St. Vincent – Masseduction Review


St. Vincent needn’t have bothered making another album after her self-titled fourth record. It was labelled as “colossal” amongst other things and the mark “of the greatest guitarist since the turn of the century” said another. In a sea of floundering and repetitive guitar music, she struck out on her own with a harsh, brazen yet at times delicate sound with creative production and lyrics that struck home through its own air of eccentricity. Her new album Masseduction and intrigue proceeding it the last three years has only been matched it’s exubtrent promotion. Is it possible for her to better herself? What direction can she go in now? 

With her first single ‘New York’ there are no traces of her guitar work for it is largely a dymanic piano ballad. It is a purely emotive affair, which is something that was beat out of us in the maze of Annie’s observations and racing thoughts three years ago. The piano chords are enthused by bracing strings and a oscillating drum machine beat. Once Annie’s half falsetto joins the fray, it makes for a track of graceful progressions. This earnest and vulnerable version of St. Vincent flies in the face of her bold, swaggering experiments of 2014. ‘Los Ageless’ is the stylistic antithesis of the first single. Punching beats, lazily warped guitars fill the space around the coolly hushed vocals of the verses. These fall in to walls of washed out guitars and electronica of the chorus that are spread thinly to form an airy, but driven sound. The arrangement here called for a capable delivery to squeeze the lyrics into the shifting space of the chorus and Annie delivered with her confident warble. As the song goes on, blocky synth chords, the strains of wiry licks and the hint of Dance-Pop beats are topped with a grand staging finish with echoed soundscapes. St. Vincent has always been bold, but now she’s taken on a colour and an aloofness that she never had before and the evidence here is that it’s working. A flurry of lines describing the various ‘Pills’ you can take form the rather simple basis for what is a complex song. Surging effects and a punching percussion are met with Annie Clark’s slick and unbroken accented vocal and this is torn up for the constant waves of a chorus with jingling and shimmering strings and electronica. This is broken up again for an early instrumental that incorporates her trademark heavily distorted guitar solo that bends a new turn of the song towards a constant repeat of the chorus with a gradually rising instrumentation. By the close of the song, it has shifted again an Abbey Road style slow strung riff and here she takes on her wistful tones with towering guitars and saxophones behind her. A song about the culture of escapism through ‘pills’ that grabs your attention and takes it to very different places. 

“Sugarboy” is a frantic and unrelenting track of flashing and pulsating, buoyant electronica from which Clark exhibits her high falsettos to bend and shape themselves freely from the rapid beats behind her. These are contrasted by the pitch shifted and distorted guitars of the chorus that are mirrored by her flat and gruff vocals. These are instcepted by choir vocals jabs of “boys” and “girls” that adds to the urgency and frantic ambition of the track. The song hurls intself into different arrangements as it goes from areas with a dominating rolling bass and oscillating rhythms to sparse areas that leave her vocals to echo into themselves. It is a remarkable track that is unlike anything she has done previously. It is so many genres at the same time and fires itself off in so many directions so quickly that it is almost hard to imagine it could be tamed into one song; here it is. ‘Young Lover’ opens with a muffled dance beat that forms the canvas for Clark to throw crashing guitars from all angles with a crashing percussion that pitches the chorus as a theatrical event. This continues into several more bursts that again shows St. Vincent channeling their raw emoticon into the music and not just their lyrics. ‘Savior’ takes a different tone, with slack riffs and steady beat to replicate a cool and dingy music tone. From here the lyrics evoke sexual imagery before breaking into a lighter arrangment with vocals akin to religious proclamation. The title track is similar in its lyrical tone, but more bold with its chosen style with constant bursts of guitar and pitch shifted interjections of her vocals. ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ is a warmer piano ballad that offers nostalgic music for nostalgic lyrical content. It becomes slightly tragic as the track goes on and this demonstrates the power Annie can generate with various styles and tones of music. Likewise ‘Smoking Section’ shows Clark cutting deep with what is initially a piano laden track interspersed with sparse, but prominent snare drums and imagery of self harm and violent revenge. This intimate arrangment is shattered by a bridge of heavy guitars and electronica. This turns into a sweeping and defiant finish to the album with the piano continuing with drawn out and wispy guitars and chords dispersing around her. 

