Grimes – Art Angels 4AD EAD3535A (2015)
Yes! After the successful left-field electronic album Visions, Grimes (b. Claire Boucher) returned three years later with an album that managed to retain all the strangeness from before plus add catchy pop hooks, synthesizing those incongruous elements just about perfectly. These songs have everything, and more. They have deep layers, multiple structural shifts within given songs, and stylistic variation across all of the songs. The best part about Grimes’ wide musical interests is the way she is entirely unapologetic in jumping from one thing that intrigues her to another, as if there are no limits and nothing that can stop her. So she goes from a squeaky J-pop voice to growling death metal scream, then back. And yet, another great thing about Art Angels is the dark and sinister undertone to most of the songs, despite the cheery melodic hooks. “California” has the lines: “When you get bored of me / I’ll be back on the shelf.” The dominant economics of contemporary times preaches a market fundamentalism that admits to no compassion, no safe place, no loyalty; the market picks a winner, who gets all the spoils, then just as quickly there is a new winner and the old one is forgotten. So maybe “California” is a relationship song, but might it be closer to metaphor? Then take a look at “Kill V. Maim,” a sarcastic feminist drubbing of machismo, violence and war. “Flesh Without Blood” is just completely devastating. There is a loose, rubbery, almost surf guitar riff floating around, fuzzed bass and insistent drums with handclap breaks. The lyrics are about artistic integrity and lost love seen in hindsight as never having “really” been love at all — both these things are worked into the same song. The tenor of it all is a search for a transcendental state of unconditional love (a very christian concept worth having around). “Artangels,” “SCREAM” and “Venus Fly” are some other great songs here. But everything on the album is pretty good. There are no dull moments.