It’s been almost four years since Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent, released her self-titled album. A critical darling, St. Vincent propelled her into national prominence; numerous publications listed it as one of the best albums of the year and gave St. Vincent her highest sales figures yet. With her fifth studio album, MASSEDUCTION, St. Vincent takes another bold step into her electropop psyche.
The album opens with a grooving pulse in “Hang On Me,” as she reasserts herself as one of the most strangely honest and sincere lyricists of recent memory. “‘Cause you and me/we’re not meant for this world,” she croons in the song. St. Vincent has long thrived on the distance between herself and society while also specializing on the indulgent impulses we don’t always discuss, often with more success than her contemporaries. When St. Vincent sings “Masseduction/I can’t turn off what turns me on” in the self-titled track of the album, she is one of the most human, albeit one of the weirdest, modern singers around.
The most noticeable change in this album compared to previous efforts comes from the addition of Jack Antonoff, the rising producer that has found his stride in working with some of music’s biggest names — at the same time as writing and performing as Bleachers. Antonoff is no stranger to pop, and his influence is most notable in the overall tempo of the album; the entire piece moves faster than St. Vincent’s earlier albums, and even the more minimal and slower songs bubble with life. It has a welcome sense of movement and consistency and solves a conundrum that had been present in a few songs of St. Vincent’s past; despite excellent musicianship, older songs sometimes feel dragged out and too long, but on MASSEDUCTION, they start and finish with more authority and purpose. Antonoff also brings a welcome sense of unity between tracks, as the duo transitions very cleanly between the aesthetic of one song into the world of the next.
However, don’t be fooled by Antinoff’s contributions; his voice as a producer has shined brightly in collaborations with Lorde and Taylor Swift, but on MASSEDUCTION, he takes a backseat to St. Vincent’s distinct musicality. St. Vincent has always dabbled in mixing electronic ideas with traditional instruments, and she continues to push this juxtaposition in new directions on tracks like “Slow Disco,” as a string ensemble loops behind her pitched-down voice asking, “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death?” At the same time, her signature guitar tops off many of the songs, helping create the most dense and climactic moments on the album, like the second half of “Young Lover.”
MASSEDUCTION, especially on its first few listens, doesn’t seem to add or subtract too much from what we have come to expect from St. Vincent. At the same time, why transform when St. Vincent has yet to misfire musically with albums that are already different? It’s an exceptional installment of eerily comforting electropop. With each track and each listen, however, MASSEDUCTION proves to be a confident and layered album that cements St. Vincent’s place among the most talented musicmakers.