Album of the Week: St. Vincent, 'Masseduction'

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St. Vincent, 'Masseduction'
St. Vincent, 'Masseduction' (Loma Vista Recordings)
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In a conversation with Pitchfork, Annie Clark explains that the thesis for her new album could very well be the lyrics from the title track of Masseduction: "I can't turn off what turns me on". So with the sixth St. Vincent album, we're pulled into a darker place of kink, drugs, bad love, and destruction. It's an art-pop attempt to seduce with synth, wailing guitars, guest stars, and the paradox world of St. Vincent.

The new album kicks off with a drunk dial of desperation. A hopeful swell of music surrounds the manic pleas to hang on and not hang up. It's a loner anthem begging someone else to not hang up, because "you and me/we're not meant for this world." It's a fitting place to start an album about seduction, I mean there's gotta be someone to seduce and someone to be seduced -you have to agree to be in it.

And then once you're in - it's "Pills" where Jenny Lewis, Kamasi Washington, Sounwave (best known for his work with Kendric Lamar), and Cara Delevingne help temp with some sexy propaganda about self-medication. Producer Jack Antonoff (who's helped create some sexy beats for Lorde, Lady Gaga, and Fun.) is heavy handed with the robotic backing vocals and pulsating synths that make "Masseduction" feel like a Prince song from his booty showcasing chaps phase. But the lyrics in "Masseduction" twist seduction at the beginning into destruction by the end, so the outlook for this relationship isn't looking to hot. Nevertheless, things are synth swirling, with techno bleeps and blips, and speedy aggression with "Sugarboy" (dealing with the duality of feeling like a boy and a girl) and "Los Ageless" (which is the polarity of her other song "New York").

The album turns at the sixth song "Happy Birthday, Johnny". The simple song features pedal steel guitar and vocals (a tiny bit of synth comes in eventually) addressing the frequent St. Vincent character Johnny. It seems to be the same Johnny who she wanted to marry ("Marry Me" from 2007) in her first album and that became a prince in her self-titled album ("Prince Johnny" from 2015). He's not doing so hot and strikes at the duality of the narrator. The same duality that permeates the album: Outcast/Savior, Hero/Villain, Girl/Boy, Los Angeles/New York, Seduction/Destruction.

It's a six-song comedown after the twist from Johnny. These are some really beautiful sad songs. The flip side of "Los Ageless" comes with "New York" asking a nameless friend for forgiveness her for ditching the East coast for the West. The end of the world ("Fear the Future" which ratchets up the energy again), the drug overdose of a young lover, walking away from a relationship ("Dancing with a Ghost" which is a 45 second instrumental that leads into "Slow Disco" and lyrics like, "Slip my hand from your hand/Leave you dancin' with a ghost").

The last song sounds like a Joni Mitchell piano tune. Clark sings in a low alto over a piano before the drums, guitars and a breathy synth bellow for the chorus. The last refrain echoes with building guitars, "It's not the end/It's not the end" six times as the album comes to a close. But like she told us all along, she can't turn off what turns her on.

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St. Vincent - Official Site

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