St Vincent’s music production has over the years opened up more to the brighter, poppier tendencies of music despite being rooted firmly in the world of rock. It’s this type of flair of bringing quirky nuanced music that bridges the best of both worlds that allows people to give her the Lady Bowie crown. With “Masseduction” the step continues with blissfully miserable music that you’ll jam to.
Opener “Hang On Me” sets the scene with a low-key number that still finds time to cram in a brass ensemble, sympathetic strings and a kick arse beat. It’s that lilting tone of beauty in a breakdown that St Vincent does so well that is strong still throughout this album. Don’t worry – nothing has changed in this regard. However, as shown with the mega catchy “Pills” she is also not afraid to now break out into pop synths, disco beats and take the best tropes from those genres and then smash her spasmodic guitar solos over the top of it. It’s bombastic, vulgar, explosive and corrosive – and I love it. It’s different compared to some of her earlier bright numbers that were still seated in a rock environment – here it’s a full surrender. The album’s title track also flows in this vein, going for the hook and bringing the best of 80’s huge production and dramatics to an anti-anthem. The 80’s is a strong theme throughout the album and hits its peak with the Donna Summer like “Sugarboy” with dance floor synths, drum machines and vocoder extravaganzas.
The album’s lyrics take a rather satirical look at celebrity life, the plastic nature of fame and fortune and the vapidness of it all. This is shown through the music videos too but “Los Ageless” is a fantastic track to demonstrate the whole concept of the album. It ends the all go dance rock show for the almost out-of-place piano led ballad “Happy Birthday, Johnny” which harks back to the more jazz peppered earlier days of Annie’s music. The quiet twisted string synth track “Savior” will also be underappreciated at first as it plays with the pitch bender and spends its time switching styles every 8 lines. I urge people to listen to it outside of the banging album to really appreciate it. “New York” is an absolute stand out too. Short, melodic, devastating and a sister track to the opener, it’s got that emotion bubbling under vibe to perfection.
Euphoria in the sound design makes “Fear the Future” a great track for feeling like your flying. Where the album borrows so heavily from electronica production, it makes tracks that are seemingly just a few chord changes really burst into life. It also takes the more rockier tracks “Young Lover” push towards a Shirley Manson and Garbage tone at times, which is no bad thing at all. The album’s rock tone ends here as the final tracks “Slow Disco” and “Smoking Section” turn towards string arrangements and piano accompaniments. After the pop paradise has all faded away, with all the bitter lyrics and thrills of the high life, the closing sections are superbly macabre. St Vincent discusses depression, suicidal thoughts, parting and closing a chapter with vigour and emotional gut punches. They’re both stunning tracks and confirm that St Vincent is absolutely the real deal. How empty can a brush of the high life leave you when you’re dropped?
So the album which seems so well observed and biographical comes to a close in a crashed heap, but also with optimism renewed. It’s a far more poptastic direction that before for St Vincent, but there’s still way more than enough layers to keep fans and enthusiasts occupied. Highly recommended.
Recommended Track : New York