WPGM Recommends: St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (Album Review)

Growing up in Texas, Anne Erin Clark always aspired for more. She started practising music at the age of 12, and went on to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. However, she chose to drop out three years later, just short of graduation, in 2004. Despite her early departure, the college served to start her career. It was in 2003 when she released her first ever EP, Ratsliveonnoevilstar.

Two years after dropping out of music college, Clark officially took on the stage name St. Vincent, and began recording her first studio album. In an interview, she revealed that she chose the name after being inspired by a Nick Cave song, which refers to the hospital in which Dylan Thomas died. The reference is to the line “And Dylan Thomas died drunk in St. Vincent’s hospital” from Cave’s song “There She Goes My Beautiful World” off the album Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.

A year later, in 2007, she finally released her first studio album, Marry Me.

It was very well received by critics, and it started the ball rolling for St. Vincent’s music career. She went on a year long tour after the release of Marry Me, and upon returning back home, she recorded and released her second studio album, Actor. Once again, she went on tour. There was a definite pattern emerging in her subsequent recording and touring schedules of every two years.

This routine was only broken in 2012, when St. Vincent released Love This Giant in collaboration with David Byrne, only a year after her third studio album, Strange Mercy. That was again followed by a tour, and two years later, St. Vincent released her eponymous studio album in 2014.

However, after that, it wouldn’t be until three years later that a follow up album would be released, as her self-titled album St. Vincent shot the American musician straight into superstardom. It won a 2015 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, making St. Vincent the second female solo artist to win the award since its inception in 1991.

This new record MASSEDUCTION was released this week, on October 13. It is a date that reflects perfectly on St. Vincent’s image, as, coincidentally, it just so happened to be a Friday the 13th. The album has been classified as several different types of genres since its release: futuristic pop, glam rock, new wave, ambient rock, electropop, industrial-tinted techno, psychedelic rock, electronic rock and dream pop.

The first single, “New York”, set off the tune of the album better than any other track could. With a song that starts off with “New York isn’t New York without you, love” and flows into a repeated chorus intoning, “I have lost a hero / I have lost a friend”, the song sends the listener into a melancholic and nostalgic mood.

The music video further cements this idea, with St. Vincent staring listlessly at the camera, while her surroundings keep changing on a continuous loop. The most bizarre scenery creeps up around her, dipping as deep as anyone can go into pure surrealism.

The opening track on the album, “Hang On Me”, starts off the music with a softer edge. The song relates a tale of asking someone – most likely a significant other – to not leave. The second verse sets off the tune for the rest of the song, coming in halfway with rather revelatory lyrics: “I know you hate my hysterics / I promise this time it’s different / I won’t cry wolf in the kitchen / Just please, oh, please don’t hang up yet”.

Fear The Future” was produced with the aid of Jack Antonoff and John Congleton. It is a much more lively and upbeat song than some of the songs on MASSEDUCTION. The lyrics are also completely different from some of the material on the rest of the album. It opens up with a jolly beat, heading into the first verse, “When the Earth split in two / I was I / you were you”. It continues in much the same way, finally ending on a rather morose “I fear the future”.

A song that effortlessly followed the theme of the lead single, right down to its name, is “Los Ageless”. The name is a spin on the city of Los Angeles – a slight change from the unedited name of “New York”, but still the same, nevertheless. It starts off with a jaunty “In Los Ageless, the winter never comes” and continues down the road of nostalgia with a similar chorus of “How can anybody have you? / How can anybody have you and lose you?

“Los Ageless” ends on a downbeat as St. Vincent sings “I try to write you a love song but it comes out a lament” on repeat until the song fades out. It’s something that works fairly well with the music video, even though the visual theme is in direct contrast to the lyrics. We are once again assaulted with surrealist images of a city obsessed with plastic surgery and “health eating”. This bit of social commentary also ties in neatly with the song’s title.

Already one of the most popular songs off of the album, “Young Lover” is also a joint creation of St. Vincent, Jack Antonoff and John Congleton. It is a notorious crowd favourite, as it can effortlessly get everyone up on their feet and dancing to the rhythm. The lyrics don’t paint a picture of a particular scenario, but the chorus lets us know there is no reason for further nostalgia here: “Young lover, I’m begging you please to wake up / Young lover, I wish that I was your drug”.

MASSEDUCTION is the perfect biography if you would like to know more about St. Vincent’s life, as she stated in several interviews, prior to the album’s release. It primarily focuses on themes of power, sex, drugs, sadness, imperiled relationships and death, and it definitely does that all with excellency. Furthermore, it cements St. Vincent’s place in a male-dominated music industry, as a queer woman, making her the voice and soul of a generation.

St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION is out now via Loma Vista Recordings, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Qurat-ul-anne Sikander
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