Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

St. Vincent – Los Ageless

Where In The World Will Annie Clark Be Next?


Eleanor Graham: Particularly after the impossibly fine-boned “New York”, this veers into the smart-soulless wall-of-bombast territory of Jungle, or the new Beck song. If all the lyrics were as smugly baffling as “in Los Ageless, the mothers milk their young,” I’d probably hate it. What’s that, LA is full of rich people who are a bit weird? Haha, no way! But “HOW CAN ANYBODY HAVE YOU AND LOSE YOU AND NOT LOSE THEIR MINDS TOO?” is a huge, irresistible demand. It sounds in the best possible way like a piece of Jenny Holzer art or a Red-era Taylor Swift line. The verses are perfectly structured too — as she sings “burn the pages of unwritten memoirs” or “girls in cages playing their guitars,” she’s illustrating the chaotic, appalling city; as she falls into “I can keep running ah-ah” or “I just follow the hood of my car,” she’s gritting her teeth and leaning back into its all-consuming rhythm, riding a 300-foot wave.

Cédric Le Merrer: At first it starts out like yet another song about the twisted city of sin and glamour, with a weird St. Vincent groove and seductive coos. Welcome To The Jungle of LA Hallucinations. Cool, I thought, but I’m already on my way to boredom. But I did not see the plot twist coming: it’s actually yet another a breakup song! And my disbelief is 100% suspended and I do feel the heartbreak for the time of that painful chorus.

William John: A song of contrasts: the verses are all distracted and fidgety, the sort of work one does when experiencing anxiety-induced stomach cramps, while the chorus is catharsis, decompression, an explosion of feeling. “How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their mind, too?” asks Annie Clark, who’s long been condescended to as a porcelain-doll figure who can shred. Here, she dismantles that characterisation with total abandonment of inhibition, and embraces the vulnerabilities exposed when one is proximate with a person who ostensibly exemplifies everything you think you’re supposed to want and be.

Nortey Dowuona: Bouncy bass, wavy synths, thick, sharp guitar and decent drum programming. Plus, the massive wave of overlapping vocals, fuzzy guitars, crackling synths, popping drums and stabs of synth horn coalesce then spilt apart as St. Vincent rides it with both calm and poise.

Alfred Soto: The massive sound bespeaks a world conquering assertiveness: St. Vincent, per a recent New Yorker profile, wants a larger audience. The blues tropes conveying overpowering carnal desire are familiar to PJ Harvey listeners, just as the electronic squawks were gauche when LCD Soundsystem used them in 2004. This explains the title, maybe: in L.A. revivals are as constant as the smog.

Joshua Copperman: Previous single “New York” makes more sense within Masseduction, recontextualizing the surreal production of the album by placing it on top of a simplistic power ballad. “Los Ageless,” as evidenced by the way “Sugarboy” foreshadows the synth riff, is the true centerpiece of the album. Everything that makes both Annie Clark’s songwriting and Jack Antonoff’s production stellar is on display here, with a gigantic chorus and smart lyrics that casually eclipse the commentary La La Land made about Hollywood last year (“The lost sages hang out by the bar/Burn the pages of unwritten memoirs”). Yet on its own, I can’t say I have the same attachment that I do to the rest of Masseduction — even as most of the album rarely goes off the rails no matter how much distortion Clark and Antonoff throw on it, “Los Ageless” is a bit too extra to have the same impact. The outro is beautiful, but the instrumentation is — for lack of a better term, I swear — melodramatic. We get it, Antonoff, you like orchestral swells! Let Annie speak!

Ryo Miyauchi: Before, Annie Clark either housed her desire in such perfect musical display in her songs, it became an object no longer hers; or she wrote about the feeling with lyrics too cryptic, as if she was yet too uncomfortable to flesh it out in more plain language. “Los Ageless” operates still with clinical precision, music-wise, yet this is the closest she has come to giving the experience with desire a physical form — and she molds it to resemble all of its ugliness. Not only does Clark push her nose against the glass case to really take in a look,, she embraces her self-disgust with it whole, especially in the chorus: “how can anyone have you, lose you and not lose their minds too?”

