What are your feelings about St Vincent as an artist?
Kate: I think she’s one of the cleverest and most interesting artists in music; her s/t album is still in regular rotation on my, er, spotify. And in a time when Robyn seems to have abandoned pop, I’m really thankful that we still have someone writing brilliantly addictive songs about emotion in the digital era. Basically: I love her.
Hassan: She’s one of the most forward thinking artists around still playing the guitar. This is evident both within her albums and out, given the fact that she has actually redesigned the guitar shape so that it’s better playable for women. The fact that she blends electronic music with all the above is yet another reason you can’t help but love her. She’s been one of my favourites since Actor.
Kate: Imagine not liking St Vincent.
So, the big question: did this album meet your expectations?
Hassan: It’s not as strong as I was hoping it would be. I think there’s no disappointment when it comes to St Vincent pushing boundaries and trying new things. Also her albums are tongue in cheek and she hasn’t lost her humour/charm. ‘Saviour’ seems to reference Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, the way that guitar comes in on the intro and the theme. The only problem I find with it is a supplanting of experiment for hard-hitting melodies and arrangements like the eponymous last record had.
Kate: Do you know what, I had no idea what to expect from this album. You can tell she’s changed a lot in the last five years – both musically and as a public figure – and you kind of have the feeling she could have gone in literally any direction. So, if anything, Masseduction is more of a straightforward evolution from St Vincent than I was expecting, but still absolutely littered with unexpected bits and pieces – ‘Sugarboy’, for example, is wild!
It sounds like Prince, right?
Hassan: Totally agree on the Prince comparison, there’s a few moments on the album like that.
Kate: Do you think last year everyone went a bit Prince mad after he died? I feel like I’ve heard a lot of songs that sound a bit like Prince recently.
Hassan: I think if there’s to be contemporary female Prince, SV is in good standing to do it. But sometimes the plan seems to get in the way of the delivery… Also would you guys think it insane to be reminded of Shania Twain’s ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ in ‘Saviour’? (It’s a light comparison don’t go expecting to hear a Shania guest rap!)
Kate: I guess I kind of get the Shania comparison – mainly when it sort of kicks off 2 mins in. It’s got that hip swinging vibe.
It’s definitely a harsher, more in your face kind of sound. Do you feel like it’s been made to seize her moment and go for the big time?
Hassan: I feel like the last record was closer to achieving that. But yeah there’s a definite move towards blending experimental songwriting with a contemporary pop sound.
Kate: I don’t know. I wonder how important “the big time” is to Annie; she’s doing so many different things atm in areas adjacent to and outside music. I genuinely think she’s made the album she wanted to make; the harsher sounds reflecting the rawer subjects and emotions she’s singing about. Digital Witness was pretty harsh sounding though, and that was St Vincent’s biggest hit I guess.
Do you guys think there’s a standout song?
Hassan: I’d say ‘Los Ageless’ is probably a stand out for me. Chorus is really good.
Kate: ‘Los Ageless’ is hooky af.
Hassan: I do also really like ‘Pills’. At first the opening melody annoyed me. Then I found myself dancing uncontrollably.
Kate: ‘Pills’ felt like a bit of a cheap shot to me at first but I really like it now. Also isn’t it a festive melody! It makes me feel Christmassy.
She said “if you want to know about my life, listen to this record.” What did you find out about her life? Do her relationships with very famous people make you listen to it in a different way?
Kate: I couldn’t give less of a shit who Annie is shagging. I didn’t even think about it.
Hassan: I think it affects me thinking about it as a break up record. Also it being public makes it 100X harder. So Clark saying ‘if you want to know about my life etc’ seems to be saying that she knows her break up is really public and this is the way she addresses it. You can’t help but listen to it in that light.
Kate: Yeah she’s definitely been through something. I think she seems a bit hardened on it, like you do when your heart has been bruised. For a bit you’re like I WILL FIGHT EVERYONE while also being totally emo and crying in the bath about the whole thing – that’s the vibe I get from this album. Fighty, sad, strong, vulnerable.
Does it feel like her most personal album to you?
Kate: To me, calling St Vincent ‘St Vincent’ was like a reset button which makes me wary of trying to consider these new albums in the same pantheon as the older ones. Masseduction is definitely of the new school. I don’t know if I think it’s necessarily “better” than St Vincent but it’s definitely, 100% not worse. I think: my favourite kind of music is music that is devastatingly sad but you can still dance to. And this album is full of that.
Are there any lyrics that stand out?
Hassan: There’s a lot of moments on the album where you find yourself rewinding the track thinking ‘did I really just hear that?’ It’s got to be her most confessional/honest record yet which in a way makes it stronger than her others. There’s that line in ‘New York’ where she talks about someone being ‘the only mother fucker that can stand me’ and talks about losing a friend and a hero but ‘for you darling I’d do it all again’, which sounds like she’s both bravely recovered from and is still not over her heartbreak. I think the ultimate point is a positive one though where she concludes on the last track that love is a reason to look past it all.
Kate: I know there are some really clever lyrics on here but none have jumped out – just as no one song has really jumped out. That’s something that I both like and dislike about her actually. I’m not sure I ever fully give myself over to her songs because I’m aware I’m probably missing something or misinterpreting them much as I love listening to them.
Do you think it’ll be a grower and reveal more after a few months? And where do you think it ranks with her other albums?
Kate: I know I said a couple of songs were growers earlier, but I immediately enjoyed the album. Really liked it. Interested to know if Hassan will stick with it after being disappointed initially though?
Hassan: Basically I was sitting on the fence about this new album. Then I listened to St Vincent and was immediately struck by how good the songs/melodies are. It just hit you. This album doesn’t really have that in the same way. I’d say she has always been a confessional songwriter and you’re often taken aback by some of the details she sings about her personal life across all her albums. But this album definitely has confession and emotional exposure to a degree I haven’t heard from her before.
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