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The dark witch of pop: Grimes releases her fourth studio album Art Angels

The electronica, pop musician’s follow up to Visions is complicated and contemporary

grimes__art_angels

Album: Art Angels

Artist: Grimes

Label: 4AD

Grade: A-

Since her critically acclaimed, breakout album Visions in 2012, Grimes (Claire Boucher) has been relatively low-key. According to the artist’s social media, the self-imposed hermitage has been necessary to work on her artistry.

Now after three years, Grimes released the album that her fans have been begging for. Before her albums were always deep finds from obscure, underground experimental indie music sites. Now, Art Angels is making rounds on high-profile music outlets like Pitchfork, A.V. Club and Stereogum, receiving near unanimous praise for the album’s experimental blend of classic pop and electro.

Boucher’s unabashed love of pop and her electronic roots have finally coalesced into one, cohesive artistic identity. Whereas Visions or even her earlier 2010 releases Geidi Primes and Halifaxa are undisguised electro pop albums, on Art Angels the lines between pop and electronic are blurred.

The second track on the album “California” sounds like a hit made from years of listening to sparkly bubblegum pop stars like Taylor Swift with a Grimes’ spin, and is a representation of Grimes’ growing artistry.

It’s almost as if Boucher took the three-year break to not only sharpen her artistry, but take the time for her image as an experimental electro artist to die down.

“The things they see in me,” she sings on ‘California,’ “I cannot see myself / When you get bored of me, I’ll be back on the shelf.”

It’s easy to “shelf” Grimes as an underground, electro project that is superficially pretty and shimmer; a short-lived experimental bubblegum pop, electro blend. But Grimes, with Art Angels, is making sure that is not the case.

Its Grimes’ artistry that is most evident on the album, especially when compared with her previous works.

It is as if the sound that Grimes had been trying to reach for with Visions has finally come to fruition – whether this is from Boucher’s own talent as a music-maker growing into its own, or from her just trying to step out from the boundaries of being labeled as an electro artist.

Maybe it’s just Boucher refusing to be categorized in any way, breaking apart her music and stitching it back together with core elements of her musical tastes – dance, electro, pop, punk, rock and even K-pop are all evident influences in her music.

On “Scream,” the snarling rap-vocals of Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes basically sound like one long punk-rock growl, while “Kill V. Main” is a strange mix of shrieking and squeaking over an up-tempo dance house beat.

As Grimes well knows, its impossible to separate any of her music from her past artistic projects – Art Angels will inevitably be compared to Visions, despite having no recognizable continuity from the past album.

But Grimes does her best to ignore all of this.

By immersing herself into her music, Grimes has created a piece of music that is able to holds it own against any comparison, despite being worlds apart from any piece of music currently out.

“There is harmony in everything,” Boucher sings in ‘Butterfly,’ the last song off of Art Angels.

It’s ironic – by deciding not to cater to the expectations placed on her music, Boucher was able to create an album that perfectly coincides with Boucher’s image of herself, a genuine representation of Grimes’ poignant, multifarious influences from ’80s pop, ’90s punk rock, ’00s dance songs and even Boucher’s own infatuation with Japanese and Korean pop culture.

The end result is Art Angels – an oddity born of an introvert’s private music making that is able to overcome boundaries of gender, genre, race and time.

Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com.


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