This Grimes article was written by Kelly Crichton, a GIGSoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.
‘Art Angels’ is the fourth studio album, written, produced and performed by Claire Boucher (now more commonly known as Grimes). ‘Art Angels’ is without doubt one of the best records of the year. The Canadian does so much with this album, exposing the many different strings she has to her bow. Boucher started work on her fourth album back in 2013 only to scrap the whole thing and go back to the drawing board following mixed reviews of single ‘Go’, although she has since claimed the decision was her own.
Boucher has battled over her career to be acknowledged as a serious producer and ‘Art Angels’ goes to evidence the skill with which she creates music. This record pushes and shoves the listener from one genre to another, amply peppered with her ethereal voice. Boucher has cited influences as diverse as Lana Del Rey (with whom she toured this summer), Mariah Carey, Enya and medieval music. However, she does not identify as a pop star and does not allow herself to be pigeon-holed into any one specific genre.
Album opener ‘Laughing and Not Being Normal’ doesn’t really give you any indication of the rest of the album as it’s such an eclectic mix, but it does introduce you to the fact Boucher won’t be confined to a single genre on any particular track. A heavy baseline accompanied by strings gives way to a soprano voice and piano, and then a synthesiser producing a grinding dystopian loop – and this is the shortest track on the album.
Standout track ‘Kill vs. Maim’ prompts visions of an angry, helium laced Gwen Stefani but ultimately draws focus to its lyrics like, “I’m only a man,” clearly this is not enough for Boucher.
Two other vocalists feature on the album; Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes performs on ‘Scream’ which was released in October, and Janelle Monáe features on ‘Venus Fly’, which could vaguely be compared to some Missy Elliott work. Remarkably, absolutely no one else had a hand in the making of this album.
‘Belly of the Beat’ is an infectious tune, its upbeat and bouncy nature clashes with lyrics about death and deformation with an almost folk influenced sound combined with a simple dance track.
At 1 minute 28 seconds, ‘Life in a Vivid Dream’ is a refreshingly-short song that could be taken from a different album, all dreamy and ethereal but highlighting modern apathy to issues affecting the planet.
Continuing this theme, ‘Butterfly’, a song about deforestation, is as close to a mainstream pop song as one gets on this record. Having fought for her position as performer, producer, writer and engineer, Boucher’s refusal to compromise around being in charge of every aspect of the album pays major dividends. She signs off with a clear message in the last lyrics on the album: ‘”If you’re looking for a dream girl, I’ll never be your dream girl”.
In a way, she is exactly the “dream girl” we’ve been waiting for. This multi-faceted album is so broad it’s got something for everyone and the charm is that despite the fact it seems to grasp onto multiple genres and influences, everything mashed together really works well. Not many self-sufficient artists could create such a beautiful beast.
‘Art Angels’ is out now via 4AD.