Annie Clark, more commonly known as St. Vincent, dropped her sixth album “MASSEDUCTION” on Friday, Oct. 13. The album confronts lyrically the more insidious cultural underpinnings of West Hollywood, particularly on tracks like “Pills.” Sonically, Clark has mutated radio-pop into chromatic and funky abstractions, particularly strong on tracks such as “Los Ageless” and “Young Lover.”
She’s the master of making sweetness sour, making love feel like false advertisement. Her breathy performance and characteristic grit of her guitar meld a familiar and jarring dichotomy she perfected in 2009 with “Actor.”
Clark is an artist who’s always known what she wants for herself. In an interview with Noisey she recalls walking herself to the guitar shop for lessons, barely 12 years-old in rural Texas.
In 2006 she left her first position as a professional musician with The Polyphonic Spree to tour with Sufjan Stevens as a member of a backing band. After working with Sufjan, she set out to write her own music, feeling that she possessed her own genius. Clark received a grammy in 2015 for her self-titled album, has starred in advertisements and has collaborated with both David Byrne and The Pixies.
Her personal independence is reflected in her music, constantly towing the line between commercial pop and obscure electronic rock, while ballads like “Smoking Section” place the listener in a smoky jazz lounge, a loveless, seasick, midnight attraction, where the bar keep’s eyes are glazed over and you can hear the cars outside, wheels wet with rain. Dipping into the emotional realm in a breath, or plunging into an electronic cacophony, the artistic brain inside Clark has carefully shaped every aspect of St Vincent like a well tuned Gibson.
Some have criticized Clark for being “too precious,” but they can’t be more wrong. Not only is Annie Clark fully aware of her position of power in the public spotlight, she’s aware of herself as heir to pop demi-gods Madonna, Bowie and the like.
Her precision and her heavy conceit, perhaps what others have mistaken as preciousness, is wholly intentional, and “MASSEDUCTION” is as all the rest of her masterful albums: written from her throne of power and intellectuality.
In the same manner as Alex Cameron who plays the Vegas adonis on stage, St. Vincent takes tropes of femininity on and off like costume jewelry. Equal parts actress and musician, Annie Clark has been turning St. Vincent on and off since she entered stage right.
St. Vincent is a persona, a theatrical representation of the modern woman bent on self destruction, the sugar and the false glamour that surrounds her local environment.
In “Sugarboy,” she describes herself as “a casualty hanging from the balcony.” “MASSEDUCTION” is a highball mixed with equal parts desire and moral degradation, but it’s not inauthentic. It’s coming from a place of honesty and self awareness living in Clark and in West Hollywood, and it’s totally addictive.
Compared to Lana Del Rey, an artist who tries to express the same ethical deprivation of LA, laced with a familiar catharsis and apathetic outlook, Del Rey just doesn’t stand up with the raw genius of Clark. Clark’s vaudeville pout, her electric self-satisfaction, the tenacity she pulls out of her fretboard and pedal work, her occasional playing of a twelve-string and operating a line of pedals, it doesn’t compare. Clark is both poet and musician, and MASSEDUCTION is pure literature.