St. Vincent – Masseduction

3 out of 5

Label: Loma Vista

Produced by: Jack Antonoff, John Congleton

I think… this album is a lot smarter than me. There’s deeper analysis to be done on the pop accessibility of the album – of which I think Pitchfork has already taken care, making me feel pretty unworthy in my attempt at reviewing it – but in lieu of that, all I can go off of is, y’know, my reaction to listening to the thing.

I arrived at St. Vincent’s music due to producer John Congleton (still present here, on select tracks), but was taken by Annie Clark’s striking combinations of strength and fragility, both in music and lyrics. Trawling back and forth over her catalogue, her growth from singer-songwriter type to a more produced, club-ready gloss has been steady, but her uniqueness – an acerbic bite, a refreshing but not trite sense of honesty – has been apparent all the while, and was certainly maintained even while her relative stardom expanded. There came a point where the music wasn’t necessarily to my tastes anymore (just as Congleton shifted almost exclusively toward much poppier, processed stuff on both his indie and mainstream productions), but it still offered those same sensibilities I respected, and I dug the believably bold persona Clark continued to put forth. That qualifier is important: I never saw / heard Annie Clark the artist as artifice. While I don’t need to equate a creator to their creations 1:1, and there are those who are purposefully putting on an identity for musical career, more often than not I like feeling like I can suss out a real person behind the noise, and I did get that from St. Vincent.

Masseduction, though, feels like it’s all about the veneer. And from it’s title to its evocative cover and its slinky, dancey, sex-and-drugs-and-LA choruses, I think that’s the point, but – and this is where my grasp of its finer aspects fails – I just don’t get that bite anymore. The linked review tells me all about things that are flying over my head, but then again, I do feel like I’m hearing the majority of it – Clark and producer Jack Antonoff give us crisp and catchy and singalongable singles, front to back – but the buffed up presentation declaws this stuff. Things that might seem clever couched amongst other phrases here feels broadcast; I feel like I get the whole album right from the first song.

The performance is untouchable. I listened to the album on repeat several times through, tapping my toe the whole while, and that’s not something I can claim of other St. Vincent discs. And maybe there’s some subversive glee in that, having me bop along to an indie songstress’ rejection of the kind of fast life that produces music of this variety, but then again, it’s not like this is a drastic change from the album preceding it: it’s a fairly logical next step. …And I haven’t listened to the acoustic take on this album, which is another interesting puzzle piece to consider regarding the disc’s intentions and actual impact.

But again: all I can offer is a reaction to what I hear. Which is a good pop album, with sharp production and ace performances all around.