Since adopting the St. Vincent moniker a decade ago, Annie Clark has dabbled in genres ranging from orchestral chamber music to post-punk. The 34-year-old musician hit a groove with her visionary self-titled fourth album — EW’s favorite of 2014 — which fused jagged guitar riffs worthy of Robert Fripp with a high-concept Bowie-esque stage persona. But leave it to the creatively restless Clark to flip the narrative once again.
For her fifth album, MASSEDUCTION — from which she has already released “New York” and “Los Ageless” — Clark recruited pop hitmaker Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Taylor Swift) to give her intricate compositions some addictive ’80s-inspired verve. “I found it to be like shaking up a can of soda and then opening the top,” she says. “I found it very effervescent and exciting. Oftentimes great things would happen — they would just burst out.”
The results were revolutionary, for both Clark and Antonoff. Her off-kilter melodies and typically sly lyrics, here touching on topics including chemical dependency (“Pills”) and bedroom role-playing (“Savior”), shine on top of Antonoff’s grooves.
Religious imagery also pervades the album. “As far as costumes go and showbiz, I think the Catholic church does an incredible job,” Clark notes. “I’m very obsessed with the aesthetic of nuns and priests. They got a lot of things wrong, but they got their costumes right.”
Beyond the lyrics, Clark and Antonoff concocted an array of sounds for MASSEDUCTION that stands apart from previous St. Vincent albums. “I wanted it to be all programmed beats, and I wanted it to have a lot of pedal steel,” she says. “I love the sound of pedal steel — it’s the sound of heartbreak.” (Clark, whose ex Cara Delevingne sings backup on “Pills,” is vague about the details: “I didn’t pull any punches,” she says, “but at the same time it should be deeply noted that this is art, and it’s not a diary.”)
She’ll tour the LP on this fall’s Fear the Future dates, with a “pretty bananas” aesthetic Clark describes as “going full dominatrix in the mental hospital.” Despite the ominous messaging of this era, though, Clark promises the album won’t be a bleak affair. “It is definitely speaking to the manic panic of our time,” she says, but “all we have is each other in times like this, when the world seems like it’s completely falling apart.”