St. Vincent's Facebook page has lately looked like state media for some acid punk sextocracy.
And beneath almost every tour date announcement, magazine cover and tongue-in-cheek video deconstructing celebrity press junkets, Annie Clark's musical persona faces some form of the same question: Why does your new music have no guitar? Why does your new look have so much neon?
In other words: Why are you not still doing the same guitar-driven alternative rock thing that you did before?
With every album, to be sure, Clark has evolved both her music and her image. The Pantera breakdown of "Huey Newton" from 2014's "St. Vincent" was a far cry from the twee "bom-bom-boms" of "Jesus Saves, I Spend" from 2007 debut "Marry Me." But Clark's fifth album due Oct. 13, "MASSEDUCTION," figures to be her biggest artistic departure yet, her (insert David Bowie album here), if first singles "New York" and "Los Ageless" are any indication.
The first a piano ballad with a video of surrealist candy shop set pieces, the second an electro stomper, Clark seems headed for entirely new sonic terrain. Only "Los Ageless" has any significant guitar, a fuzzed-out refrain that teases Clark's monstrous solo ability just once, for a few seconds after the first chorus. I could see her giving the song more shredded interludes on stage, as she's been known to do, but on record, we're not getting much.
I'm fine with that for a simple reason: "New York" and "Los Ageless" are still really good songs. If there's a through line to Clark's music, it's damn good writing. "New York" fulfills Clark's potential for elegant and affecting balladry, surpassing "Northern Lights" and even "I Prefer Your Love." And "Los Ageless" is the same kind of emotionally charged banger as B-sides "The Antidote" and "Bad Believer" but at once more polished and more desperate.
As for the imagery of "MASSEDUCTION," if you're a fan of St. Vincent then you've surely learned by now that Clark always comes back more theatrical. After a few years under the paparazzi microscope during relationships with Cara Delevingne and Kristen Stewart, it's no surprise Clark's new lyrics are more candid. But as the music — and the media — lay bare Clark's personal life before the world, the visual artifice now plays a protective role, distancing her from the increasingly alien St. Vincent. As she said on Facebook when asked whether Clark and St. Vincent are the same woman, "Ask her."
So who cares that Clark is trading guitar shredding for glam mystique? Her fifth album already sounds like her strongest yet — and that should come as no surprise.