Album Review: Art Angels by Grimes

Album Review: Art Angels by Grimes

By Amanda Roche / DJ Panda / Pandemonium, Fridays 11 p.m.- 1 a.m.


Art Angels, released in November 2015 by Grimes, will take you to a place far, far away from REALiti… With waves of artfully crafted refrains, ballad-like synth verses, and just enough “weirdness” thrown in, Claire Boucher has finally fully embraced her “pop” side, after a what seemed like struggle with Roc Nation, the Jay Z-helmed management company she signed on with in December 2013.

As she relates in an interview with Emilie Friedlander from The FADER, “I think the real world was always just this thing I had to deal with, and then Grimes could be a thing which was how I wished it was.” Grimes, both in the way she produces music and her public image, is a bit of an oxymoron – even while she idealizes her music, Grimes writes and produces with infinite precision. In fact, Art Angels was delayed due to the fact that Boucher learned to play, mastered the production of, recorded and self-engineered every instrument on the new album herself, including guitar, drums, keys, ukulele, and violin.

Art Angels embodies somewhat of a dichotomy of Boucher’s music; while Grimes was on the label Roc Nation, her major fan base gave her flak for becoming “too mainstream” in her song “Go” with Blood Diamonds, released in August 2014. “Go” was originally written for Rihanna, and the timing of the release coincided with an album that Grimes decided not to release – leading fans to believe that the criticism of “Go” was what lead to the album’s cancellation, which was not the case. Grimes continues to struggle with producing her music naturally (and keeping music as an outlet for herself), caring deeply about the perception of her fans, and her spot in the cultural limelight since the widespread acclaim of Visions in 2012.

Media critics embraced Art Angels, calling the album “Wonderful and Horrifying Hyperspace Gospel” (SPIN Magazine) and “her most audacious album to date” (Pitchfork). And fans agreed, with the album scoring an 8.7 user score on Metacritic and many positive blog reviews, such as Under the Radar. Fears resulting from the controversial “Go” release, it seems that fans and the media have widely accepted Grimes’ affirmation of her pop influences in Art Angels.

Whatever “weirdness” that may seem to be lacking in the album’s music, Grimes overcompensates with peculiarities in the music videos released for Art Angels’ tracks. Flesh Without Blood/ Life in a Vivid Dream, the first video from the album released after REALiti, combines the two album tracks into a theater-esque Part I/Part II series. Flesh Without Blood features Claire Boucher in a multitude of costumes, from a Victorian-style badminton player to an angel in a cowboy hat to a 1920’s-styled steampunk gang member. The second half of the video – Life in a Vivid Dream (or Part II) – takes a surreal twist with the Victorian and angel versions of Claire. Kill v. Maim, released in January 2016, continues as Part III of Grimes’ flirtations, with additional shockingly bizarre and hypnagogic Scenes and Acts, as well as even more copious amounts of blood than previous videos.

The increasing strangeness of Grimes’ music videos aside, Art Angels truly embodies a new level to Claire Boucher’s music – from underground genius to tech savvy pop star, her music style continues to grow and solidify the person and persona of Grimes’ as a nuanced, larger-than-life, trailblazing artist.