This album is a step above St. Vincent’s last to a level unnamed. Perhaps many thought she’d never abandon the icy and distantly bold style that worked so well for her before, but here she couldn’t take you any closer to her emotions and personal events. Those songs are masterful in the way they’re written to shock and lull you into a false sense of security with musical transitions to accentuate these features. That’s not to say the bold styles are overlooked here, for they are the product of wild experimentation that takes guitar music to places lightyears away from most. It does this to the extent that it is genreless too. The only thing we can be sure of is that St. Vincent has transcended herself. What on earth will she do next?

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION = 10/10

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – St. Vincent – Los Ageless

St. Vincent needn’t have bothered making another album after her self-titled fourth record. It was labelled as “colossal” amongst other things and the mark “of the greatest guitarist since the turn of the century” said another. In a sea of floundering and repetitive guitar music, she struck out on her own with a harsh, brazen yet at times delicate sound with creative production and lyrics that struck home through its own air of eccentricity. Her new album Masseduction is out on October 5th and the intrigue of the last three years has only been matched in the exubtrent promotion of the last few days.

Her latest single ‘Los Ageless’ is the stylistic antithesis of the first single ‘New York’. Punching beats, lazily warped guitars fill the space around the coolly hushed vocals of the verses. These fall in to walls of washed out guitars and electronica of the chorus that are spread thinly to form an airy, but driven sound. The arrangement here called for a capable delivery to squeeze the lyrics into the shifting space of the chorus and Annie delivered with her confident warble. As the song goes on, blocky synth chords, the strains of wiry licks and the hint of Dance-Pop beats are topped with a grand staging finish with echoed soundscapes. St. Vincent has always been bold, but now she’s taken on a colour and an aloofness that she never had before and the evidence here is that it’s working. 

Owen Riddle

Single Review – St. Vincent – New York

‘New York’ is the new single from Annie Clark’s St. Vincent. It looks set to tigger the steady stream of new material from Annie towards a fifth album off the back of an eponymous fourth album that was genre mixing and experimental. It was a bold and defining album for 2014 and one of the few fresh guitar featured albums. With her new single however, there are no traces of her guitar work for it is largely a dymanic piano ballad. It is a purely emotive affair, which is something that was beat out of us in the maze of Annie’s observations and racing thoughts red years ago. The piano chords are enthused by bracing strings and a oscillating drum machine beat. Once Annie’s half falsetto joins the fray, it makes for a track of graceful progressions. This earnest and vulnerable version of St. Vincent flies in the face of her bold, swaggering experiments of 2014. Though I doubt this sound will feature throughout a new album, this is a style St. Vincent delivers beautifully. 

Owen Riddle

Sunday Suggestion – St Vincent – Marrow

St Vincent (Annie Clark) has received huge critical acclaim with her most recent effort and rightly so as far as I’m concerned. Her self titled fourth album was sublime, showcasing a hugely talented artist at work. The progression from her debut album Marry Me from 2007 and to St. Vincent this year is clear and her style was really honed and refined with songs such as Marrow from her second album Actor from 2009. The eerie lyrical twists and turns of the track are surrounded by a very sparse set up with distantly wailing vocals along with a pulse-like drum beat and gently scratching guitars. This sets the song up perfectly for the shot of Clark’s heavily reverberating and fuzzy guitar as she urgently spells out for help. These swift switches of sound are carried off with such an effortlessness. She also controls her vocals as opposed to screaming over the noise and places them just ahead of the raging guitars. Not only does this maintain the songs surreal feel, but it also accentuates the fuzzy guitar bursts. A profound and well formed track and she’d go on to do even more.

