Anne Erin "Annie" Clark (aka St. Vincent) is an artist who really should not need an introduction, but it would be rude not to do so at this point. When I first listened to St. Vincent (our review linked here), I found an artist with a beautiful voice which was subtle and powerful in the same moment at times, but whilst that album was good, it was not the be-all-&-end-all that some of the press were proclaiming it to be. It was a solid album, with some killer song including the brilliant "Digital Witness", which is known to make me bust into spontaneous dance moves (it is not a pretty sight). MASSEDUTION has been an album that a lot of people have been anticipating for a long time, one that has already seen critics either sung hallelujahs in the highest, or state that it's lacking in focus. The cover is certainly one that has gain a lot of attention, but my focus is on the music here, so I will start my review.
01 - Hang on Me
With a slow electronic introduction, "Hang on Me" looks at the world through the eyes of an outsider, from the view point of a person looking into the bubble and seeing things differently. But still requesting companionship, wanting someone to share their experiences with. It's an outsider's paradox - but there are a lot of people who do feel as if they are not part of the mainstream of society, so this song will make a lot of sense to a lot of people. St. Vincent sounds as divine as ever, but there is an emptiness to the music on this one, which is probably by design to match the lyrics.
02 – Pills
"Pills" is a song which St. Vincent has confirmed is about a time in her life when she needed sleep medication, and is not a condemnation of mass pharmaceutical companies and the pill popping culture that we seem to live in. It is a classic pop-tune, with a catchy chorus and those subtle vocals that can send shivers down your neck. But there is a disconnection emanating from this song, as if the pills have disconnected St. Vincent from reality and she is trying to focus through her own personal fog. A good song, but not one I can connect with.
03 – Masseduction
The title track of the album is a song about sexuality, not switching off your desires and how sex is in your face all the time. It is a big pop number, a loud guitar in the chorus and full of dynamic synths and St. Vincent sounds in fine form here. It’s the first track on the album to gain an instant reaction from me, it has the same catchy vibe as songs from St. Vincent, it has that instant appeal which is ironic as it is a song about the masses being horny all of the time.
04 – Sugarboy
“Sugarboy” is a high-energy song which will be an indie disco anthem for years to come, it has that wow factor that you sometimes need from a pop song, but with the intelligence that gives the song a little bit more than just its shiny sheen and fantastic sounds. It’s another great song, one that stays with you long after it has finished, but it does have a hint of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” about it. Not that this is a bad thing, just pointing out a similarity in sound here.
05 – Los Ageless
“Los Ageless” is a tricky song for me, one that is not settling very well in my mind and I cannot put my figure on why. Musically, it's a dramatic synth piece that sounds fantastic in every environment; lyrically though, it feels claustrophobic and as if there is no hope of escape from the self-destructive narrative. Lovers are sacrificed, waves come and sweep you away and it’s all dramatic and without hope. Considering recent news stories about the film industry, it seems to have been created and released at a perfect time when LA seems to be on fire metaphorically. But I think the depressive and loneliness of the song make it a hard one to love, but I admire the work behind it.
06 – Happy Birthday, Johnny
“Happy Birthday, Johnny” is a solemn light after two larger than life pieces, but one of a relationship that has fell apart and isolation caused due to fame. It is one which sounds incredibly personal and it also sounds heart-breaking. I love it, but it makes me well up with the pain behind it. It’s an important piece on this album, one that shows scars which cannot be seen on the skin.
07 – Savior
A song about sexual preferences, practices and things that happen between consenting adults, “Savior” feeling as if it’s slightly one-sided, as if someone is having to do more to satisfy the other than they feel comfortable with. It’s a dark number, very downbeat and a little pessimistic in places as well. But it’s one that will sound huge live, but once again it’s one that I am trying to figure out and not getting anywhere near an answer.
