Annie Clark late last year hinted that this album was going to be her “deepest, boldest work yet.” In fact, it’s hard to disagree, after listening to her latest release all week, repeatedly at home, in the car and at work. You may get the impression I am a big fan of her art rock. Unashamedly I am, and it is one of the reasons for the delay of this quick music review because I couldn’t get St. Vincent out of my head to concentrate enough on the three other album reviews above. Suffice to say I have deliberately left all my listening devices at home to nut out this late review!
St. Vincent is without a doubt a shrewd operator and in some sense a great manipulator of the media. She has positioned herself sweetly in the spotlight yet again with her new album, which many are already calling her greatest triumph. Interestingly, she said recently in a press release, “Every record I make has an archetype, ‘Strange Mercy’ was Housewives on Pills. ‘St. Vincent’ was Near-Future Cult Leader. ‘MASSEDUCTION’ is different, it’s pretty first person. You can’t fact-check it, but if you want to know about my life, listen to this record.”
And so, maybe almost predictably, we all beelined to grab our copy, or fix of the aptly titled Masseducation her fifth album in ten years.
Masseduction is intimate and raw and cuts straight to the point about much of her state of mind lately. Like any good saga or personal crusade, Clark bares her soul on this album, especially on New York where she languishes for “the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me.” Her directness or vulnerability here is refreshing, as is also her take on themes of sex, drugs and power.
Annie Clark’s robust guitar work doesn’t go unnoticed here on Masseduction. It is arguably what attracts me most to her music, ever since I first discovered Strange Mercy (2011). But while her fuzzy distorted guitar is her trademark, this album is ultimately more synth pop than ever. It is daring and sweeping in scope, from the mini opus that is Pills (an indirect swipe at drug companies) to the electronic drums and synth-based sounds of Los Ageless ( a more direct swipe at the ugly side of LA and what women must do to be beautiful at all cost. Clark’s clever protest in the chorus of Los Ageless “How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose your mind, too?” pretty much sums it up!) In a nutshell, and yet while not even a month old, Masseducation just may be one of the finest examples of what a great electropop album should sound like.