By Kate Jacobson, November 17 2015 —
Art Angels, the new album from Grimes — the stage name of Vancouver pop artist Claire Boucher — is best described as sprawling. It’s a wide, expressive monstrosity that reinforces the artist’s place as a welcome addition to the pop canon.
Art Angels is easily the most accessible Grimes album, but that doesn’t say much. Though the album features upbeat, radio-ready pop ballads like “California,” they’re immediately followed by songs like “Scream,” where Grimes spends a good portion of the song screaming behind the lyrics of Taiwanese artist and lead vocalist Aristophanes.
”Flesh without Blood,” one of the album’s lead singles, is a sugar-coated “fuck off” to the concept of underground music, pairing a punchy beat with Boucher’s bright, ethereal voice. It’s a pop song that doesn’t lose the eclectic, layered synths which made Boucher an indie darling in the first place.
Grimes shows that that artists can explore new directions without discarding what fans love about them. Art Angels moves in a new, pop-heavy direction, but it’s grounded by Boucher’s uplifting vocals and synth-heavy dance beats.
Other album standouts include “Belly of the Beat,” a song expertly jammed between acoustic guitar and relentless drums, and “Easily,” an enchanting break from the album’s relentless spunk.
Boucher’s collaboration with Janelle Monae, “Venus Fly,” is best described as a feminist power ballad that challenges men who catcall women on the street. Neither artist overpowers the other, and the song is a heavy hitter that Boucher counts as one of her favourite songs on Art Angels.
And album closer “Butterfly” is one of the most refined and best produced tracks on the album, jumping with ease between peppy melodies, heart-pounding choruses and shrieked vocals.
Art Angels was made after three years away from the music industry, and the time served Grimes well. Her skills as a producer have blossomed and the album is full of gratifying pop hits that burst with her attention to detail.
Grimes is a rebellious pop enigma, and Art Angels has earned her a place in the musical canon.