Five albums in and there’s no sign of St. Vincent – aka Annie Clark – relinquishing her position at the top of New York’s art-pop music scene. MASSEDUCTION picks up neatly where she left off on 2014’s frenetic-but-fun self-titled St Vincent, having lost none of her abrasive volatility along the way.
Frequently found on stage in 6” heels wielding a Stratocaster, the native Texan and ex Polyphonic Spree associate has a gift for turning expectations on their head and shaking up people’s perceptions of what ‘arty’ music can be – in this case, occupying a space somewhere between the performance art shock value à la Peaches, and Clarke’s own heartfelt feelings of loneliness.
It’s her love of dramatic contrasts like this that give the track listing such exciting unpredictability – songs like the dirty synth strut “Fear The Future” sitting side-by-side with arresting piano ballads like “New York”. “You’re the only mother&*cker in the city who can handle me” she sings tenderly, the brashness of just five minutes previous evaporated.
Throughout, she bends and distorts her voice to navigate through funky chamber rock, indie, pop, manic cabaret jazz and downtempo digital soul, taking on a different identity for each song. Opener “Hang on Me” buzzes like a drugged fly inside a jam jar – all woozy basslines and stretched synthesizers. From there, we’re straight into the sampley weirdness of “Pills”; where America’s prescription drug issues are addressed with a knowing schizophrenic nursery rhyme vibe.
Best of the bunch is “Los Ageless” – a sultry critique of cosmetic surgery with an infectious beat and warped guitars. The unsettling video clip is well worth a spin too with its sickly colour scheme and sexy surgeons pulling flesh like play-doh.
Despite the seemingly haphazard mix of influences, the songs remain taut and purposeful, with very little in the way of wasteful filler – only three out of thirteen tracks top the 4-minute mark. Even the slower numbers like “Slow Disco” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny” are thrillingly beautiful ballads, driven along by lush soundscapes and dreamy lyrics.
It’s been said that Clarke is the closest thing we have to a female Bowie, and based on MASSEDUCTION’s genre bending cacophony, I can’t see any reason to argue with that.
Like this? Try these:
David Byrne & St. Vincent Love This Giant
Odd-couple collaboration between Clark & erstwhile Talking Head.
Goldfrapp Black Cherry
Sleazy disco funk from fellow frizzy-haired chanteuse.
PJ Harvey Rid of Me
Seminal indie punk from the Patti Smith of the 90s.
St. Vincent | MASSEDUCTION