Offbeat Beats: Art Angels, Grimes
Art Angels, Grimes - or an ex-ballerina/goth's 2015 genre-shaking, feminist masterpiece
Offbeat Beats is a series that tries to bring to you and explore a variety of interesting and unique albums that you may not have heard of.
Pop music is in a complicated space right now. Even despite its resurgence in the early-mid 2010s through a wave of popular new artists and talented new producers who grabbed and adapted techniques from a growing range of different genres to keep reinventing and keeping the genre relevant; it’s never quite shaken off its image of being over-produced, image-manufactured, and ruled by a group of conservative men and their increasingly large and powerful corporations. In our postmodern internet age and all the ways in which that’s changed the way we look at music, people are starting to lose faith in the mainstream and lose faith the staple of music that represented it since the 1960s - pop. This time, we’re going to be taking a look at Art Angels by Grimes – the 2015 DIY cult classic and the album that might just change the way we view pop music and what it could be.
Step forward Claire Boucher, stage name Grimes, who in 2015 released her 4th studio album and instant classic Art Angels. Boundary-pushing, maximalist, and daring, the album won critical acclaim and growing fandom whilst pushing cult-hero Grimes into international relevance and fame. In an unexpected shift given her past discography, Grimes adapted a variety of contemporary pop elements to make her historically underground indie electronic music more accessible, but retained her DIY roots from the independent Canadian music scene she grew out of. Not that we really should have been that surprised by an unexpected change of direction - considering that to make her last album, 2012 cult-classic and widespread-critical-acclaim-winning Visions, she locked herself in a room for three weeks with little to no sleep, food, or any other company. Composing, producing, and engineering the entire album on Garage Band by herself, she’s always had a history of being independent and daring in everything she releases.
Art Angels has pop music at its musical core, but it’s twisted and twirled and wrapped in constantly new, challenging ways. It’s grounded in drum machines and guitars and MIDI instrumentation and keyboards and 4-chord progressions, staples of modern pop music. However, it constantly finds new ways to throw twists at you - reminders of that spirit of the experimentation and confidence in self-identity that rings through all her albums and came from her experimental DIY background. There’s a song entirely in Chinese ft. guest artist Aristophanes, a feminist experimental Taiwanese rapper. There’s a song written from the perspective of a butterfly watching people cut down trees in the Amazon. There’s a song which is literally just a diss track against a friend she thinks is false. There’s a song written from the perspective of a gender-bending space-traveling vampire version Al Pacino from the Godfather pt. 2 (seriously), whose music video includes a blood-filled rave and her riding a stripped out bright-pink car with horns (seriously). This might sound like pop album, but it’s just so much more; so much more dark and twisted and interesting and and just flat-out bonkers at times.
Engineered and produced in its entirety by Boucher herself, it’s not just one of the very few mainstream albums of the last few years with the main artist doing all of these different behind-the-scenes elements solo, but also an area of music historically and dramatically under-representative of women. This album is so clearly Grimes', and no-one else, defiantly so, and that's just one part of its brilliance; she chose to take on one of the most old-fashioned and historically sexist areas of the music industry, pop music and pop music production, and to beat it down, deconstruct it, and build it up again in her own vision. It went down as one of the best albums of 2015, and may go down as one of the most culturally significant pop albums of this generation.
Featured Image Via
All Photos Via Grimes' Official Instagram
Listen to Art Angels on Spotify here: