St. Vincent perfects her fractured, futuristic pop imaginative and prescient on Masseduction

“New York” video nonetheless (Director: Alex Da Carte)

In a current Q&A for Billboard, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark talked about why, regardless of her current foray into filmmaking, she’s not all that focused on appearing in entrance of the digital camera. “I don’t thoughts the efficiency facet of it, as a result of that’s form of fascinating,” she explains. “However I actually don’t like the dearth of management. I need to direct stuff, as a result of you have got management.” The assertion shouldn’t be remotely stunning for followers of Clark’s music, even cursory ones. St. Vincent albums thrive on rigor—obsidian-like tones, meticulous preparations, elliptical lyrical tropes—and thematic construction. Clark creates her personal inner logic, making certain every report inhabits a singular, Narnia-like universe.

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Masseduction is not any completely different; the truth is, this newest report is Clark’s greatest, most cohesive musical assertion but. Lyrically, the report revolves round moments when a façade of management begins to crumble—when nervousness begins to overwhelm (“Worry The Future”); when medicine used to manage moods grow to be an emotional and bodily crutch (“Drugs”); when pleasurable issues grow to be painful reminiscences (“New York”). There’s a way of futility to this slippage, as if turning into what you worry (or hate) is inevitable. “I can’t flip off what turns me on,” she intones repeatedly on the Bowie-esque title observe, a shiny treatise on fame’s seductive qualities and the catch-22 of on-line prompt gratification.

Nonetheless, Masseduction leaves loads of room for equivocation inside this fatalism. “I’m loads such as you / Boys / I’m alone such as you / Women,” she trills on the perforated robo-pop standout “Sugarboy,” a defiant assertion on gender and sexual fluidity. And the protagonist of “Sluggish Disco” realizes that they completely dodged a bullet by leaving an unhealthy relationship early. “Am I pondering what all people’s pondering? / I’m so glad I got here however I can’t wait to depart?” Clark asks, non-rhetorically.

Masseduction additionally well acknowledges the emotional complexities concerned with transferring on, particularly when the fissures aren’t tidy. A suicide provokes the deep-seated lyrical longing of “Younger Lover,” whereas the wrenching “Joyful Birthday, Johnny” finds Clark conversing with an outdated buddy who “requested me for dough to get one thing to eat” as a result of he’s fallen on laborious instances. He lashes out when she hesitates, inflicting her to ponder whether or not his stinging phrases (“You yelled by way of your enamel, accused me of appearing like all royalty”) are literally true.

Clark captures this emotional roller-coaster in her remarkably genre-agnostic music. Though Masseduction comprises her acquainted hallmarks—bursts of electrical guitar, burrowing hooks, intricate execution—the report is futuristic and fractured pop that jumps between frantic new wave, industrial-tinted techno, minimalist balladry, and string-swept epics. Her collaborators support and abet this method. The sexualized funk of “Savior” options bass from Pino Palladino (D’Angelo, 9 Inch Nails); “Drugs” boasts visitor vocals from Jenny Lewis and mournful saxophone from Kamasi Washington; and co-producer Jack Antonoff contributes synths and programming all through.

In different fingers, combining these concepts would sound overly busy. Nevertheless, Masseduction has a fantastical manufacturing sheen that offers its music a barely otherworldly (and, at instances, cartoonish) high quality. Greater than that, the report can be a marvel of meticulous sequencing. Songs circulation into each other in sensible and refined methods—“Los Ageless” borrows and slows down a rhythmic electro motif from the previous “Sugarboy,” for instance—and Clark wields her voice like one other highly effective instrument. On the brisk “Drugs,” she murmurs, “Drugs, tablets, tablets, every single day of every week,” in a no-nonsense tone, as if it hails from a twisted model of Mary Poppins. Her grief-stricken shrieks on “Younger Lover” resemble somebody within the throes of all-consuming bodily agony.

Clark not too long ago informed Buzzfeed that Masseduction asks, “What does power look like, who wields it, how do they wield it—emotionally, sexually, financially?” Exploring those balances of power gives Masseduction its inherent tension and anxiety. But it also doesn’t let instability win. The final song, “Smoking Section,” talks about going to the edge, nearly giving in to violent and dark tendencies, then deliberately taking a step back. “It’s not the end,” Clark repeats, in a weary and increasingly faded-sounding voice, as ghostly pedal steel smoke rings curl up around her.

Defeated as she sounds, it’s an unmistakable declaration of power—an emotional cliffhanger that leaves the door cracked for new beginnings. Masseduction is a manual on how to go through hell and back, then emerge stronger than ever. It’s a record that wrests control from turmoil and believes that a different, better future is possible. It’s the best encapsulation of her vision to date, here fully under her control.


Purchasing Masseduction via Amazon helps support The A.V. Club.

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