Texas, like all places, is the site of both triumphs and tragedies. Every week in The Best Thing In Texas, we look for something that reminded us why we love our state so much.
WHAT: Masseduction, St. Vincent’s sixth studio album.
WHO: North Texas guitar hero Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: It’s been more than three years since the release of St. Vincent’s self-titled (and highest-charting) album—the longest gap in her career. In the break, Clark’s career evolved to the point where she’s not just a rock star anymore—she’s the sort of creative powerhouse who can release a new line of guitars intended for women’s bodies one month, direct a movie another, and sign on as the face of recording industry holiday Record Store Day, all while working in the lab on something mysterious and new.
That mysterious, new thing dropped Friday morning, and it is already a strong contender for the best album of the year (from a Texan or anyone else). Masseduction is still the sort of hooky, guitar-heavy blend of art-rock and pop that’s long-defined the St. Vincent sound, but this time around, the entire thing is coated in layers of shiny synths and dreamy electronic production. But it’s not just an eighties nostalgia grab, or a turn-off-your-brain and dance record—rather, Masseduction‘s electronic elements feel more like a color in an artist’s palette. Single “Pills” features a chirpy chorus and a bouncy rhythm track, while grounded acoustic guitar and Clark’s ethereal vocals give it gravity at its conclusion. “Los Ageless” opens like Madonna fronting Depeche Mode, but Clark’s signature guitar riffs elevate it beyond a throwback track. The album is expansive, happy to defy expectations as it shifts tones and genres (“Los Ageless” is followed by the minimal, Tom Waits-y piano ballad “Happy Birthday, Johnny”). It might feel disjointed, except it’s all connected by Clark’s powerful authorial voice.
That’s a trick that not every artist can pull off. Sometimes, when you jump from style to style, you sound more like you’re suffering from a short attention span or a lack of vision. But St. Vincent has never lacked for confidence, and it makes Masseduction a thrilling album to listen to, the sort of singular statement that the best genre-bending albums are able to be. It’s been a heck of a year for music, and Masseduction might be the best album in Texas, or even the country, right now.
(For more on how Texas is shaping up to be a musical powerhouse in all genres, check out the new issue of Texas Monthly, where we weigh in on Clark’s album and hear from Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr.)