Masseduction is the fifth album by alternative pop artist St Vincent – real name Annie Clark. It’s a showcase for her varied approaches to creating great music and never fails to deliver the goods.
I had no prior experience with any of St Vincent’s music before hearing Masseduction. Within the first couple of songs, certainly by the time I heard the eponymous track, I was hooked.
She displays a diverse range of styles that come through on this album, many of which echoed in my mind back to artists past and present.
I couldn’t help but get Alanis Morissette vibes from the album’s second song – the energetic ‘Pills’. ‘Pills’ is super catchy and could have settled in that groove for the whole song. But, in what I’ve now come to expect from her, she switches up the tempo and style two thirds in.
These changes, which happen in a few of her songs, are hugely effective and was really a gateway drug into St Vincent’s music for me.
Then once the title song ‘Masseduction’ dropped… I just lost my shit.
‘Masseduction’ is the album’s third song, and plays like a love letter to Prince. Everything from the song’s title; to the distortion-heavy guitar licks; and through the song’s funky beat. But in no way is it a cheap knock-off. On the contrary – since Prince, and other great heroes of music, have recently passed – we are in dire need of great idiosyncratic artists to stand up for good music. St Vincent is a part of that army.
The album continues through further belters, ‘Sugarboy’ and ‘Los Ageless’, that keep the energy up high without ever becoming tiresome. The music video for the latter enhances another aspect of St Vincent I find compelling – her visual style through the album’s artwork.
The artwork for this album seems to further support the sound she is going for. With its glossy, vibrant colours and sharp edges, but with cryptic imagery that conceals a deeper message beneath the shiny plastic.
The album closes its first half with the stripped back, and welcome, piano ballad ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’. With the removal of nearly all instruments but for a piano along with her voice, we get up close and personal with her. This departure from the previously up tempo tracks serves to give an extra layer to her message. Here she is pealing back the shiny cover to expose the heart beneath. And the result with this song is a gorgeous ballad that tugs at those heart strings.
Just when I thought I’d heard her at her most energetic, along came ‘Fear the Future’ – a frantic piece backed by the craziest beats on the album. If I’m honest, the dance music style that is informing this song isn’t a style I would choose to listen to. And while it’s not nearly my favourite song on the album, Annie still makes it work within the context of this gorgeous, neon pick and mix of an album. (I have no idea what neon pick and mix means – I just thought it sounded cool in my head).
The album’s closing song, ‘Smoking Section’ is definitely my favourite on the whole album. It feels like one of the most personal of the collection too, with some real guts to it. The drum / low-synth fills that hit the song in two places, have such a deep guttural punch to them. These short riffs were reminiscent of something by The White Stripes to my ears. But just as soon as the one-two punches have landed, she switches the song up from melancholic to hopeful with the repeated lyric “It’s not the end”. Her voice fading into the ether as she does.
While never faltering from her own path, St Vincent manages to dip her toes into a good variety of styles for this album. I am completely mesmerised by every song and probably will be for some time to come. A lot of pop music is much of a muchness to me nowadays but people like St Vincent keep the flag flying for introspective, thought provoking music with hidden depths.
If you want to increase the overall quality of your music collection, then pick up Masseduction by St. Vincent now.