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CD of The Week

Week of 10/16/17

    St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION (Loma Vista / Concord)

    Annie Clark's 2014 album under the St. Vincent moniker was both a culmination and canonization of her work to that point. Appropriately eponymous, it served as a sleek, succinct summary of all the things she had done so well on three albums prior. It was also, understandably, her first album that sounded as if her ambitious ascent had started to plateau. Yes, she could still impress, but could Clark still surprise? Shame on me or anyone else who dared ask themselves such a thing. Clark's latest (and maybe one day greatest) album, MASSEDUCTION, feels less like a refinement and more like a rebirth.

    This reintroduction to Clark follows the upward trajectory that she has experienced in the public consciousness since we last heard music from her, and the sudden tabloid curiosity and obsession with her personal life that inevitably followed. Clark confronts that on MASSEDUCTION with what could arguably be her most personal, vulnerable set of songs yet. The lyrics dive into the idea of loneliness, both being and feeling alone, sensations that Clark has no doubt dealt with both as more mainstream awareness comes her way and as she transitions from the throes of a new romance to the aftermath. Recent single "Los Ageless" best captures this in the catchy but crushing chorus: "How can anyone have you and lose you and not lose your mind too?" Later on, she explores the alienation felt by other people in her orbit from her. "Happy Birthday Johnny" revisits the same Johnny who has appeared in songs throughout the St. Vincent catalog and evaluates how that relationship has only been thrown into greater chaos since her newfound commercial success.

    While her words would seem to suggest introspection, the music around them is far from introverted. In fact, working with current pop rock producer du jour Jack Antonoff, Clark has made both her most accessible album to date and her most musically exciting since 2009's Actor. Consummating a relationship with the electronica textures that Clark merely flirted with previously, highlights include the patiently pulsing title track, the Prince pastiche "Savior," and the ferocious "Fear the Future," from which the new St. Vincent tour will take its name. Best of all is "Sugarboy," a dazzling, dizzying dervish of a song that sounds descended from both Hesitation Marks-era Nine Inch Nails and "Hammering In My Head"-era Garbage. Tellingly, songs like these seem to buck the most directly against those seeking to pigeonhole her by who she sleeps with. "Don't turn off what turns me on," she demands on the aforementioned title track. I wouldn't want to be the one who disobeys.

    Time will tell if MASSEDUCTION succeeds in helping St. Vincent achieve the peak pop stardom she has earned multiple times over by this point. In the meantime, her longtime fans can rest assured that the instincts and sense of adventure that got her this far are as sharp as ever. Not only that, but she's still pushing for closer connection with fans old and new with a closer look behind the curtain that's sincere without being salacious. We've been listening for a decade plus, but something tells me we're only just beginning to get to know her.

    St. Vincent brings her "Fear the Future" tour to Philadelphia at the Electric Factory on November 28th.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive MASSEDUCTION on CD. Click here for details.
    Review by Rob Huff

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