Owen Riddle

Sunday Suggestion – St. Vincent – Prince Johnny

With the successor to St. Vincent’s self titled album for album of the year in 2015 recently unveiled as being Currents by Tame Impala; we thought we would take k back at one of the highlights of the best album of 2014 and ‘Prince Johnny’ is one of many. From what seems like a much more eccentric and inventive version of a Lana Del Rey track, it is a song of beauty and complexity. The simple back beat is joined with haunting choir like samples along with the sparse bass line to enhance the other refined instrumentation. Annie Clark’s vocals are sublime in this track as they effortlessly carry the melody and the hook and still keep the focus on the unusual and wonderfully odd lyrics. The chorus only enhances this and the haunting samples behind it. Only brief rumbles of a guitar are needed. It is such an effortless and beautiful example of delivery, recording and production. Slightly humorous, tragic, eerie and fresh all at the same time. One of the best tracks from a still wondrous album.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – St. Vincent – Bad Believer

St Vincent announces trio of UK shows for May

St Vincent comes off the back of making the best album of 2014 and a Grammy to only justify it further (she’s even been nominated for a BRIT which is a victory of recognition in itself) with an expanded deluxe edition of her self titled fourth LP. With it, you get a Darkside remix of ‘Digital Witness’ and four new tracks including ‘Bad Believer’ which she unveiled last week. The track opens with immediate and intense percussion, full of static screams before directing her smooth, yet edgy vocals through her trademark bursts of churning, tuneful guitar and into a chorus of peculiar marrying of vocals and meandering, yet melodic synths to compliment the peculiarity. The song then tails off into soft edged synths to a whisper from Annie Clark to set up for a burst back into the chorus. Not her strongest track over the last twelve months, but one that shows that she still had even more sitting in her back pocket.

Half Term Report – Top 10 albums of the year so far

For me 2014 has already eclipsed the previous year for musical diversity, creativity and innovation about all aspects of the craft; whether it’s through the production or lyrics, it has been a far better year already. The most obvious evidence is the lack of full marks in 2013 and the two full marks we’ve had already this year. On top of this, the average rating of 2013’s top 10 albums was 8.85 while the first half of 2014 has already produced a score of 9.05 and I’m sure that will rise by the time we get to December. So here are some of the contenders so far.

10. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

Photo:

Despite having a slight knack of becoming a little too bogged down in similar subdued moments, it bats those moments back with some wonderful atmospheric bursts and rhythms that encapsulate so many unexpected hooks. Another change of direction and one of their best yet.

9. Kasabian 48:13

Another marvellous piece of re-imagination after the false start of their last album; 48:13 delivers their vision almost perfectly. It’s bold, in your face and you can’t ignore it. At other times it’s unsettling and thought provoking. Whether it’s driven through eerie electronica or EDM-enthused hard rock, it works. This is even more true live.

8. Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peek some moments of real beauty. For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat. A perfect example of production discipline and manipulation.

6. Bastard Mountain – Farewell Bastard Mountain

Admittedly this album by the British folk collective was something I wasn’t expecting to blow me away and in reality it didn’t. It did, however immerse me into the raw and natural soundscapes that were produced by more traditional means. An album that is inherently beautiful and a credit to their capable musicianship. As simple as that.

5. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

4. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

File:Wild Beasts - Present Tense.jpg

Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you. Not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further.

3. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

File:Beck Morning Phase.jpg

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the bold, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballads and down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

 

Sunday Suggestion – St. Vincent – Marrow

St. Vincent (Annie Clark) has received huge critical acclaim with her most recent effort and rightly so as far as I’m concerned. Her self titled fourth album was sublime; showcasing a hugely talented artist at work. The progression from her debut album Marry Me from 2007 and to St. Vincent this year is clear and her style was really honed and refined with songs such as Marrow from her second album Actor from 2009. The eerie lyrical twists and turns of the track are surrounded by a very sparse set up with distantly wailing vocals along with a pulse-like drum beat and gently scratching guitars. This sets the song up perfectly for the shot of Clark’s heavily reverberating and fuzzy guitar as urgently spells out for help. These swift switches of sound are carried off with such an effortlessness. She also controls her vocal as opposed to screaming over the noise and sits it just ahead of the raging guitars. Not only does this maintain the songs surreal feel, but it also accentuates the fuzzy guitar bursts. A profound and well formed track and she’d go on to do even more.