Ian Mathers: Annie Clark makes a meal of the gap between “how can anybody have you?” and “how can anybody have you and lose you?” as only she can, but on first encounter the slightly more synthesized/less idiosyncratic production feels like a step back from the last two album. But jeeze, if one of the pre-eminent voices in her field is merely just making exceptional songs that don’t sound quite as much like she’s blowing up the form around her, I guess we’ll have to settle for that.

Maxwell Cavaseno: There’s something impotent about the ability to be insipid these days. People insist that there’s some sort of inherent power in knowing better and simply basking in it, when the righteous can still end up mowed down without any sort of compensation or commendation. Annie Clark’s always been pretty smart, smarter than me, and I tend to appreciate artists who are trying to make art from a place of benevolent nobility, but more and more I’ve come to feel like everything she does is frozen by a need to be wry. “Los Ageless” is very satisfied to know better, the dry processing on her guitar as artificial as what she herself is commenting on. But it doesn’t necessarily try to understand or sympathize with its target, and instead punches down from a high-up tower. To snipe down at a world you find ridicule in behind walls of disaffection nowadays seems a tiresome lecture, and for all Clark’s bountiful talents to bestow on us, her songs feel less benevolent and more like being subjected to someone’s infinite wisdom.

Rebecca A. Gowns: I’m the person who was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I can get defensive when I hear critiques of the city, especially a reading of the city as a whole as superficial, predatory, and devouring. To me, Los Angeles is its immigrants; its vibrant arts scene; its museums and libraries; its mystifying array of flora brought in from every climate; its topography as varied as mountains and valleys and river and oceans. And yet! I’m getting to an age where, as much as I resist the metonymy, I have to accept it: Los Angeles is Hollywood, a damned and unshakeable link. Hollywood is maddeningly hierarchal (and, it follows, racist, sexist, nepotist, and all the rest), and that system bleeds out into the rest of Los Angeles, as so much of our economy and image comes from it. St. Vincent sings it all out, and with her chorus, nails the heart of my defensiveness — “how can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds too?” There is so much to cherish in Los Angeles, and yes, in Hollywood, that it hurts so deeply when you realize, time and time again, how fickle the city really is. Even for someone who was born amongst the palm trees. How cruel to arrive in Los Angeles and realize that the producers want you for your body, not your work; crueler still to be born here and look the city in its eyes, and it always looks away, pretending to not know your name.

Reader average: [8.8] (15 votes)

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8 Responses to “St. Vincent – Los Ageless”

  1. *incredibly D’Angelo Barksdale hopping off the bus in Episode 1 of the Wire voice upon seeing that I’m not only back on my The Only Hater B.S. but also blocked this song from getting in Best of ’17* I’M ON MY A-GAME TODAY BWOY!!!

  2. I meant to get to this, did not get to this, anyway I reviewed the album but the new thing I would have to say is that the chorus is so very completely portishead

  3. also shoutout to Rebecca’s blurb here, which is similarly amazing

  4. IMO this is the first St. Vincent songs that is unequivocally a banger. Reminds me o INXS or Depeche Mode in all of their stadium sleaze. Also makes me think of Celebrity Skin the way it revels in the shallow glamor it’s clawing itself out of – turning LA hooks against LA looks.

    katherine I really enjoyed your write-up for Pitchfork. I’m totally in love with the album though. The title track!!

  5. Oh I also wanted to say that like Joshua I see this as the centerpiece of the album – “Pills”-“Masseduction”-“Sugarboy” being Annie’s increasingly manic routine of medication, fornication, sublimation, “Los Ageless” the moment where she snaps and lets out the anguish behind her swaggering rockstar hedonism. Which is where shit starts to get sad.

    Sorry to jack the mic!

  6. I heard ‘Malibu’ by Hole at a gig (my gig!) last Friday, and I nearly wrote about how tired a theme ‘Hollywood = weird’ is* and yet it somehow is always accompanied by a total tune. But I don’t know enough about what LA is really like, so I’m glad Rebecca nailed it.

    *See also “London = shit”. YES WE KNOW.

  7. As an LA native and St Vincent stan, I was bummed I didn’t get to write about this. But Rebecca said everything I wanted to say and more. Really amazing stuff.

  8. The verses on this needed a little bit more variety imo

    But the chorus is amazing obvi