St Vincent

Heartache and nihilism meet sonic trickery in Annie Clark’s troubled fifth. 

St Vincent
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Masseduction

CAROLINE INTERNATIONAL | CD DL LP

MUCH HAS HAPPENED TO ANNIE CLARK since her eponymous, Grammy-winning fourth album was released in 2014. Firstly, she’s become a star, this year fronting an advertising campaign for Tiffany. Secondly, she’s become a source of interest for the tabloids and the paparazzi, thanks to her relationships with Cara Delevingne and Kristen Stewart. These developments have peeled back a layer or two of mystery from the previously unknowable Clark. But if we can now imagine the faces in the scenes of break-up songs here such as New York and Los Ageless,Masseduction is a revelation in terms of its raw and sometimes brutal emotional honesty.

There’s an air of sensory overload and panic circulating around these songs that is evident from opener Hang On Me, with its black, morbid thoughts of crashing taxis and planes and Clark’s admission, “I know you hate my hysterics”, played out over a backing track that is Massive Attack’s Teardrop by way of Lorde (whose Melodrama co-producer, Jack Antonoff, reprises that role here). Sex, meanwhile, often sounds like a hassle or dangerous: in the reluctant dress-up bedroom games of the Prince-ly Savior, or in the cool-freeze electropop title track, where the hook “I can’t turn off what turns me on” sounds like a psychosis sonically translated by Clark’s Frippertronics-for-the-digital-age guitars. 
 

Masseduction is revelation in terms of its brutal emotional honesty
 
hat’s not to say Masseduction is always high on anxiety. There are many moments of beauty, as when the demented nursery rhyme verses of the jerkily groovesome Pills (“Pills to fuck/Pills to eat/Pills pills pills down the kitchen sink”) gives way to a dreamy coda throwing its arms around “villains” and “killers” and the wretched and wasted. Similarly, the semi-detached state of gorgeous ballad Slow Disco has Clark gratefully slipping away from a party before addressing “the fool in the mirror”. And Prince Johnny from St. Vincent is back in the affecting piano lament Happy Birthday, Johnny, which reveals the pair’s bond to be one of blood, though the titular character (whether real or fictional) is now on the skids and bumming money from his famous sister. 
But even in its upbeat moments, Masseduction is less euphoric, more manic, with the initially overblown-sounding ’80s disco-rock of Young Lover masking a story of a dangerous pill-popping partner. By the end, you worry for Clark, or at least the narrator of creepily nihilistic closer Smoking Section, stepping to the edge of her roof to consider jumping “just to punish you”, before a positive flash through her troubled mind decides “what could be better than love”. It’s this mix of irrational thought and lightning bolt revelation with reliably bleeding-edge musical invention that keeps us listening throughout this dark, intense and utterly compelling record.