth album ventures out of the traditional guitar solos and disco rock that defined her earlier works and gives us a staticky pop vibe mixed in with haunting ballads.

St. Vincent delivers not only a musical album, but a story of ending relationships and feeling lonely. She does this with a variety of songs that range from the hypnotic, repetitive poppy chorus of “Pills,” to slow and heart pulling ballads such as “Dancing with a Ghost” and “New York.”

Sex runs throughout the album as a leitmotif linking the whispers of “Los Ageless” with the tremulous vocals of “New York” which serve to remind listeners of the vulnerability inherent in the stripped-down pieces, so far removed from the distortion that marked much of St. Vincent’s earlier work.

“MASSEDUCTION” includes work by Cara Delevigne (credited as Kid Monkey), St. Vincent’s ex-girlfriend, as featured on the track “Pills,” with Kamasi Washington on saxophone and Jenny Lewis on vocals. Jack Antonoff, who has also co-produced with Lorde and Taylor Swift, contributed to the new pop sound of St. Vincent.

“Masseduction,” the third track and name of the album main chorus, “I can’t turn off what turns me on,” has a guitar solo which feels like a clash between Clark’s old style and the new pop she has embraced.

“Young Lover” disguises the dark subject matter with its upbeat tempo, while “Happy Birthday Johnny” embraces its melancholy as St. Vincent tells us about the sad tale of an old friend or lover who is no longer with her.

“Dancing with a Ghost” is unique not only because it is an entirely instrumental piece, but because it serves to echo the title, “Mass Seduction,” a play on mass destruction. “Dancing with a Ghost” prefaces “Slow Disco,” a nearly silent piece that leaves listeners by themselves, dancing alone to their own beat.

The album track selection follows a progression of something we are all familiar with. The beginning starts off with hyper kinetic and dissonant chords. Full of energy and fast beats that accelerate like a heart thumping, St. Vincent moves on from song to song, which crescendo with “Los Ageless;” the rest of the album is not denouement, but nothing matches the pure effervescent energy of the opening tracks. After “Happy birthday Johnny,” many of the songs have slow beats and Clark’s voice, while still evoking sexuality, shows us a more heartbroken and tired St. Vincent.

I give “MASSEDUCTION” four out of five stars.


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