08 – New York
“New York” is a song about lose, regret and feeling empty. With its short timeframe, it covers a lot of ground quickly. It’s a beautiful piece, one that pays tribute to a former lover, touching on personal memories and speaking of fondness, even though St. Vincent sounds as if she is also moving forwards. It is a complicate number, one which speaks to people on many different levels and it will resonate with millions of people. It’s one of the highlights of this album, a special moment of frailness on this record.
09 – Fear the Future
“Fear the Future” has an industrial/Gary Numan/Sky Ferria sound, it has a machine tone to the music and it sound immense. Once again, we are dealing with lose and love smashed into pieces, all mixed with fear and terror of what is to come. It’s another huge song on this album, but it is also another short number as well. It just seems to be reaching its stride when the music starts to fade, so it feels as if it was cut short in its prime.
10 – Young Lover
“Young Lover” is a toxic song, one which has yearning, regret, sadness and anger to perfection as the lover of the protagonist is slowly self-destructing before their eyes. It’s a harsh number, one that is not easy to listen to, but it's one that I find myself drawn back to long after it has finished playing. It’s dealing with a sensitive subject once again, but the music is glorious. How did something so good come out of something so bad?
11 – Dancing with a Ghost
I have no idea why “Dancing with a Ghost” is on this album, it’s mostly a fade in and out of strings which could have been added as part of “Slow Disco”. A bit of a waste of an introduction or minute, sorry to say it but this one does not add or remove anything from the album, so why is it there? Maybe to show a memory being played in the mind when so music comes to mind? For art’s sake? Either way, it really could have been added to the next track.
12 – Slow Disco
“Slow Disco” is another song that will wound your already broken heart, it’s all about needing to more out of the door quickly, to leave a lover behind. It is a beautiful song, one that sounds as if it was created with a tear in the eyes whilst it was recorded. It’s beautiful, fragile and a high-charged emotional number designed to let the emotions flow. I still think that “Dancing with a Ghost” should have been added to the beginning, but that does not change anything about the result of the song.
13 – Smoking Section
“Smoking Section” ends this album with a sombre and bizarrely angry song, one that shows that some emotions are still raw as we head for the exit ourselves on this record. The music is gentle in places, and then you have these angry beats and harsh noises to give physical form to the emotional conflict inside. It’s another song that’s not easy to love, but it’s one which I respect and understand. It's not a cute song which bids you safe journies into the night, it’s harsh and cruel, purpose built to leave you feeling uncomfortable and confused. This makes it’s a fitting end to this album, it brings the story to an ending, not a clear cut one, but an ending none the less.
Masseduction is not an easy album, in fact I think it’s the most difficult record I have listened to in 2017, and this is in a year where I have reviewed an Oxbow album as well. Heartbreak is always going to be a source of inspiration for an artist, and St. Vincent has used her own emotional upheaval to create an album that shows the complexities of a dissolvement of a romantic union. So why is this album, which I openly admit I struggle with at times, getting such a high mark? Well, it is a brilliant record, and not all records are smooth on the soul. It is not designed to be easy on the soul, so it has completed its job well. You should never listen to this album for fun, it’s to be used as companion in loneliness, or as a challenge for your mind if you need something to contrast the pop music of the day. If you listen to this for pleasure, then I think you might need some help. But back to the album, it’s a beautifully crafted record and I admire and applaud St. Vincent for being brave enough to record it in the first place. There is a certain degree of bravery to lay everything out for the world to dissect and criticise, but St. Vincent has done this with style It’s not something I would listen to on a regular basis, also it does not trump her St. Vincent record of 2014, but it’s a beautiful piece of art and for that purpose, I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in music.
8 out of ten – Now you have my attention, and maybe my time, money and heart.
Top track – Masseduction
You can purchase MASSEDUCTION on Amazon here.
You can visit the St. Vincent website here.
You can follow the activities of St. Vincent on Facebook here.
You can stream MASSEDUCTION on Spotify here.
You can stream MASSEDUCTION on Deezer here.
You can stream MASSEDUCTION on Tidal here.