Album Review: St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (2017 LP)

I have never listened to St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) before this album, and while I feel I need to go and do that now, I am happy that MASSEDUCTION was my introduction to her music and her amazing talent. MASSEDUCTION is, quite frankly, the best thing I’ve listened to in a while. The production (provided by Jack Antonoff and Clark herself) is of exceptional quality, and the arrangements provide more depth on each track. It’s the kind of album you can listen to a million times and still be surprised, or notice something new during your latest listen.

Some tracks tackle very dark themes, including the hint of suicide in “Young Lover”, when Clark sings “I found you in the bathtub… put on gloves of rubber to clean up the spill,”, and alludes to the loss of a friend and his descent in “Happy Birthday Johnny”, singing:, “Happy Birthday Johnny, wherever you are,” “Happy New Year Johnny, is it 23?” and “When you get free Johnny, I hope you find peace.”

Though the lead single “New York” could be interpreted as a breakup song, Clark has cleared those rumours and said it’s about a friend who moved away – “New York isn’t New York without you love,” – and the sadness she experienced following the deaths of David Bowie and Prince – “I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend.” The song name drops locations in the East Village neighbourhood; “And if I call you from First Avenue,” and “Too few of our old crew left on Astor,” in reference to her time living there.

Amongst the dark themes, there are also tracks that poke fun at society, including the intoxicating “Pills” about how we rely on “Pills to wake, pills to sleep, pills pills pills every day of the week. Pills to walk, pills to think, pills pills pills for the family,” and second single “Los Ageless” with, “In Los Ageless the winter never comes, in Los Ageless the mothers milk their young… the lost sages hang out by the bar, burn the pages of their unwritten memoirs.” The chorus asks “How can anybody have you, how can anybody have you and lose you, how can anybody have you and lose you, and not lose their mind too?”

The arrangements on each track take you on a bit of a journey. In some tracks – “Sugarboy”, “Los Ageless”, “Savior”, “Fear the Future”, and “Young Lover” – the instrumentation layers gradually and then hits you over the head with an unexpected cymbal crash, a loud guitar riff, or a heavy synth line. It would be impossible for me to list every single instrument used on this album, but Clark has put together arrangements featuring strings, horns, keys, drums, guitar, and bass and used them to complement her strong vocals. She uses falsetto as a wailing effect to add to the drama of her lyrics “I can’t turn off what turns me on” in “Masseduction” and as an added feature of the already dark “Young Lover.”

It’s not often an album comes along and has the ability to speak to you clearly, while also being enjoyable to listen to but St. Vincent has done it with MASSEDUCTION. If you haven’t listened to it, I urge you to do so immediately.

Review Score: 9.5 out of 10. 

MASSEDUCTION is out now.