March 6, 2018 by NowhereButPop
Let me just start by saying that Masseduction was the best album of 2017. Not just pop album mind you, but best overall album of the year. Teaming up with producer Jack Antonoff, Annie Clark pushes the boundaries of what electropop can be. There’s a contemplative and jaded philosophy that permeates through Masseduction that makes it her most personal album. At its core, the album is about loss—More specifically, the loss of a lover, the loss of stability and the loss of the past. Instead of trying to reclaim that which she’s lost, on Masseduction, Annie Clark instead tries to steer herself out of the masochistic pits of nostalgia.
Clark’s plea for help begins on the album’s very first track, “Hang on Me”, a haunting tune about histrionics and the dangers of spiraling in the midst of an anxiety attack. The lugubrious warning that “You and me, we’re not meant for this world” prepares Annie and her listeners for a journey through the most personal recesses of her memory that she has to offer.
On the eponymous track, the highlight of the album, Clark recounts her seductive addictions in a seedy and corrupt fashion, implying that all of our dark passions and secret lusts will eventually get the best of us. One of those addictions, albeit one that’s become an everyday part of many American lives are prescription pills, which Clark rails against on the track “Pills”. “Anyway there’s a day and I’ll pay it in pain” she regales as she accepts the terms of delayed misery for instant gratification.
Tracks like “Pills”, “Masseduction” and “Los Ageless” all possess a very neo-futuristic vibe to them that’s more polished than the sounds of her previous album St. Vincent. “Los Ageless” in particular would have felt right at home on the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack. The sense of a lost love is especially present on this track as Clark wails “How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their mind?”. Other tracks however, like “Happy Birthday Johnny” and “New York” are stripped down ballads lamenting the loss of a friendship, while at the same time, depressively musing over the passing of time.
Despite the constant and sudden shifts in sound, Masseduction never loses its cohesion or intent. The masochistic “Smoking Section”, displays a woman so distraught over the pain of a loss that she considers self harm and even suicide. This counters “Young Lover” which begins with Clark walking in to find her young lover overdosing in a bathtub. On “Young Lover” not only is Clark lamenting the loss of that relationship, she’s also lamenting that selfsame young lover, someone who became so dependent on other things besides Annie Clark’s love, someone who’s immaturity got the better of them and led to the ruination of that relationship. Just because you can dance to most of the songs on Masseduction, doesn’t make them any less tragic, and “Young Lover” is no exception.
Masseduction is dark and seedy and insanely catchy. Despite being 40 minutes in length, the album goes by too quickly, leaving listeners desperate to hear more personal tales from the life of the notoriously private Annie Clark. Listeners want to know what happened to her young lover, what led to the split up of her gang on Astor Place and what she did to Johnny that made him so resentful. Despite these lingering questions, listeners should be grateful that Clark even took us on a tour of her personal life in the first place. She just so happened to led us into her world with the best album of 2017.