Grimes’ latest album is another smash hit from the pop star, this time blending the sounds of rave and industrial with the bedroom pop she’s known for
Electronic musician and record producer Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes has had a storied career, having released critical darlings Visions and Art Angels, as well as collaborations with the likes of Janelle Monae and Bring Me the Horizon. Now, after repeated delays and leaks Grimes has finally returned after a five-year hiatus with new album Miss Anthropocene. The album is yet another reinvention, as has been the status quo for Grimes on recent album cycles. However, Miss Anthropocene is easily the biggest transition Grimes has made in her career. Boucher advertised the release as a concept album about the Goddess of climate change, with the intention being to make climate change awareness ‘fun’. While the concept is weird and personally I still don’t think climate change is fun, somehow the theme works, and Grimes mixes up the albums sound from past releases enough for this to feel like more than a stupid gimmick.
The album offers a far heavier bass driven sound than on previous releases. Songs like the opener ‘So Heavy I fell Through the Earth’ has a power to it which demands attention far more assertively than on past efforts. The track feels less pop-tinged than anything on previous efforts. Instead, much of Miss Anthropocene is a slow burn, powered by its pummelling synths and the luscious melodies surrounding them. In a way, Miss Anthropocene is the antithesis to its predecessor. While Art Angels was punchy and dragged you in with catchy hooks and danceable beats, Miss Anthropocene wants you to pay attention more so than simply sing along. This well represented in the track ‘Darkseid’ as Boucher sings that ‘we don’t move our bodies anymore’. Miss Anthropocene is less about dance-ability and more about experience.
However, this album isn’t a one trick pony and manages to diversify itself solidly across its forty-five minute run time. ‘Delete Forever’ is a surprising crooner and while this isn’t Grimes’ first foray into this territory – that being 2015’s ‘California’ – this does feel like a much more fleshed out attempt. For a start, ‘Delete Forever’ is far less jarring thematically than ‘California’ was. It also has far more substance, with the acoustic guitar focal point being supported by a banjo line and a gorgeous fiddle piece. Lyrically, the piece appears to go far deeper also, with Boucher making allusions to ‘f**king heroin’ and its effects, as well as poor luck and melancholy.
The tracklist does lighten up across the album’s length. ‘Violence’ feels like a strong throwback to the ecstatic synths of early release Halfaxa, but updated to fit the futuristic element of modern Grimes. More than anything, this track feels like a genuine development as both a songwriter and a producer. The track is also home to the album’s most prominent hook and a stunning vocal performance in Boucher’s signature high pitched style, sounding more on note than she ever has before. The tone continues with ‘4AEM’, a rave banger featuring more high vocals and the biggest boost in energy Miss Anthropocene has to offer. The album’s diversity doesn’t harm it though. Miss Anthropocene feels cohesive, with each transition making sense. It’s actually refreshing to be taken through so many emotions in a way that prevents any of the beats from becoming stale – Grimes employs a multitude of beat switches on various tracks to constantly switch the pace and prevent the track list from lulling.
One of the albums finest gems is ‘My Name is Dark’, somehow managing to be one of the pop highlights of Grimes’ career, while simultaneously featuring distorted guitars which tear the track to pieces, in the best possible way. It’s as dark as the title suggests and just as anthemic. Grimes has always been an artist known more for her synths than her guitar work, but ‘My Name is Dark’ proves Boucher’s range in artistry.
Towards its tail end the record slows down significantly into a more introspective lens. ‘New Gods’, feels like a proper ballad with glistening pianos and another serving of Grimes’ finest vocals. The album’s crowning jewel is its closer, ‘IDORU’. This 7-minute journey is quite possibly Grimes’ opus. Drifting between soft balladry and soaring synth pop without missing a beat this track is easily one of the finest in Grimes’ repertoire, going toe to toe with the likes of ‘Oblivion’. Although, this is likely an unfair comparison as this track is like nothing Grimes’ has ever done before. The song feels like a synth-prog odyssey supported by some of the best lyrics Boucher has ever penned. Aside from the stupid pun in the title, the lyrics are incredibly honest and sweet in their vulnerability as Boucher croons ‘I Adore You’ over and over.
While Art Angels may have divided fans, there’s no denying the artistic heights of Miss Anthropocene. A powerful, genre bending album which pushes the realm of pop further out of its comfort zone. We live in a world where artists like Charli XCX and Sophie are pushing the boundaries of pop music and its production and Grimes has furthered the movement, possibly producing the finest album of the bunch to date.
Miss Anthropocene is out now via 4AD.