An orchestra of electro-pop synths and hip hop beats, guitar slaying, domination, and sentiment. If Annie Clark didn’t before, she definitely owns you now. Economically, emotionally, socially, sexually, and even a tad bit affectionately, Annie Clark is just on a different wave length than most folks. Except this time, John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, Angel Olsen) is partnered with the pop-wonderboy, Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Taylor Swift) behind the production board. And with a long list of collaborators (Jenny Lewis, Pino Palladino, Kamasi Washington) adding their two cents beside the powerhouse producing duo, St. Vincent’s latest release with Masseduction is undeniably the shredding glam-rock and fuzz-synth pop gem we’ve waited for. As if she didn’t prove it enough on 2014’s self-titled release, St. Vincent’s knack for morphing from a piano hall balladeer to a dominatrix-esque guitar virtuoso is like nothing seen before, and Masseduction plunges deep into both oddly disparate caricatures. Numbers like “Pills”, “Hang On Me” and “Los Ageless” explore a jungle of drum machines, breakdowns, and twisting guitar solos with the inner Prince and Bowie as the guiding light. But nothing tips the scale quite like the title track, “Masseduction”—a pumping backbeat, twisting and ripping guitar work, and even lyrics about manipulation like manhandling weapons. Seducing lyrics, destructive soundscapes, and domination—so about that part where Annie Clark owns you? After all, she does sing ‘I can’t turn off what turns me on’…
It’s all there. Guitar-laden melodies, driving backbeats, piano ballads, and an orator-esque style of lyrics and vocals, it’s all there.
The release that brought the band back. There’s something so tantalizingly romantic about the narrative that enshrouds the rise and fall and rise again of LCD Soundsystem. In limelight, there’s something about solely the rise and fall that debilitates the psyche into a weird Shakespearian-like trance, yet here they are after years of crossed fingers and dreaming the teases and reunion rumors were true. Is it also the dance music and computerized bleeps and bloops sci-fi layer rising to the top that makes the narrative so classical? Or perhaps the suit and tie and escapist lyrics that thicken the plot? With suit and tie front and center, LCD certainly caters heavy doses of both bleeps and bloops and escapist lyrics on American Dream as much as any previous release. Only this time, the bands back for good, and they’re also serving up a few Alternative-esque numbers while jogging your memory as to why they started from the get go.
LCD has always incorporated a slew of instrumental characters (check out “Freak Out/Starry Eyes” or “Sound of Silver” if you’re unfamiliar), but never have they arranged and layered in such an intricate and subtly dynamic manner. Now one thing that needs mentioning is James Murphy’s affinity for dynamics and the rise and fall in song composition. His master blueprint and main ingredient is layering with instrumentation as the song builds. Evident across the many shades and genres the group transcends, it may be some trashcan 80’s synth and drums tracks (see “One Touch”) sci-fi bleeps and bloops (see “I Can Change”), or blaring bass and guitar (“Daft Punk is Playing at My House”) that transitions into a full-fledged cowbell and percussion jam. Or, more recently, the subtle horn arrangement on Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” that fits oh-so-perfectly with Bowie’s vocals as the song comes to a close. It’s an intriguing and drastically diverse playing field, and American Dream pushes the needle further for the perfect moment busting out the bells and whistles (or cowbell) when the song begs for it.
American Dream does take on different shapes and figures that span the group’s technical ability, and Alternative (sounding?) songs are certainly prevalent among the notable core characters. Take the hit single “call the police” as a testament to staying true to the course while exploring other nooks and crannies. Most LCD-listening folk would say this is an entirely different band, but it fits so well in the concoction because of its ornate disposition. In fact, it masterfully blends itself amongst other uncharacteristic numbers like “emotional haircut”, where the song breakouts into a Nirvana-like vamp from its atypical head-bob and electro-ish kickoff. It’s almost as if the original cast of members are all the same and speaking the same language, just in a different dialect with new sayings. Yet, for a group to seem so displaced in hindsight, they managed to release a very classic album. From backtrack guitar parts and solos (“other voices”) to raw drum tracks and prophetic lyrics of yearning and lost love, American Dream never shies from keeping the R2D2-like and synth marimba breakdowns modules in tow.
An unparalleled and pinnacle release from a group of the finest in business. It’s perfectly clear the creative juices were stewing and brewing (perhaps festering?) for quite some time inside the carnival of James Murphy’s mind (link to post), and rather than releasing a solo effort or under a different moniker, he “got the band back together.” What separates American Dream as a sheer exertion of singular creativity is what makes Murphy and the group particular in nature: an endless range of noises and instruments grounded with composition. And American Dream broadens the horizon and incorporates a few new hints and undertones, specifically alternative-rooted songs, that also fit nicely in the “band” environment. What truly makes American Dream special and monumental isn’t solely because of it’s dramatic and Shakespearian backstory, it’s their best release to date and it displays raw talent like none other. It’s a classic release for the group that keeps the listener yearning for more and more as the album comes to a close, and that is most likely what you’ll get. In due time, of course.