2015 will probably be remembered as a weird year for music.
2015 will probably be remembered as a weird year for music. But a connection I hope many make is when Miley Cyrus released a bizarre experimental album, her first since 2013, and indie siren Grimes released her very own Miley Cyrus album.
Now before you all cringe at that sentence, I hope you’ll took time to hear the first single “Flesh without Blood” from Grimes’ new record, Art Angels, released today.
For those unfamiliar with Canadian born Grimes, aka Claire Elise Boucher, she started in Montréal’s underground music scene achieving early success on MySpace back in 2009. Her haunting vocals and mix of electo-beats and ambient noise set her ahead in the city’s competitive music scene.
Admittedly I was in the dark about Grimes until a few weeks ago. I dug in and lost myself in her early work after hearing “Flesh without…” and to say there is a stark change between records is an understatement.
Check out “Sagrad” from 2010’s Halfaxa below:
And this was one of her more cohesive tracks, with most of her first two LPs (Halfaxa and 2012’s critically acclaimed Visions) featuring pop nuggets between sonic-oceans of experimental noise.
Her jump to Art Angels makes some sense in the context of the smash singles off of Visions; check out “Oblivion” below and notice the mesh of electro-noise and structured dance music which still creates a weirdo-vibe.
Rumors abound about what would follow her breakout record Visions, and sure enough she claimed to have written an entire album and scrapped it but not before releasing a “poorly mixed and unmastered” track, “REALiTi,” as a thank you to her Asian fans after a recent tour.
The video released with the track documents her travels around the far east. Check it out below:
That brings us about up to today with the release of Art Angels and my pants are all soaking wet after my third listen-through.
From cover to cover, Grimes appears to have swapped “creepy ambient noise” with “70’s elctro-disco pop” and I am totally okay with that.
A recent interview the Vice’s music blog Noisey got some insight to this shift, with the artist saying Visions was the product of numerous stressors, including pressure from the label and needing money to pay rent. It was recorded over three weeks, but its success gave Grimes the room she needed to release a record like Art Angels.
“I never set out to do anything. I think that’s one thing I’ve realised about myself,“ she told Noisey. “There’s a lot of songs where I’d spend like two days working on them, like this song is ‘for the record’, and then I’d be like okay, now I’m just going to make some music for me, and it would take half the time but that would always be what I end up making it onto the record.”
There’s also some mention of amphetamines abuse during her first few records – and while I certainly don’t hear “I’m fucked up on speed” on Halfaxa, there was obviously some dark juju in the machine at that point.
But Art Angels comes off as a 180 from that point with most tracks lining up with “Party in the U.S.A” or anything off of Carley Rae Jepsen’s 2015 release Emotion. The album makes me want to strap on roller skates instead of sway quietly in the dark.
Along side the obvious stand out of “Flesh without Blood,” tracks like “Kill V. Maim” set the album up for hopefully many (many many many) remix releases which will cause weirdos to collectively lose their shit on the dance floor for years to come.
There’s barely a slow moment on this record, with today’s weather (75o and sunny in November) seemingly linked to the albums “OPEN YOUR WINDOWS AND BLAST THIS SHIT” attitude.
There is still a dark tone to Art Angels, and I fear hipsters might listen to this record and dismiss it as some sort of sell out. By lyrically and thematically, Grimes holds onto the dark spirits that kept her in the indie fringes for so long.
The chorus from “Pin” exemplifies this:
Bite off your fingernails, cut off your skin
Tell me that it didn’t happen
Running through the dark woods, falling, couldn’t see straight
I was only looking for a human to reciprocate
No matter what the arm-crossed hipsters think, I see this record as a form of growth, an artist who wants to both satisfy her own artistic needs but also understands what recording a modern successful record is all about.
As I finish listen-through number 4, I realize Grimes may have just easily toppled HEALTH’s DEATH MAGIC from the top of my “album of the year” list and I really loved that HEALTH album.
You can check out Art Angels OUT NOW wherever albums are sold.