Released on November 6th via 4AD
The fourth album from artist Grimes—real name Claire Boucher, is nothing short of perfect. With her last album, Visions, charting at #67 in the UK, Art Angels is currently sitting pretty at #26.
Art Angels comes after Boucher’s reported scrapping of material for the album earlier this year after the preliminary release of the single ‘REALiTi,’ a song that was intended to be thrown out with the other material but managed to feature on the digital version of the album—though completely remastered from its original demo.
Despite this, it doesn’t stick out as a totally misplaced album track, but it does manage to stress the melancholy Boucher must have felt before she started creating the new material that eventually made it to the album: “Oh baby every morning there are mountains to climb/taking all my time/oh when I wake up this is what I see/welcome to reality.” It’s interesting that she chose to save this song, as the rest of Art Angels is an incredibly upbeat, signature weird-pop performance that we’re used to hearing from Grimes.
The album is a real development from her past work, with Boucher having taught herself guitar, drums, ukulele, and the violin—all to feature in the new material. The overall sound we get from this is a warm and explosive 90s nostalgia episode—particularly heralded in the first official track released from the album, ‘Flesh Without Blood,’ an instantly catchy “fuck you” anthem. Yet, at the same time, the track holds that special dash of insanity that Grimes likes to birth into all of her music, and it shows off the creative eruption that symbolises the rest of the album.
It’s brilliant to see Boucher finally embracing her fantastic vocal ability on Art Angels, no longer relying so much on the extensive mixing and reverb we heard in Visions. It’s particularly evident on ‘Belly of The Beat’—a song which is in itself, self-descriptive, as listening to the upbeat hooks feel as though you’re present in the party of her creating the ‘beat.’ Grimes manages to keep her beautifully haunting vocals present, but also demonstrates immense flair and flow in the way she sings her story.
Interestingly, Art Angels has been criticised as a very ‘chart worthy’ piece of work—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it shows Grimes is becoming much more accessible than before. However, Boucher is clearly unhappy with this accusation towards her new sound, as she tweeted on 8th November “there is so much beauty in music. I wish perceived commercial ambition was not the topic sometimes.”
Grimes’s last album is brilliant, yet very dark—Art Angels has embraced the passions and extensive talents Boucher has and it’s created a really explosive, captivating listening experience. We can still feel a connection to her past with ‘Life in the Vivid Dream’ and ‘World Princess, Part II’ as they hold stronger electro, darker themes than the rest of her album. What may be the best track on the record is saved until the last: ‘Venus Fly’ which features Janelle Monae, has a fantastic mix of house, grime, pop and synth— and is sure to become one of the most loved tracks from the album, along with ‘Easily,’ a soft edge piano-driven melody about a past breakup that defends how great Grimes is, now on her own, without her former counterpart.
Listening to the album feels like an electrifying journey around the total theme park that is Claire Boucher’s head. This new wave of Grimes’ sound demonstrates the best of her ability, and her best is utterly overwhelming—Art Angels is a clever and exciting musical masterpiece that has been a long time coming, and boy should you be glad it’s arrived.