Image from www.mtv.com

St Vincent – St Vincent review

This review should have been completed long ago but better late than never? I really did not want to just leave it since there really seems to be a great level of intrigue and excitement about it and her initial tracks off the album look very promising. This is her fourth studio album and her previous three have saw her develop and sharpen her art rock and baroque style and she is not really one for playing it safe and simple. Her self titled fourth effort sees her applying more experimental tools and methods to the genres she has showcased so well already. Given the pattern of her progression so far, you would think and hope that ‘St Vincent’ will be her greatest effort to date.

‘Digital Witness’ starts with quick firing bursts of trumpets and other brass instrumentation while her vocal is detached and sort of out of sync with the brass which leads to a broken melody that is engineered in a great and imaginative fashion as it sounds peculiar and curious. The small and drawn out electronic sounds trickle through the brass instrumentation before flashing into the chorus which ramps up the tempo through the percussion and then through the rapid synths and the washing of guitars over the top. Her enclosed lyric continues the block-like feel that fits all the different elements together in an odd jigsaw puzzle. Amongst this is the various samples and synth sounds clashing at certain intervals throughout the track that are suddenly stripped back; only leaving the brass before being rushed back into the chorus. A simple manipulation of the songs structure used to great effect. ‘Birth In Reverse’ cunningly opens in an out of joint and dragging, drawn out fashion with the drawn out, distorted guitar which suddenly turns into a bouncy and urgent rhythm from the second guitar while the opening, distorted riff remains in the background. The vocal reflects and echoes this to the point which only serves to enhance the transition. The guitars scratch at a higher pitch in the chorus with the synths grinding to the depths of any tone. The vocals are slightly distorted but also very upfront and immediate which keeps the attention of the lyrics. The interlocking varieties of guitar sounds and the heavy bass synth sounds make for a fresh and invigorating sound that has the added dimension of her contradictory vocals. A lot of standard guitar groups could learn a lot from this.

‘Prince Johnny’ has a completely different dimension. Imagine a complete and improved version of Lana Del Ray. She could learn much from St Vincent too it would seem. The simple back beat is joined with haunting choir like samples along with the simple bass line to enhance the other refined instrumentals. Her vocals are sublime in this track as they effortlessly carry the melody and the hook and still keep the focus on the unusual and wonderfully odd lyrics. The chorus only enhances this and the haunting samples behind it. Only brief rumbles of a guitar are needed. It is such an effortless and beautiful example of delivery, recording and production. Slightly humorous, tragic, eerie and fresh all at the same time. One of the best tracks I have heard so far if not the best. ‘Rattlesnake’ opens with bouncing and out of joint synths along with the out of focus but organic vocal that adapts in an out of focus and immediacy depending on the amount of instrumentation around it. ‘Regret’ is a slung back and bold guitar track that St Vincent typically makes her own in the chorus with the strung out acoustic elements and the soft backing vocals that suddenly turns towards highly charged electronic guitars. ‘Every Tears Disappears’ is a magnificent collage of percussion and synths options and varieties that breaks out into a melody over the top of it with pop like vocals at certain intervals. This album is full of about anything you want. No song is linear at all. Each is crafted so meticulously with each detail playing a part to the overall feel of the songs. Unusual and unsettling moments become so familiar and correct. She has also offered a multitude of new ways and progressive slants on what are being seen as dead sounds and instruments. A true masterpiece of this year for sure. I don’t really have to say whether this is her best work or not now do I?

St Vincent – St Vincent = 10/10

Images from www.vulture.com / prettymuchamazing.com