Unfulfilled potential in “Masseduction”

St. Vincent’s “Masseduction” is the follow-up to her 2014 self-titled breakthrough album, which won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. It’s a frenetic high-strung album that is the perfect soundtrack for our high-stress times. The album, unfortunately, doesn’t entirely follow through on its great potential due to several out of place ballads.

The second track on the album, “Pills,” is one of my favorite singles of the year so far. With a catchy chorus resembling a demented ‘50s infomercial, advertising “Pills to wake, pills to sleep/Pills,pills, pills every day of the week.” The song is a fantastic commentary on our medicated society. The final section perfectly captures the sense of loneliness that pervades much of the album, as it moves to a slow atmospheric outro, ending with the line “everyone you love will all go away” and a solemn saxophone break by Kamasi Washington.

The production by frequent Kendrick Lamar collaborator, Sounwave, is fantastic, with a happy bouncy feeling that creates contrast with the self-destructive lifestyle St. Vincent exposes in the song. St. Vincent, whose real name is Anne Clark, contributes a great guitar solo on the track, showing why she is considered one of the best guitarists in indie music.

The title track is another highlight, with Clark offering an unapologetic celebration of her sexuality. The robotic backing alternates between “masseduction” and “mass destruction,” while Clark screams that she “can’t turn off what turns [her] on.” This track features some fantastic guitar work that blends well with the electronic production.

The album works best when it functions in the upbeat neo-new wave sound of the aforementioned tracks. The slow ballads, like “Slow Disco” and “Smoking Section,” drag the album down.  Although they are not terrible songs by any means, they do not fit with the energy of the album as a whole, and feel a bit tacked on when paired with more frenetic songs like “Fear the Future.” The string-based “Slow Disco” feels especially long, as the last minute of the song features auto-tuned vocals repeating “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death.”

The exception to this is “New York,” where a slow electronic build up to the chorus helps it blend better with the other songs on the album. The electronic touches perfectly accompany Clark’s piano and vocals, giving the record a hopeful and uplifting quality despite the melancholic lyrics.  You can hear the pain in her voice as she reminisces about her time in New York.

Overall, despite being a little inconsistent, “Masseduction” is a great follow up to St. Vincent’s fantastic self-titled album. Accessible tracks like “New York” should help expose her music to a larger audience, while more experimental tracks like “Pills” show that her creative fire is still intact.

Album: “Masseduction”

Artist: St. Vincent

Release: Oct. 13

Rating: 4.5 out of 5