Album reviewsMusic

Grimes: Art Angels – Album of the Week

9 November, 2015 — by Christopher Ratcliff0


Grimes can do anything and everything. What the hell can you do?

Grimes, also known as Claire Boucher to music writers who wish to deploy an early fact about the Canadian-born musician very early on in their reviews to prove they’ve done their mandatory 30 seconds of research (35 seconds if mention of Canada), is a multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire.

After ‘figuring out’ how music worked at the age of 20, she taught herself the piano and synthesizer as well as a variety of electronic production techniques, then released two ground-breaking experimental electro-pop albums and opened for Lykke Li on her North American tour.

What did you do when you were 20? Continued to be terrible at university before spending all of your student loan on depression-fuelled DVD binge-purchasing before crashing out half-way through and having no other option but to move back to your parents and getting a job at a meat-packing factory I bet.

This is Grimes…

grimes as marie antoinette on a tennis court

This is you…


In the couple of years that followed, Grimes mastered the violin, guitar and ukulele, signed to 4AD and released her third album Visions. An album that would see her crossover from underground icon to worldwide sensation as it entered the top 10 of almost every publication’s Best Album of the Year. It was thoroughly deserved too. Visions is a masterpiece and in ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Genesis’ Grimes created the perfect synthesis of her boundary-pushing artistry and seductive pop sensibilities.

What did you do in you mid-20s? Yes you probably bought a keyboard with the intention of learning it, and yes you probably mastered the first few bars of ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay, but it would remain under your bed for the remainder of your 20s as you moved from one retail job to another while struggling to hold down a meaningful relationship for more than six months. But at least you moved out of your parents’ house.

This is Grimes’ bedroom…

grimes in her bedroom

This is your bedroom…

understairs bedroom

In 2013, Grimes signed to Jay-Z’s management company Roc Nation and wrote the best pop song Rhianna never released.

What did you do in 2013? Quit work to set up an eBay store selling sweatshirts using an illegally reproduced image of Rhianna then due to severe litigation, had to move back in with your parents and take up a variety of sub-menial cash-in-hand jobs.

This is Grimes in her work uniform…

grimes alien 2015

This is you in your work uniform…

golf sale sign holder

Now it’s 2015, and after two years of anticipation, Grimes has released her fourth album Art Angels. Grimes has talent to burn. After deleting an entire album’s worth of tracks last year because they weren’t good enough (bearing in mind that the same sessions resulted in the sublime ‘Realiti’), the courageous perfectionist recorded more than 60 tracks to whittle down to make her most satisfying album yet. Containing some of the most exhilarating pop tracks recorded this decade (particularly the addictive ‘Flesh Without Blood’), Art Angels offsets its J-Pop style catchiness with devilish experimentation and candidly raw lyrics (“California, you only like me when you think I’m looking sad”). Grimes is in total control of the entire album-making process, from writing to production to art design. There’s no compromise to paymasters here, Grimes is a true auteur and all the things you associate with self-produced ‘bedroom’ albums (lo-fi minimalism that relies on charm to cover over any mistakes or lack of depth) just don’t exist on Art Angels. It’s an exquisitely constructed album, made with passion and care, and every moment of which unearths new layers of creativity and joy.

What have you done this year? Began a career in online journalism, where you regularly replace genuine insight into an artist’s work with sarcasm and self-loathing (which your audience can see straight through) before succumbing to the pressures of dwindling ad revenue and finally selling out your site to a variety of native advertising sponsors and content recommendation platforms, turning your once humble independent online presence into a nightmare of desperate corporate toadying.

This is Grimes’ web presence…

GRIMES tumblr homepage

This is yours…

nme homepage

It’s time to get that keyboard out from under your bed.

Check out all the latest music releases in our new album reviews section, including Lil Bub’s Science and Magic.

Grimes : Art Angels

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