actor > strange mercy > this > s/t > marry me. this was my AOTY upon release time. that decree didn't age well LOL, but I still think this is a strong album with a nice emotional arc and some of Jack's best production work. the plastic-y synthpop sheen works nicely to offset the uglier human moments that lie below. packaging of the whole era is definitely a choice she'll have to live with, that I think unfortunately made a lot of listeners underrate this. that said I don't personally return to it often, but I won't be surprised if this starts to be seen in a more flattering light as time goes on.
i was surprised to see the mixed reception to this one...
but yes, miss annie embraces poptimism in one of the most pertinent + interesting ways this decade. masseduction can’t sustain itself, but that’s the point (just look at the title). pop music here is used to convey the idea of excess in the modern world, and the way the album buoys between crashing sugar rushes to slow reflective moments (btw, isn’t “im so glad i came but i can’t wait to leave” the most beautifully succinct definition of what an introvert truly is?) mirrors the unsustainability of our own excess - be it our role in modern consumerism or in our romantic obsessions. we succumb and mourn the loss of friendships on happy birthday johnny while turning back around to absurd, self-medicating on sugarboy. free my mind artpop. is it really about the impending death of crapitalism under its own weight, or is it a musing on annie’s growing success as she enters the mainstream periphery? who knows, but it works just as well either way. i guess either penk knows how to make people pressed or ppl just don’t understand this that’s right don’t understand estimate my intelligents homos
She was destined to go full New Wave once she did that record with David Byrne, and while the ST was a good step in that direction, this is the full conversion.
I adore how Annie Clark plays with such a noisy, almost archaic-sounding genre of music while maintaining her signature charm. Annie clearly reaches back to the past on tracks like Sugarboy and Masseduction, the latter being the peak of the album by far. The mix of assembly-line robotic chanting with those depraved lyrics and wild guitar licks that only get hotter as the song climaxes... She regularly puts exciting new twists on tracks that could otherwise just be straight up dated.
Always one with a soft side, the sexual cybernetics of the album are often contrasted by complete dead stops in the quieter tracks, tracks like New York and Happy Birthday, Johnny. The change from the buzzing and whirring to pure, calm instrumentation is jarring at first, but captures the duality of the elusive artist behind it. On this album she embraces her sexuality but loses nothing for it, she's still human and still hurting, even underneath the Atari 2600 sound chip.
Another highlight of the album is the track Savior, which combines it's seemingly disparate halves into a song that balances it's raunchy, shock value verses with a genuine emotive pleading in the chorus to illustrate that there is more to her than what you may think, beneath the leather and lace. These two sides can co-exist.
Overall just an exciting and daring piece of work by the best artist of the generation.
Def closer to a 7 than a 6, but not close enough to a 8 for a 4/5. Intermittently strong material hurt by a lack of central focus and a couple clunkers. Would love for her to push the electro pop sound a little farther, whether that be in the direction of house bubblegum bass etc.