Grimes pushes the musical envelope in new album, ‘Art Angels’
Grimes refuses to bow under the demands of her followers catalyzed by Visions’ astronomical success. Swiftly climbing to stardom by way of internet and the fashion industry not long after her third LP’s release, the Québécoise unintentionally developed a certain indie pop identity for herself that attempted to box in her creativity. Ultimately, Claire Boucher realized that in focusing on her own emotions and communicating to the outside through song would allow her to reach her full potential. Nearly four years later after an arduous writing and re-writing process, she has emerged quirkier than ever – more deeply defined, yet contrarily more experimental.
Boucher disclosed Art Angels would take on a “happy-angry tone” and include tracks relating to her tribulations as an artist as well as in her personal life. Such cuts on the album are executed smoothly and subtly, heard for example in “Easily.” Salty lyrics like “Don’t tell me with your story/cause I’ve got my own/Never better” are cleverly disguised by soothing piano melodies, psychedelic synths, and ethereal vocal accents. “California,” a track directed at Pitchfork’s tendency to twist her words, is delivered in a Californian manner with sunny guitar riffs and bubbly vocals paired with joyful claps that beckon the listener to join in. Pulling off irony to this extent with such ease proves Grimes’ worth as an artist while setting her even further apart from those considered her peers.
Personal growth can be discerned through carefully sung verses, but perhaps the most distinctive indicator of artistic development is heard beneath Boucher’s whimsical voice. Each clip on Art Angels explores a different soundscape far outside the bounds of a vanilla production, backing up the singer’s earlier statement about being a pop star while also technical and experimental. Traveling between energized rock like “Flesh without Blood” and nuanced acoustic vibes presented in “Belly of the Beast” add a supplemental air of uncertainty, leaving listeners wildly curious as to what direction the next song will take. Instrumentation takes on various forms as well, with guitars hopping around from funky, to gritty, to gentle and acoustic. Splatters of trippy synthesizers insert themselves frequently throughout the album – another recurring motif that adds cohesiveness to Art Angels.
Waiting almost four years to release an impressive follow-up to Visions may have built a wave of pressure around Grimes, but she brushed it off with ease and in turn constructed an album that pushed far beyond what fans and critics tried to project onto her. In putting herself first, we see Claire’s brilliantly eccentric personality and diverse talent shine through a haze of negativity. Her exploration of odd, abstract landscapes demonstrate that she will never agree to embracing a cookie-cutter style of pop music, or even be boxed within an “indie” category. Art Angels truly highlights Grimes’ boldness as a musician, and it’s women like her who push the musical envelope that deserve mass recognition as artists who will carry their genre into the future.