Grimes released 'Visions' four years ago (Clash review HERE), an album that launched her from the underground of the internet to the consciousness of the masses, scooping up a bunch of Tumblr fans on the way. The peculiar bliss of the ghostly, ethereal album summoned sensory overloads across the board and it’s for that reason that 'Art Angels' has been anticipated in the way a sophomore release would be. In actuality, this is the fourth time that Claire Boucher has written, produced, performed and tirelessly perfected an album with Grimes as her mantra.
It will come as no surprise to hear that even in 2015, many are still intent on throwing music in poorly informed categories as to not disrupt their anally organised iTunes genres. These people, you would assume, are the ones who still can’t quite place Grimes. Luckily for Boucher, she doesn’t seem to want Grimes to be placed. 'Art Angels' is as much about conforming to genre as is it is Family Guy or swingers parties. Sure, there’s undercurrents and influence of pop (anti, art, electro, synth, the list goes on), PC Music, and other electronic sounds, but the importance of the record lies in the way that Grimes has evolved, not the endless lists she might fit into.
If 'California' set the tone of the entire album, you could comprehend the idea that she’d fallen into that “mainstream” thing that everyone drearily harps on about, but of course, it doesn’t. An upbeat, off-kilter concoction of pop and country, Grimes becomes a cyborg Taylor Swift albeit with arguably more stimulating lyrics.
Coming in straight after is one of the record’s teaser tracks 'Scream'. Featuring Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, it’s jarring, uncomfortable, doused in disturbed guitars and all-female howls, and it couldn’t be more different from its predecessor. Winsome harmonies and an undeniably catchy hook lay the foundations of the simplistic yet idiosyncratic 'Belly Of The Beat', whilst hyperactivity and outright insanity manifest in stand out track 'Kill V. Maim' – a track that’s supposedly written from the perspective of Al Pacino if he was a vampire that could switch gender and travel through space.
If there’s one thing that does tie it all together, it’s the fact that each song sounds as though this is the way Boucher truly intended it be; as an artist permanently inspected under the public magnifying glass, that’s no walk in the park. The bubblegum-scented title track screams 90’s girl-band (potentially because that “Hey!” in the background sounds just a smidgeon like B*witched circa 'C’est Le Vie'), but remains sparky, sharp and futuristic. 'Venus Fly' featuring Janelle Monae is bass-heavy, militant and pounds like a strobe light but is clear, concise and incredibly well produced. 'Realiti', which was released as an arguably better demo back earlier this year, is honest, pulsating and like much of her work, fantastical.
When Lady Gaga swiftly exited the scene a few years back, not only did she leave a rotting cape made of offal in her wake, but the rejection of artists being weird for the sake of being weird. No doubt there were a lot of sceptical ears expecting 'Art Angels' to be exactly that. It’s not. It’s also not the diluted, crowd pleaser that others had predicted when she signed a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. This is the truest representation of Grimes we’ve heard yet: 'Art Angels' is boundary pushing, it’s listenable and it’s Boucher’s most ambitious and most consistent work to date.
Words: Maya Rose Radcliffe
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