The world has been waiting for a new Grimes album since 2012’s freaky masterwork ‘Visions’. Songs like ‘Oblivion’ (18 million YouTube views and climbing) helped create the sense that Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) was about to become the ‘next big thing’ in pop, but there has been little concrete sign of a follow-up. Until now, that is.
Consisting of weird, twisted almost-pop songs, tinny percussion and reedy vocals, ‘Visions’ made Boucher as an indie favourite. The 27-year-old’s pop credentials were established in 2014, when she released the crisper, dancier single ‘Go’, which she reportedly wrote for Rihanna but chose to keep to herself. Even better was ‘Entropy’, a light acoustic guitar-based ballad released with Bleachers (aka Jack Antonoff from New York pop outfit Fun).
During this period she also scrapped an album that she dismissed in a recent interview with The New Yorker as “too disturbing”. But now ‘Art Angels’ is expected imminently. Lead single ‘Flesh Without Blood’ might surprise anyone expecting ‘Go 2.0’. The first minute or so, all wiry bass and clattering drums, could be lifted straight from ‘Visions’. But then that pop sensibility comes to the fore.
It’s there in the buzzy, insistent guitar that emerges midway through and the buoyant handclaps that punctuate the last minute. At one point, the bass dips into the background before rising up again. You know when you’re stood outside a basement club in the cold and someone opens the door, allowing the music to ascend the stairwell? That’s how that rising bassline makes you feel.
Boucher’s impish vocal remains, suggesting Grimes hasn’t gone all-out pop, but has instead fed commercial influences into her sound. Has she opted out of crossing over into the mainstream? Don’t count on it. Boucher signed with Jay Z’s management company Roc Nation in 2013 – pre-’Go’ – and is seemingly still intent on the mainstream coming to her.