Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Album Review: St. Vincent - MASSEDUCATION

St. Vincent
MASSEDUCATION
*** out of *****
St. Vincent’s 5th studio album MASSEDUCATION is a swirling mix of pop, pills, sex and personal confessions blending layers of vocals styles, gorgeous production and instrumentation. However, even with a variety of styles there still seems to be a mask over the proceedings keeping things from truly sinking into the skin.

Annie Clark has made her bones being an art rock guitar slayer, but here she moves directly to the pop and visual glam as this music is tailor made for video distribution and costume changes. While David Bowie is a clear comparison for Clark, her baroque style throughout MASSEDUCATION called to mind Lady Gaga more times than expected.

Her guitar playing takes a back seat (or on some tracks it’s thrown out of the car completely) to her production work with co-producer Jack Antonoff. Dance beats, building choruses and electro-funk breaks are everywhere from the rave up for relationships (especially the fleeting ones) on “Sugarboy” to the sexed up role reversal of “Savior” to the silly-before symphonic “Pills”. With “Pills” Clark mixes up the script from direct 2017 mindless radio pop to an arty flair an ending, a trick she uses a few times throughout.

“Los Ageless” is the best of the swaggering dance tunes as it pushes the music into an industrial flavored pop direction with huge bass hits Trent Reznor would enjoy before ending the tune with a swirling mellow refrain of “Try to write you a love song but it comes out a lament” (another phrase/sound Reznor probably enjoys). While the album bumps plenty, it is the slower piano based tracks that really hit home the hardest, leading to the feeling that the pomp around the upbeat jams is more of a smoke screen for the notoriously private singer.

The mystical cool end of “Los Ageless” dovetails expertly into the achingly personal sounding, minimalist track “Happy Birthday, Johnny”. The detail and emotion of the lyrics and vocals elevate this song for Clark a style she also uses for the back-to-what-you-know love song “New York” which turns out to be an album highlight. “Slow Disco” amps up the dramatic strings while “Smoking Section” artfully declares MASSEDUCATION is not over with Clark's final lyrics.

While “Fear The Future” contains intriguing guitar work and overloaded production sounding as if it was made to steal the show, it is those softer numbers that hint at even great depth and layers for Clark’s future. While this disk is sure to have droves of devotees with its dance-pop friendly sheen it also shows Clark can deliver even more in the future.
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1 comment:

  1. I really like this album, just a shade less than her last one. None of the songs on this album quite live up to Digital Witness or Prince Johnny, but Los Ageless and Happy Birthday Johnny are close. Interesting that you make the Lady Gaga comparison because I always think of St. Vincent as the what Lady Gaga wants to be. She's the rich man's Lady Gaga!

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