2017, Music

MASSEDUCTION (2017) by St. Vincent

I saw Annie Clark early in her career on Austin City Limits, showing off her guitar playing and doing vaguely quirky things like playing a “cello guitar.” I really enjoyed it and figured I would check her out. I bought Actor whenever it came out and liked it enough tried to like it more than I did, based off that earlier performance.

But then I started to hear some of her new music in the ether and I saw her live in 2014 and I lost interest. She had evolved from her earliest sound, which was good, but not in a direction I was interested in. So I stopped following her career as she became more famous and (briefly?) became a topic of mild tabloid interest. (Or am I misremembering?) And this music on this record is definitely what I imagined she sounded like after I stopped listening.

The songs are catchy, I suspect they are always catchy. (Whatever I didn’t love about Actor, it wasn’t because it lacked catchy songs.) She has a real knack for hooks and I suspect it’s her inherent artiness that keeps her from getting bigger.

I do feel like she’s tried to get more provocative with her lyrics over the years. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s being more honest, because she’s deliberately trying to provoke, or whether I just don’t remember (as it’s been years since I listened to Actor). I do sometimes find the lyrics incongruous with the music, at times. Other times, they feel appropriate.

Everything is very assembled, put-together. That was my big gripe at her 2014 show, was how polished and rehearsed everything was. Clark is an incredible musician but I do feel like she values precision too much. (And when things aren’t precise, it still seems prepared.) I mean, don’t you just want her to shred and know that was a first take? Don’t you just want her to have a little more Jack White in her than David Byrne?

I think Clark is really talented, but she definitely likes things I don’t and the “electronic” or dancier direction her music has taken over the least 15 years or so just isn’t for me. It’s arguably more original than what she was up to at the start, however.


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