Music review: St. Vincent’s “MASSEDUCTION”


The album art for St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION.


Putting St. Vincent’s music into a box is a task far easier said than done.

One-woman band Annie Clark has taken the world of independent music by storm since releasing her debut album “Marry Me” in 2007, but it wasn’t by keeping herself tied to the baroque pop feel of her first record.

In the decade since, she’s released three more albums of her own, each of which aimed for different aural and visual personas and earned critical admiration.

Beyond her solo work, she’s collaborated with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne on a record, spent a year in a relationship with supermodel Cara Delevingne, and most recently made a horror short film as part of the compilation “XX.”

Clark’s 2014 effort “St. Vincent” brought her a Grammy for Best Alternative Album thanks to its diverse sound and cohesive feel. Three years later, she’s returned with “MASSEDUCTION,” a successor that’s set on continuing her ascent into stardom, but stays true to the charm that endeared her to the world.

The elements that made her last album such a hit, including her electric guitar work, return this time around, but as secondary components rather than the driving forces behind most songs. That duty goes to the synth lines, drums, and piano, a shift that moves “MASSEDUCTION” into a space that ends up feeling familiar, yet distinct from Clark’s previous work.

The album flips between Clark’s take on an energetic, new wave-inspired synth rock sound and more somber, piano driven ballads, in equal parts danceable and heartbreaking. Lead single “New York” falls into the slower ballad category, where Clark sings of a lost love, “I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend / But for you, darling, I’d do it all again,” while its follow-up “Los Ageless” overlays similar themes atop a drum loop and a pulsing synthesizer.

Clark reunites with producer John Congleton on some of the record’s more lively tracks, including early standout “Pills,” which sees her sing a staccato refrain against a heavy sound palette of bassy drums (with a cameo from Delevingne on background vocals), and “Fear the Future,” an electronic effort that brings industrial and noise rock elements into the mix as Clark sings, “My baby’s lost to the monster / Come on, sir, just give me an answer.”

Fun. guitarist and producer Jack Antonoff and Lars Stalfors, who’s known for his work with HEALTH, the Cold War Kids, and Matt and Kim, join Clark to bring their own writing and production chops to the table.

The former helps out on writing duties with “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” a ballad returning to Clark’s tale of her experiences with a self-destructive character seen on her last album’s “Prince Johnny,” while the latter helps produce on the album’s title track, which summarizes its themes with the line, “I can’t turn off what turns me on.”

Annie Clark’s outside-the-box thinking makes “MASSEDUCTION” an enjoyable listen for old and new listeners alike. It’s St. Vincent in her prime, bringing a worthy successor to her self-titled album that doesn’t necessarily outdo it but works brilliantly as a companion piece, showing a different side of a multifaceted artist.

Highlight tracks: “Pills,” “MASSEDUCTION,” “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” “New York,” and “Fear the Future”

St. Vincent’s “MASSEDUCTION” is out now physically and digitally from Loma Vista Recordings/Concord Music Group. The Fear the Future Tour supporting the album will stop at the Kentucky Center in Louisville on November 21.