THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE An indie-rocker’s eclectic view of what dance music can be
Grimes does it all on her new album, “Art Angels” (4AD) — not just writing, producing and performing the songs, but engineering and recording them, too.
And Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) adopts all sorts of personalities to sing this ambitious group of tracks — from the Gwen Stefani-like pop star who rages through the synth-driven “Kill v. Maim” to the breathy chanteuse who floats through the pretty “Easily.”
Her range, both vocally and stylistically, is breathtaking, but that doesn’t mean she lacks focus. On “California,” she adorns a country-loving melody and critic-dissing lyrics with stomping and hand claps and maybe xylophones for a sound that is all her own. On “Scream,” she raps in Mandarin and goes for some primal scream therapy and heavy breathing.
Dance music is at the heart of “Art Angels,” moving from thunderous bass lines to light and airy grooves, sometimes within the same song, as in “Venus Fly” with Janelle Monáe, but Grimes approaches it with an indie-rocker’s ear. The result sounds experimental, but also organic, giving the grooves a soulful quality that isn’t always present in more polished club-bangers. Above all else, Grimes is an original.