St Vincent (Annie Clark) is back with her new album Masseduction, her first since her eponymous third in 2014. This time around Clark has distanced herself even further from her work with David Byrne on 2012’s We Are Giant, moving into a poppier direction. This move was siganalled when she hired Jack Antonoff of Bleachers fame to help produce the album. Antonoff is becoming known for his pop-centred work with Lorde and Taylor Swift, and has helped Clark take her eclectic taste and package it into more mainstream fare.
There are plenty of earworms in the album, with Los Angeles and Pills the stand-outs sticking in your head for longer than is advised. The more impressive songs though are the slower ones, which take more artistic risks. New York, Saviour and Slow Disco are not only different to what Clark has produced in the past, but delve into an emotional place that changes the nature and narrative of the album. In the past, Clark has produced innovative, anthemic rock, but on New York she creates a tune that wouldn’t feel out of place in a twee rom-com, or on an album of any number of indie bands. It is songs like New York where Antonoff’s influence is clear. Although his style is typically more sanitised than Clark’s frank and honest refrains, they mesh together perfectly, making Clark’s songs tighter and more controlled. Her songs have always been stadium fillers, but the new batch will be filling a different kind of stadium, one where fans of David Bowie and Paramore can live in harmony.
The album starts off manic, with a bombastic production, but slowly turns more reflective, eventually becoming an album about love and heartbreak. Her ex, Cara Delevigne sings back-up on some of the tracks, and it is no surprise that the early songs are more chaotic, before delving into sadness, wistfulness and regret later on. Masseducation presents a more vulnerable and reflective St.Vincent. Her glam rock aesthetic is still here, just updated with a futuristic pastel-tinged, perma-latex theme. The wardrobe evolution is conscious, fitting perfectly with the synth heavy, futuristic pop produced on the album. Despite focusing her music, the inventiveness that made Clark one of the most exciting musicians this century is retained.
Ultimately, like all great artists, St.Vincent the character hasn’t changed, but has just evolved. The music is tighter, the image is more controlled, but the non-conformist, inventive, smart rock is still as good as ever.