I’ve finally made up my mind about Grimes’ latest album, Art Angels. Released on November 6th, it has already garnered widespread success with critics citing it as her “most audacious album to date.” Vancouver-born artist Claire Boucher has created something fearless and compelling this time around. Don’t be fooled by the pedantic, strained analysis that pervades the its reviews. Art Angels is undeniably a pop album. Boucher generates a frothy, explosive new sound that’s both nauseatingly sweet and completely addictive. Trust me, I listened to ‘Fresh Without Blood’ on repeat for approximately a week.
At its best, Art Angels is an exciting spin on mainstream pop. After consuming my fair share of indie rock and obscure electronic albums, it was refreshing to listen to, and enjoy, something as simple and unassuming as Art Angels. ‘Easily’ is my idea of a guilty pleasure anthem. As long as I don’t pay too much attention to the flimsy lyrics, it’s my favorite go-to song for Friday night while I knock back a beer (or a glass of cheap red wine). From my vantage point, Boucher has produced an album that infuses the pop world with just the right amount of deviant fun.
Upon choosing this album to write about, I began to investigate who Boucher is as a musician. What I found was pleasantly surprising. Like many of us, I had deemed the kind of synthpop that embodies Grimes somewhat less worthy of praise than “real music” that employs primarily live instruments and what I (perhaps incorrectly) considered to be more technical expertise. After reading up on Grimes and listening to a few interviews, I developed a greater sense of respect for her. She is a true artist with a unique perspective that she’s fighting to authentically represent.
In 2013, Boucher wrote a compelling and raw blog post about her experience as a young female musician in a misogynist industry. “I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if i did this by accident and i’m gonna flounder without them. or as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology. I have never seen this kind of thing happen to any of my male peers,” she writes. This kind of unabashed expression is exactly what’s enticing about her work. And of course, there are few things I admire more than a woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
With Art Angels, Boucher has proven that she can produce music herself and create a full-bodied, commercially successful product. That she stuck it out and denied outside help (as she attests in FADER’s short documentary below) is a testament to her ferocious independence as an artist. Boucher refuses to be discounted because she is a proponent of pop. Couple that with being a female artist and a burgeoning fashionista and we have an even fuller picture of how much harder she has to work to maintain her identity in an industry that will mercilessly misconstrue who you are.
“im tired of being considered vapid for liking pop music or caring about fashion as if these things inherently lack substance or as if the things i enjoy somehow make me a lesser person,” writes Boucher in the same blog post.
Not every song on Art Angels is a standout, but the album as a whole marks an engaging transition into new territory for Boucher. Contrary to what I initially thought, she hasn’t allowed herself to be compromised as an artist. Boucher “recorded and engineered everything on her new album Art Angels herself, and she even taught herself to play guitar, drums, keys, ukulele, and violin,” writes Peter Helman of Stereogum. She’s passionate about every aspect of the music (she even designed her own album artwork) and has maintained an intense focus on the overall quality of her sound throughout the creation of the album. No doubt about it, Boucher is a badass. And now I like pop.
Flesh Without Blood
laughing and not being normal
Kill V. Maim