Fans of off-kilter, no-bullshit pop had a huge month in October, which saw the release of St. Vincent’s chart-topping album MASSEDUCTION. The album was trailed in July, with the release of the subversively melodic lead single “New York”, a bundle of spikes and searing honesty wrapped up in dark-clouds-over-Broadway production. The album was formally announced and made available for pre-order on the 6th of September, along with the album’s second single “Los Ageless”, a driving, bouncing collection of beautiful, messy bass and uncompromisingly intimate vocals. The third single, “Pills,” came out on the 10th of October, completing an arch, confounding, refreshing triptych to leave audiences in no doubt that this was no run of the mill pop release. Three days later, we had the entire album to listen to.
The record was met with rave reviews by fans and critics alike. MASSEDUCTION took the tenth spot on the Billboard 200, making it St. Vincent’s first album – Anne Clark’s fifth under the St. Vincent name – to get into the top ten in the United States. In interviews, Clark spoke about the album’s themes of power, sex, drugs, sadness, imperiled relationships and death: “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.”
A wonderful, tangled mashup of glam rock, futuristic pop, ambient rock, industrial-tinted-techno, new wave, and electropop, with intermittent elements of dream pop, electronic rock, and psychedelic rock, the album demands that you go on the journey it’s got for you. Deploying guitar and piano, synths and strings, and a range of percussion from the hyper-sampled to the raw and live, what holds the album together is the determination that thrums through each track that you should, for the next 3 minutes, listen to this. And you should.
Individually, each track is different from the other. The first single to be released, “New York,” is an earnestly sung number in which Clark paints a picture of adventures in New York with someone who is now gone. The song is set to a soft, gentle music with warm drumbeats and soaring strings that ride along with Clark’s emotional chorus. With “Los Ageless,” the other big pre-release track from Clark’s latest album, she gives us a version of Los Angeles that we’re not often shown. Here, it’s a jumble of ‘lost sages’ and ‘sunset superstars.’ It’s as if it’s a city she would rather flee, a city that is driven by the constant need to be young and ageless, than a place she feels at home.
In “Sugarboy,” there’s a frenetic tempo that kicks insistently at the ears, while in the title track “Masseduction,” Clark takes on a robotic voice that’s almost unrecognizable, leaving fragments of guitar to slip through the cracks and rattle in your hindbrain. “Hang on Me” lays saccharine vocals over stuttering synth, before switching to an ethereal falsetto as Clark croons, in a romantic, frantic fug, “Hang on me / cause you and me / we’re not for this world.”
The album is a step up and out; one for long-term fans as well as the new audience which St Vincent will undoubtedly reach with pop this assured and deliriously exultant. If you haven’t had a chance to give this a listen, consider this a wake-up call. It’s not smooth, but it’s the best kind of uneasy listening you can imagine.