We live in an age where the music industry, once constrained to release dates and physical mediums, has become completely unpredictable. There was Kanye West, whose monumental “Yeezus” was completed merely days before its national release. There was Beyonce, the first major mainstream artist to surprise- release an album — one that not only sold, but sold incredibly well. Then there was Grimes, who made an album only to scrap it for a completely new set of songs that are veiled in mystery and speculation over the greater part of the past year and a half. Now, the veil has been lifted, and “Art Angels” is on display at last.
Upon first hearing “Art Angels,” skepticism seems a natural accompaniment to the surrounding hype. Yet, it is evident that Grimes (aka multi-instrumentalist Claire Boucher) is more than just self-aware when it comes to these kinds of expectations from fans and the media alike. Simply put, this album is a crucial moment for pop music in the 21st century.
“Art Angels” does not let go of Boucher’s enchanting, electronic-“fairy” persona, which has made songs such as “Oblivion” some of the most hauntingly catchy of the past decade. Instead, the album couples these sounds with a set of new instrumentation and what one might deem more “conventional” pop sensibilities. However, to use the words “Grimes” and “conventional” in the same sentence is really something of a contradiction, as this is not music that can or should be deemed conventional, make no mistake.
The blooming synths, driving beats and reverberated vocal melodies of Boucher’s past all play integral roles, while new elements, notably the addition of acoustic and electric guitars, contribute just as much. This time around, there are even straight up banshee screams in the aptly-titled “Scream” and club-ready, bass-heavy moments in “Venus Fly” and “Butterfly.”
MORE THAN JUST MEMORABLE
While the music and production alone make “Art Angels” more than just memorable, what truly defines the album is its spirit. The songs are bold, aggressive and empowering, be it in the form of a “diss track” to a certain music publication or a ferocious declaration that oozes confidence – and not without guest vocals from Janelle Monae.
“Art Angels” rightfully declares Grimes a household name for modern music, and not just that of the independent music world. If there ever was a time for Grimes, that time is now. Take notice.