After the release of her beloved self-titled record in 2014, many critics gave St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, what could easily be considered the greatest compliment or accolade imaginable for an artist of her ilk: comparisons to the great David Bowie. In 2017, she cemented that ambition with the release of her most Bowie-esque album to date. That record, appropriately titled Masseduction, took classic Bowie-isms — such as strange, witty songcraft, and an idée fixe for his trademark brand of sexually-charged everything — and brought them further into the 21st century, with massive sonics and bold, inescapable pop-hooks. The album went on to receive universal plaudits while taking the indie scene by storm and has perhaps signaled a shift towards pop and new musical horizons for its wildly eccentric creator.
However, if there was one complaint to be had with Masseduction, it was that its huge sonics and no-holds-barred soundscape-radicalism may have come off a bit… rushed – something that occasionally devolved from bold and refreshing to stale and distracting after subsequent listens. However, almost exactly one year to the date, she’s back to correct the record with a new project, this time titled MassEducation, which takes its predecessor’s tracklist and reverts each song to bare-bones vocals and piano-arrangements. And, while it may seem like a run of the mill piano-demo record at first glance, rest assured that it is so much more – instead, by stripping away the sonic festivities of old, Ms. Clark allows us to view her songs entirely on their own terms, and to see them as the rich, beautifully crafted and timeless pop songs they were all along.
Take our favorite track off the new record, “Savior (Piano Version)”, as an example. While its original album counterpart was certainly a good song, it takes on a whole new life in this new context. Here, there’s nothing to distract from the coy, witty lyrics, the razor-sharp melodies and the overall cohesion that allows everything to blend together so seamlessly. Similarly, Ms. Clark’s vocal talents pair well with pianist Thomas Bartlett’s intricate and intelligent arrangements to create a chemistry and all-around musical experience that should thrill fans and everyday listeners alike.
The song, as well as the album that encompasses it, is beautiful, airy and sweet – while still maintaining enough kick and intrigue to keep you interested as each song slowly melds into the next. Plus, though certainly an inadvertent bonus, the album happens to double as a wonderful fall-weather record, perfect for chill, contemplative strolls around MSU’s beautiful, Autumn-tinged campus. So, give it a listen, and let Ms. Annie Clark impress as she transports you to a pretty, yet undeniably kinky, world of her own creation.