Alt-queen St. Vincent returns with her first album since her Grammy-winning self-titled release in 2014. An album of scratchy synths, pop hooks, roaring guitar, and mellow self-examination, MASSEDUCTION brings the wry humour Annie Clark is known for, but tempers it with some deeply personal songs.
Clark’s ability to combine complex themes and infectious pop rhythms is on full display here. The track ‘Pills’ is an examination of our medicated society and Clark’s own struggles with mental health. It is wrapped in a comfortable nursey rhyme aesthetic, preventing it from becoming overbearing. Tales of losing friends to addiction, suicidal thoughts, and lost love, on tracks such as ‘Young Lover’ and ‘New York,’ give the album its emotional punch. This is mixed in with narcissistic LA mothers and ironically sexualised Christian imagery in the turbulent yet upbeat tracks, ‘Los Ageless’ and ‘Masseduction.’ This provides some respite from the album’s darkest moments.
Where the combination of furious pop synths, blustery guitar, and detached lyricism forms a cohesive whole, MASSEDUCTION is at its best. However, in moments where the detachment and layers of removal give way to raw personal emotion, the album shines in an entirely different manner. An example here is closer ‘Smoking Section,’ a heartfelt track about contemplating suicide. Tellingly, the song and album, finish on a cautiously positive note here. “What could be better than love, than love, than love?,” Clark sings, before finally: “It’s not the end.”
In a nutshell: Fiercely individual, stylish and catchy, MASSEDUCTION examines complex themes without ever losing itself within them.