Preparing for St. Vincent’s fifth LP, MASSEDUCTION, I found myself engulfed in the feeling of meeting up with a best friend who I haven’t seen in years. My mind was littered with questions such as, “Will we still have anything in common? How much have they changed?” and the fearful, “Will we still like each other after all this time spent apart?”
My love for Annie Clark has been my longest relationship— a tender and heartfelt 14 year old self fell in love with Clark’s first album discovered via MySpace. I found solace in Marry Me when nothing else seemed to make me go, “Yes, this was made just for me.” Following suit, Actor, Strange Mercy, and the self titled St. Vincent were also monumental soundtracks to my formative years. My fingers crossed over and over for MASSEDUCTION to make me once again say, “This is the best St. Vincent album.”
The album’s first single, “New York,” was ever-promising and fulfilling for my wishes of tear-jerking heartbreak. Sadness, loss, and peppered-in profanity were rationed in perfect portions of being genuine and nonchalant. The lyrics were an all-familiar melancholy that we can recognize from Clark but the absence of her signature sound of shredding guitar was the first taste of what this new album would unfold.
Upon the releases of “Los Ageless” and “Pills,” I sat in my car and marinated in the new sound. Bumping rhythms and lyrics longing to stick to the walls of my brain were executed in an accessible form— ready for radio. Adjusting my mind from assuming St. Vincent could only deliver us whimsical wind instruments and a wailing guitar, I nodded with acceptance that songs can be despondent while perfumed with pop.
A graceful transition from catchy bangers unfolded into our well-known friend in “Happy Birthday, Johnny.” First appearing as simply ‘John’ in “Marry Me” and a reintroduction as ‘Johnny’ in “Prince Johnny,” I am overjoyed to see my old love in a new form. I see flashes of it once more when I make my way to the tracks “Dancing With a Ghost” and “Slow Disco.” The structure mimics “I Put A Pearl In The Ground” and “Landmines” where we experience an instrumental interlude followed by a song that references the previous song title.
By this point in the album, it is evident that I am being led down to its heart-wrenching core. “Smoking Section” presented itself in the most transparent and naked truth that I have experienced a musician taking me. I am amazed, terrified, and comforted that Clark made the decision to let us in on thoughts we all might have had but have been too afraid to confess.
With her rise in fame and place in the spotlight, Annie Clark could have taken the route of locking us out on all of the sensitive subjects that were explored in MASSEDUCTION. Keeping true to herself with themes of mental illness, kinks, loss, love, and suicide - we are able to better digest these with a side of upbeat tunes. St. Vincent is just the same, but brand new.