Since the 2012 release of Visions (QRO review), things have really expanded for Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes. Visions itself received heaps of praise, launching Boucher into the big-time – the songstress even signed to Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s management company (and got the boost in press coverage that that entailed). But her experimental synth-pop sound has always been a risky one; witness the polarized reactions to early post-Visions single “Go”, yet the next release, demo for “REALiTi”, returned her to the top of music press pile. Art Angels sees Boucher on her game, with a wide record that reaches some strong highs.
The pop on Art Angels is not just ‘pop’. Grimes can very ably do a pop single; witness great single “Flesh without Blood”, or the electro-pop dance of “Kill V. Maim”. But there’s also the aggression to other single “SCREAM” (which featured rap lyrics from Taiwan’s Aristophanes), and the darker dance-anthem “Venus Fly” (that itself features electro-dance pop maven Janelle Monae). There is persuasive emotion to “Pin”, a brighter wistful nature to closer “Butterfly”, and even restraint on early piece “California”.
At fourteen tracks, Art Angels does have some songs that struggle to stand out, particularly the airy numbers and shorter ones. But it successfully keeps the experimental pop princess at the height of her anything-but-a-game.