Monday, May 6, 2019

100 Albums: "Masseduction" by St. Vincent

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: St. Vincent
Title: Masseduction
Released: 2017
Genre: post-alt pop rock


When Annie Clark, virtuoso guitarist formerly of The Polyphonic Spree, started her solo career, she took her stage name from the hospital where Dylan Thomas died. She's always been a bit of an eccentric--like that one time she dressed like a toilet for a benefit concert in Glasgow. Her music frequently feels more like a deconstruction of pop music than actual pop music, where songs feel sonically like they're mostly about the space around the melody. The result is a string of brilliant albums that are great to listen to but barely memorable.

Masseduction is a bit of a reinvention. Clark allows the pop elements to breathe and works all the sonic weirdness in around the edges, and the end product is a masterfully crafted, personal statement from a truly gifted composer who is also an excellent lyricist. I love the build of the chorus from Los Ageless: "How could anybody have you / How could anybody have you and lose you / How could anybody have you and lose you and not lose their mind, too?" or this line from the first verse that captures her contempt for star culture: "In Los Ageless, the mothers milk their young." Happy Birthday Johnny revisits a character who has shown up since her debut. Here, Johnny is a former friend turned junkie who explodes at her because she hesitates to give him "dough to get something to eat". It's a heartbreaking track, as is New York, a song about Clark's then-crumbling relationship with Cara Delevigne in which she sweetly croons "you're the only motherfucker in this city who can handle me." The other standout is Slow Disco, a gentle ballad that asks "Don't it beat a slow dance to death?" It's been redone as a dance track called Fast Slow Disco (very NSFW video, so Google at your own risk) or as a piano balled called Slow Slow Disco.

Top to bottom, a great record that is frank, inventive, and earwormy.

Further Listening: Her albums are all pretty solid, but my other favorite is Actor, which has my two hands-down favorite St. Vincent songs: Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood and Actor Out Of Work (the video for that song is amazing--and SFW). It doesn't really sound like any of her other music because she fired her producer halfway through and was left with a bunch of orchestral arrangements she had to fit songs into. It's definitely a "happy accident" record. There's also an album called Masseducation (note the added "a" turning "seduction" into "education") that is Masseduction stripped down as piano-and-vocal only. It's interesting, but it doesn't really stand up to the fully-rendered version.

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