Grimes - Art Angels - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Grimes - Art Angels

by Justin Pearson Rating:9 Release Date:2015-12-11

Claire Boucher continues to hone her sound as Grimes on Art Angels, her latest album and arguably best. Art Angels takes the avant-garde pop weirdness she specialized in on Visions and expands on it, giving it clearer, more defined edges. It feels intentional, embracing a more solid purpose, whereas Visions wandered along a path that branched in more fluid directions.

Boucher's vocals here are more prominent and you can actually hear the range of her instrument, whether it moves from a literal scream to an angelic soar. While the album is still made up of the many electronic elements of her past work, there are actually less artificial insturments like guitars that make an occasional appearance in the form of both rock and punk (Title track 'Artangels' has a funk-leaning guitar hook that's hard to get out of your head).

Boucher manages to turn serious subject matter into swirling, inviting pools of happy but thoughtful pop bursts. The dancey 'California' hides discontent underneath its polished, catchy beats: "Ca-aa-aa-aa-alifornia/ You only like me when you think I'm looking sad/ I didn't think you'd end up treatin' me so bad." Just as inviting is 'Flesh Without Blood', which documents the dissolution of a relationship with a resolute energy that feels forward-looking and never sad.

'Kill V. Maim' seems to embody angst from a male perspective: "Cause I'm only a man/ Do what I can." Its chanting, jumping, fist-pumping chorus makes it one of the highlights among a hefty handful.

Love's woes continue on 'Easily' and 'Pin.' The former is both sweetly played and sung, its light, piano flavored opening turning into a dreamy reverie: "Easily/ I'm the sweetest damn thing you ever saw/ Easily/ Suddenly you don't know me at all/ Easily/ Three years later and now you wanna call." The latter track is more jaunty in execution, but nonetheless still emotionally centered: "Fallin' off the edge with you/ It was too good to be true."

'World Princess part II' has a cloud-sailing melody that's covered with Boucher's trademark child-like vocals. Staggered, shiny synths give it a danceable, and all together unshakeable power.

At just under a minute and a half the shortest track on the album is 'Life In The Vivid Dream', but it packs quite an emotional wollop. Perfectly placed as the penultimate track, it seems to be where all the hopes and fears voiced on the record culminate: "Angels will cry when it's raining/ Tears that are no longer clean...Now that you're missing something/ You wanna leave the world with me."

Album closer 'Butterfly' - with lines "Higher than an aeroplane" and "Sweeter than a sugarcane" - sums up the sound of Art Angels, but it shouldn't be taken at purely face value due to the depth of the lyrical themes throughout and its strong production. There's a fine line between fluff-filled, filler pop and something more substantive that can also have mass appeal. On this, Boucher's fourth album as Grimes, she proves that she's evolving. This is infectious, accessible pop with enough quirkiness to keep you interested and coming back for more. If the excellent Visions was Grimes seeing the future through a wide, blanketing haze, then Art Angels is her vision of the picture in sharper focus.

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