Everyone, it’s here! On Oct. 13, Annie Clark, known as alternative rock icon St. Vincent, released her new album “Masseduction,” which is pronounced “mass seduction.” The album is a diverse, climatic whirlwind of shocking electric guitar and electronic noise interwoven with heartfelt tracks. Mirroring its musical diversity, the album presents poetic lyrics about everything from love and sex to drugs, loss and New York City.
For those of you who aren’t aware of the magnificent St. Vincent, she can be modestly described as a musical lesbian feminist legend with unbeatable hair and style. While starting her career as a guitarist for Sufjan Stevens, Clark has released five albums over her 10-year solo career. The type of music she creates is complex and hard to describe, with her originality often compared to David Bowie or David Byrne. She is a woman of many musical trades, as she mixes the electronic, rock and indie genres all the while showing off a remarkable feminine poeticism with her lyrics.
Moreover, what is incredible about St. Vincent is that she varies her emphasis of each component of her musical repertoire from track to track so that, at the end of an album, the listener is left with a wondrous impression of her scope of talent. For instance, some tracks are quieter, darker and graced with well-curated references and flowing lyrics, while others are vibrant, unabashedly noisy and boldly worded.
Obviously, there is always a lot to talk about— or listen to—with St. Vincent, and “Masseducation” doesn’t stray from utilizing her signature variety and complexity. The album begins with the dark, industrial track “Hang On Me.” With a flickering beat that resembles the raw static of a crashed car or plane. Clark begins, “I know you’re probably sleepin’ / I got this thing I keep thinkin’ / Yeah, I admit I’ve been drinkin’ / The void is back and I’m blinking.” The song continues with a darker orchestral melody as Clark sings, “I cannot stop the aeroplane from crashin’ / And we circle down from the sky / Yeah, so hang on me /Hang on me, hang on me/ ‘Cause you and me / We’re not meant for this world.” The lyrics explore Clark’s differences that mark her as an outsider in what she views as a worrisome, disastrous world, but then incorporates this relationship theme that dominates the al- bum. Encouraging her lover who is different like her to “hang on” as the world plummets into destruction, she opens the album in a mysterious way.
The next song “Pills” is one of the catchier songs on the record and features her ex-girlfriend Cara Delevingne hastily back-up singing, “Pills to wake, pills to sleep / Pills, pills, pills every day of the week / Pills to walk, pills to think / Pills, pills, pills for the family.” The neurotic and chaotic vibe of the song is enhanced with a hec- tic electric guitar sequence. The song ends with a slower melody where St. Vincent proclaims “Everyone you know will all go away,” hinting at the darkness of pills and how they affect one’s relationships.
The finality of the lyrics, paired with the sexu- al undertones of “Pills,” mesh well with the next song, the title track. The song is bold and begins with the lyrics “Black saint, sinner lady / Playin’ knockoff soul / A punk rock romantic / Slumped on the kitchen floor / Nuns in stress position / Smokin’ Marlboros / Lolita is weeping / The bride is beautiful” and then transitions into the intense chorus that repeats “Masseduction / I can’t turn off what turns me on.” The song has a catchy beat and features harder rock and punk elements that mirror the kinkiness of the lyrics.
Other highlights include “New York,” in which Clark laments losing close ones, singing, “I have lost a hero / I have lost a friend / But for you, darling / I’d do it all again.” Her song pins New York as a place that cradles her pain of loss. The song evokes both the sadness of loss as well as the quiet greatness of having a love that came and went—serving as a prime example of St. Vincent’s quintessential attraction to complexity.
The album is electrifying, bold and captures feelings that may seem indescribable, but when St. Vincent lays them out, they are incredibly relatable. My only criticism of the album has to do with Clark’s more upbeat songs. While I understand that she is trying to venture into a new bold territory by mixing rock and electronic rhythms, sometimes I find these songs a little too overwhelming to listen to. For instance, in her song “Fear the Future,” Clark plays with multiple electronic tracks that are vaguely reminiscent of a video game and pairs them with a strong guitar melody that builds throughout the song.
While I understand that the primary goal of many St. Vincent tracks is to be interesting musically, I couldn’t help but feel that some songs may have sacrificed their beauty or palatability for their quirkiness. Perhaps this is the point— the listener is supposed to feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable or trapped in a sea of noise for some of the songs in order to emphasize what Clark is singing about.
Overall, “Masseducation” didn’t disappoint. However, it can be overwhelming at times, so I recommend that you listen to it when you feel like being loud in your room rather than with earphones. Moreover, you’ll get a peek into the life of the wondrous goddess that is St. Vincent— so do yourself a favor and check it out.