St Vincent: Masseduction – woozy trip through a sensory overload paradise

    
Artist: St Vincent
Genre: Alternative
Label: Caroline International

Annie Clark reckons songs – specifically her own – are like Rorschach tests. “The interpretation of the song, or the feeling of the song, has more to do with the listener than it does with my intention . . . Everybody’s real and everybody’s a composite,” she informed the BBC last week. Make of that what you will, but there are songs on Clark’s superlative new album that, while begging for exposition and explanation, certainly sound as if she’s telling her own tales.

Clark's fifth album begins with Hang on Me, and from the off it's clear we're in for a woozy trip along a path that, if not revealing personal reference points, certainly revels in influences. Spirits linger herein: Bowie is all over the joint, from the sax coda (by Kamasi Washington) on Pills to the guitar fripperies of Savior, while David Byrne's stylistic psychosis grips to the music like clingfilm. Prince and Massive Attack slink their way into the music, too, yet there is no person other than Clark who wraps it all up and sends it on its way.

Co-produced by Clark and Lorde associate Jack Antonoff, Masseduction has a solitary tone throughout. Unhurried songs such as Smoking Section ("hoping one will spark and land in my direction"), Slow Disco "(I'm so glad I came, but I can't wait to leave") and Happy Birthday Johnny sit side by side with snagging electro-pop tunes such as the title track, Hang on Me, Young Lover and New York ("New York isn't you without you, love"). Deciphering the intent isn't difficult – Clark's anxiousness is apparent throughout. Even the more euphorically throbbing songs are underscored by an abstract sense of loss.

The whole amounts to a less enigmatic St Vincent laying certain emotions on the line while simultaneously (indeed, almost unwillingly) holding back. The musical backdrop, however, is the clincher – there are so many wonderful, reflexive layers and strands here that it's sensory overload paradise.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture