A Subtle Magic Touch Can Work
When applying to colleges, most people have a major in mind and many of those students are excellent additions to the given school. But in the midst of the eager beavers who know what major and life path they want, there are those who apply as undecided, and are just as appealing despite their indecision. The illustrious St. Vincent, also known as Annie Clark, has released a new album, Masseduction, and it is the undecided college applicant. It’s music that as an entire project, doesn’t exactly have a purpose or destination, which makes it rather difficult to discuss.
St. Vincent released two of the best albums of the decade with Strange Mercy and St. Vincent (both topping our Album of the Year lists in 2011 and 2014, respectively). While Clark set an unbelievably high standard for her work with these past two albums, Masseduction on par with those, if not a cut above – an incredible achievement for an artist who is truly on the brink of superstardom.
One single, “Pills” has an animated frivolousness to it, a sort of jolly mask covering the serious topic that is pill addiction (or accessibility, to put it into validating terms). St. Vincent called it accurately, seeing that “Pills” is certainly one of the most catchy/memorable tracks. Perhaps she sprinkled some pop magic atop to make it the natural favorite.
Drugs aside, “Hang on Me” has the feel of a TV show theme song, which makes it a solid choice for the opening track. It is however, not music that benefits from being played through a speaker. The title track could have easily been cowritten by Muse, if not inspired by them, and has a very catchy “I can’t turn off what turns me on” line that makes several appearances.
Right up there with “Pills,” has to be “Los Ageless” – yes that is that the correct spelling and not a typo. The partnership of the synth and Vincent’s vocals produces wonderful results, and it’s only further strengthened by the hook, “How can anybody have you and lose / And not lose their mind?” It’s opening the door on the difficulties of breakup recovery.
The album has a stronger first half, though that’s not encouragement to sleep on side B. “Happy Birthday, Johnny” is track six. It’s a beautifully sung tune, adorned with a very basic melody that would be right at home in a beginning band method book. It’s so simple, it’s surprising the song hadn’t been written before. The emotional peak of the album hits at track eight, “New York.” It’s the most teary-eyed of the bunch, with a prettiness that deserves several listens.
Closing out the album is “Smoking Section,” a waltz (nice change of feel) that offers some of the most personal lyrics on the album. Frankly, the few tracks that precede it are not particularly memorable, but certainly are well-performed. While these tracks don’t conjure up magical images like wizards or spells, there’s something about the way Vincent writes music that makes it seem like she has something special about her. Her magical musical essence will continue to have a long and fruitful career.