Claire Boucher, an artist under the stage name of Grimes, has come a long way since first exploding into the wider public consciousness with 2013’s indie-electro-pop breakout album “Visions”.
The genre-defying “Art Angels”, released in 2015, propelled her even further into the public eye.
She became a fashion darling and fell foul of the Twittersphere for her ever-changing, easily twisted, and soundbite-worthy opinions. She also experienced the death of some close friends, including her long-time manager.
It wasn’t complete doom and gloom though; She also fell in love, got pregnant, and closed out the 2010’s as Vice’s Artist of the Decade.
With her latest album, “Miss Anthropocene”, Grimes entirely self-produced the record (with a couple of exceptions). Gone are the surf-guitar, sunshine, and k-pop-infused melodies of “Art Angels”, this time replaced by a vast, cinematic soundscape featuring a palette of deep-tech and 1990’s breakbeat inspired drums, club synth and bass, nu-metal, prog-rock, and even a little country.
Touching on themes of suicide, death, drug abuse, artificial intelligence, climate emergency, war, hatred, pregnancy, apocalypse, and in the end a glimmer of hope, Grimes filters these ideas “through her worst thoughts and impulses” into a loose concept album about a post-modern pantheon of villainous new-gods led by the greatest threat of all, the titular Miss Anthropocene, Goddess of Climate Change.
Lead single, “Violence” (a rare collaboration), is a pulsing club-track about the abusive relationship between humanity and the planet.
“My Name Is Dark” is a grunge-infused middle finger to the keyboard warriors who twist the meaning of her words on social media. “4ÆM” meanwhile, interpolates a Bollywood sample and infuses it with a frenetic Bomfunk MC’s-style breakbeat plucked straight from the 1990’s.
The surprising highlight of the album, however, is perhaps the most un-Grimes track of the lot; new-single “Delete Forever”, a guitar-led rumination on the loss of friends and peers to drug overdoses and the self-hatred ensuing from following similarly destructive paths.
The stripped-back production allows Grimes to showcase two aspects of her artistry that rarely receive such focus; her songwriting and singing ability, both of which she wields to devastating effect. None of it should work, and in a less deft set of hands probably wouldn’t. It’s a true testament to Grimes talent and artistic vision that the album never loses a moment of cohesion from beginning to end, no matter how varied the inspiration.
The Grimes facing into the beginning of this new decade is not the Grimes of old.
Channelling her most misanthropic and nihilistic views into her art has not only led to her producing her best work to date but in conjunction with impending motherhood, helped to purge those demons and give her a new outlook on the world.
If “Miss Anthropocene” is what was borne from her worst impulses, I cannot wait to see what she produces when surrendering to her best. If the artificial intelligence overlords haven’t taken over by then, that is.
Image Credit: Grimes Album Cover