This reviewer noticed two things during a quick gloss over the Metacritic page for the new album Masseduction: a well-earned abundance of glowing reviews for Tulsa-born Annie Clarks sixth studio album under the St. Vincent name and targeted advertising promising to reveal the Top 3 Bipolar Treatment Methods upon a single click.
Assuming the latter is not a revealing insight into a certain someones private search history, one could logically conclude that words and phrases from the online review aggregators Masseduction page were used to prompt the ad.
Its not an abstract theory. The follow-up to St. Vincents Grammy-winning 2014 self-titled LP presents listeners with a broad variety of sounds and styles ranging from intimate singer-songwriter to pulsating techno and ambient noise. While it is hard to label Masseduction in any one particular genre or tone, the result is more like richness of character than a personality split.
As cliché as roller coaster comparisons can be, the front end of this album is a true sonic thrill ride. Pills, a statement on modern medicated society, features a maddening but glorious sing-songy melody that feels like something lifted out of the dark, Bizzaro version of Disneyland. The song is somewhat surprisingly co-produced by rapper Kendrick Lamars right-hand studio collaborator Sounwave. But perhaps the pairing should not be a shock, given the beatmakers propensity for sonically fitting narrative and thematic song concepts.
The following title track features Clarks ripping guitar to form a standout banger on an album full of them. Sugarboy ratchets up the beats per minute and grows until exploding into industrial discord. It makes sense given the context of the lyrics, which seem to be about one-upping ones actions to further extremes to please another.
Masseduction comes in with a fury and sets the stage for the projects greatest earworm, Los Ageless. The song appears to be intended as a complement or perhaps foil to New York, the albums leading single. Both songs are about heartache but approach the topic in very different ways. Los Ageless is big, gritty and anthemic while New York is stripped down and more rawly emotional.
Clark saves her most emotive tunes and her best songwriting for the tail end of Masseduction. Slow Disco wont leave many dry eyes, as tender violins lead into a somber last hurrah. The album closes on Smoking Section, which is simultaneously beautiful and hauntingly distraught. And sometimes I go to the edge of my roof, the songs dark, poetic lyrics go. And I think Ill jump just to punish you. And if I should float on the taxis below, no one would notice, no one will know.
Word that Clark would head into a poppier direction on Masseduction concerned some fans, especially given the success of her last record and increase in popularity. But, with no small thank-you to producer, fun. guitarist and pop genius Jack Antonoff, who helped guide this stellar effort, Clark proves that her talent and creativity transcend style. With Masseduction, St. Vincent shows there is no shame in duplicity.
Print headline: Lofty allure, Tulsa-born Annie Clark follows her Grammy-winning St. Vincent with marvelous and layered Masseduction.