St Vincent: MassEducation review – songs stripped down to the barest bones
Loma Vista Recordings
A year ago (to the week) Annie Clark released her fifth album, Masseduction. Co-produced by Clark and Jack Antonoff, and featuring songs drenched in the influences of David Bowie, Massive Attack, Prince and David Byrne, the album is a tour de force of sensual textures and tonal shifts.
One year later, with the addition of a single vowel in the album title, the songs remain but they are each spectres of their former lives. As “re-envisioning” or “reimagining” goes, MassEducation is a stark about-turn.
Recorded in August last year as Masseduction was being mixed, such instant re-evaluation (with no rehearsals or pre-planning) sheds light on Clark as an artist who is wide open to viewing her work from contrasting angles.
With only piano (by Thomas Bartlett) as accompaniment, there is a spartan intimacy akin to – as Clark has said – “two dear friends playing songs together with the kind of secret understanding one can only get through endless nights in New York City”.
Geography notwithstanding, such intimacy invests the songs with a mournfulness that wasn’t necessarily apparent on the source album. Now? All is laid bare.