Correction, 9:40 a.m. Oct. 20, 2017: An earlier version of this story misspelled Masseduction. It has been corrected.
For a decade, Annie Clark, better known around the globe as imaginative art-rocker St. Vincent, has released one stunning album after another full of provocative, beguiling, label-defying music. Clark's new album, Masseduction, continues in that artful trajectory, though it introduces a shiny new wrinkle.
In glowing reviews and profiles from The New York Times and The Guardian, critics say Clark, who grew up in Dallas, leans into the pop realm of her colorful palette more in Masseduction. And to a lengthy extent, that much is true, thanks to the help of pop-producer-of-the-moment and musician Jack Antonoff of the band Fun. But just to be clear: St. Vincent's vivid re-imagining of danceable pop music is not as lifeless as what populates Top 40 radio.
St. Vincent lyrics have long delved into the id's grimy creases. That she displays her latest, oft-unsettling findings on top of pristinely-produced beats, lurking synths and legendary guitar virtuosities is a mile marker of a continuing journey, not of an off-course, surprise destination.
Each of her albums, beginning with 2007's map-placing debut Marry Me and most recently her Grammy-winning 2014 self-titled effort, have showcased her deft ability to be at once hilarious, sexy, sarcastic, mournful and truthful.
"Pills," a rather Prince-esque number, is a striking example of this successful marriage of thematic grit and sonic clarity. Over a club-banging beat, Clark sings about the many ways modern medication is used for basic life functions before showing off the guitar gymnastics she's also become adored for. As much as it could be a judgment on society's chemical dependence for happiness, it could, and more likely is, an exorcised demon in the form of personal confession. "Los Ageless" is another gem where the ax-wielding chops that earned her a line of signature guitars is on brilliant display as she mines the pain of another broken relationship.
The funkified, kinky "Savior" features lines of sexual role-playing ("you dress me up in a nurses outfit," and "ruler and desk, so I can make it hurt," for a couple of, well, clear examples), while "New York" is a tearful heartache to not only a specific person, but to a moment in time. It's easy, if not flat-out desirable, to try and connect the dots between what's heard on record and what's read in TMZ headlines, but Clark is a master storyteller with few peers.
The source material for these songs are surely ripped from Clark's daily travels and observations, and she's recently admitted to as much in her many interviews. But intricate dissection of the who, what and where of each tune's origin not only misses the point of the album to look inward, it sells Clark, the storyteller, far short.