Once again, everybody’s favourite Canadian art-pop/ synth-pop/ experimental dream pop sensation Claire Boucher aka GRIMES has returned to the spotlight with the release of her fourth studio album Art Angels. Already, the album has received a tonne of critical acclaim, receiving an average Metracritic score (an average total of scores from heaps of different reviews) of 88/100. After listening to Grimes’ Art Angels, you can definitely see why.
When I heard that Grimes was releasing another album, I got super excited. Which is surprising, considering the fact that, before this album, my only real affiliation with Grimes was through her 2012 mega-hit & Pitchfork’s song of the year AND decade Oblivion (seriously, if you haven’t heard that stop reading this for a second, have a listen to Oblivion here).
Anyway, back to Art Angels. After listening to the album I did a bit of research on it to make it look like I know what I’m writing about in this review (lmao). From this research I discovered that Grimes not only writes all of her own lyrics, but also produces every song by herself. This blew me away a little bit, not because I doubted her abilities, but the production on this album is so complex and well-structured that I thought surely a whole team is behind it. The fact that it’s only her is just, 10/10 OMG on the #CantEvenRN scale.
The album kicks off with the absolutely beautiful Laughing & Not Being Normal, a song employing the sounds of a great symphony orchestra – violins, grand pianos & flutes. The introduction instrumental leads up to an eventual climax of Grimes’ amazing falsetto vocals. The song serves as the perfect introduction to the album.
We’re then taken into a happier, more modern pop; toe tappin’ head boppin’ tune called California. We’re taken further into the character that is Grimes, revealing her attitude towards getting “too close” to anyone and therefore always keeping her distance. The main message being “you only like me when you think I’m looking sad” and “once you get bored of me you’ll put me right back on the shelf”. This upfront honesty being incorporated in such a pleasant listening experience is exactly what elevated Oblivion to its mega success, and is also what makes us as the listener really enjoy her as an artist.
Art Angel takes us through a journey including experimental production, cold heart-felt stories and absolutely adorable vocals. The strongest track of the bunch, and my personal favourite is the 6th, titled Kill V Maim. With a ridiculously catchy unique melody, a strange contrast between cutie pie childish sounding vocals saying some pretty savage things and the absolutely killer production elevates Kill v Maim to perhaps even being one of the best songs of 2015. It’s even been described as holding “the full weight of Grimes’ abilities as both a producer and singer”.
Even some of the less memorable/ mind blowing songs on the album like Pin, Realiti and World Princess pt. 2 are sweet as hell. By “less memorable” I mean that, it’s clear that these really are only “album tracks”, not the ones that you’d exclusively go out of your way to hear. Nonetheless though, as they say, you’re only as strong as your weakest player, and with these three still maintaining a top-notch standard in areas across the board, they don’t let Art Angels down in the slightest.
Moments of greatness are also found through the rawness of tracks such as Easily and Life in the Livid Dream, both of which kick off with Grimes’ real, non-edited vocals alongside either a guitar or piano.
The album goes out on the song Butterfly, another really catchy tune, hooking our attention ‘til the very last second. It works as the perfect outro to this fourteen-song collection. It serves as one last “goodbye, until next time” sort of tune, going out with one of the most insightful revelations of who Grimes actually is – with the line “if you’re looking for your dream girl, I’m not your dream girl”.
Overall, Art Angels by Grimes is slick and gritty, fun and funny, and horrifying and grotesque all at once. The ride that it takes us on is really enjoyable, as we try to figure out who Grimes actually is and her attitudes toward certain things. The fact that she’s perused her career and been in charge of basically every element of her music along the way shows she’s an extremely confident, strong person, though her lyrics seem to emulate the exact opposite. It paints a picture that you can never really put your finger on what it actually is, but trying to work it out is awesome nonetheless. The album is impossible not to love, and overall I give it a great 9/10.