Two members of the HighClouds team met in order to discuss Grimes‘ new album “Art Angels”, that is out now via 4AD. Here are their thoughts:
Arnaud: Hey Matias, how are you doing?
Matias: I have my mouth full of bio tofu with peanut oil and kale but otherwise, I feel great. Doesn’t it look tasty?
Arnaud: Well, more than you describe it than when I see it flowing along your mouth. But what is important is that is homemade, isn’t it? Like the fourth album of Grimes “Art Angels”, that was released a week ago.
Matias: I heard that Pitchfork gave an 8.6 to my tofu and named it “Best New Food” but right now, I’m in Grimes mode so I don’t give a damn about it! I don’t know if this is the same for you, but I can’t stop listening to the album since its release. This is so infectious…
Arnaud: When I first heard it, I was struck by doubt. I imagine you had the same feeling this morning when you looked at you in the mirror. Was it still Grimes? As a lot of people, I discovered her with her third album “Visions” and it is a bit like if “Art Angels” was only her sophomore effort. These two albums are very, very different. “Visions” was a bit experimental whereas “Art Angels” is super-produced, structured and definitely pop, with a big part of craziness in it. The thing is that, like most people, I made the mistake to put Grimes in a musical box. Nowadays, it doesn’t really make sense anymore as no one is still confined to a single genre; artists go beyond, explore and are freer. So once these a priori flew away, I really started to enjoy the album.
Matias: I have to say, I don’t think Grimes made a step in the direction of pop music. I have the feeling the pop sphere moved to Grimes. Ellie Goulding draws near Calvin Harris (when she is not plainly in his bed), Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande are buzzing round Zedd, Madonna is as thick as thieves with Diplo and Sophie, and in another style, Miley Cyrus takes LSD with The Flaming Lips. Pop music never overflowed like that on underground and electronic music. However, the LP is definitely pop but I wanted to underline Grimes‘ influence on contemporary pop music. She injected a lot of power and pulled the whole movement to her, and she maybe doesn’t know it yet.
Arnaud: This is probably true. But when I heard “Flesh Without Blood”, the lead single from this album, I didn’t think of avant-garde or future. It was an efficient sniper shot straight to the brain. The song is seductive and viral. It reminded me Avril Lavigne though, like a post-mortem and post-apocalyptic version of her. This guitar riff with this bubblegum atmosphere were different, but it hooked me. It would have been a pity for her to stay in her experimental universe as she proves with this track that she is a great pop producer.
What is amazing is that everything is homemade, DIY. This is a patchwork of unique sounds, samples, loops and instruments (violin, guitar, ukulele…). Sometimes, in one song, she combines several genres with success. She is a great musician, a great producer and a real maestro. This is craftsmanship!
For instance, “California” is a kind of hybrid country-pop track based on a sample of Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay”. It is not even the American state. This is a hate song specially dedicated to Pitchfork, the most influent website in the world for alternative music. Is she afraid of giving a finger to them? No, she doesn’t care! She takes pleasure and settle her score. The song is also supposed to make reference to “enema”. I personally didn’t see the blink but knowing you, I’m sure you found it out. Anyway… The track, which is totally a grower, should get a video treatment in early 2016.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/231904830″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Matias: All these things around “California” and Pitchfork are so funny! I love her when she is not afraid of getting involved. She is making a stand for pushing the Canadian youth to vote. She defends feminism. She is not just a musician, she is the best side of pop music. If we could say the same for other pop stars *wink wink Madonna that you are going to see soon*. Grimes is never where you expect her to be, and she always surpasses her own limits. If you take “Kill V. Maim”, that could be a cheerleader’s anthem of Toni Basil high on speed, she is doing her own thing and by the way, scrapes off the men. She claims in “Butterfly”: “If you are looking from your dream girl, I will never be your dream girl”. This is the same with the new version of “REALiTi”, which is a big fuck to stardom, even if I think that this version is a fail compared to the demo one.
Arnaud: Please, for Madonna, open and read your History books of the 15th century and you will see that she opened most of the doors Grimes is smashing today. But you are right, Grimes is committed to some causes. One of my favorite tracks of the LP, “Venus Fly”, with the talented Janelle Monáe, is a feminist banger against all the guys that keep on speering at girls. “Butterfly” is supposed to talk about the deforestation and “Easily” is dedicated to the flip-flopping persons who constantly judge her music, like us 😉 As would sing the avant-garde Belgian singer Mary-L: “Un jour sans, Un jour avec”. Nevertheless, I am always suspicious of all the stands taken by pop musicians. This is so easy to sing that racism and war are bad and that love is nice.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/231904311″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
I focused more on the Asian inspiration that you can hear throughout the album. As I recall, we never opened the door that much to Asia in North American pop music since Gwen Stefani’s debut solo album. By the way, Gwen is like Avril: musically dead (RIP). There is “Easily” inspired by the sound of Bollywood in the 80s. Then, “SCREAM”, which is certainly the most furious track of the album, gives room to Aristophanes, a Taiwanese rapper who sings in mandarin. Grimes mostly plays a role in the production for this track. I could debate with the lyrics for hours but I suppose you don’t have the time for that, don’t you? Then, “Kill V. Main”, which is Grimes‘ favorite track on the album, sounds like if Nintendo’s “Street Fighter” was a song. This is also a song I adore. On Twitter, she said there also would be a video for this track. “World Princess pt II” is the following of a song from her LP “Halfaxa” even if this is not obvious. It sounds like catchy pop music made with Nokia 3310’s sounds. Finally, for each track of “Art Angels”, there is a drawing to go with and they are totally inspired by Japanese manga.
Matias: I’m sorry but compared to Gwen Stefani, this is Madonna who fell from the top perch, and not only in the metaphoric language. The singer of No Doubt is currently back on center stage with The Voice and her new single “I Used to Love You”. so you should revise your CURRENT pop music lessons. Let’s go back to Grimes now. I also like these Asian influences that I hear in “ArtAngels” or “SCREAM”. But my favorite track remains “Butterfly”: this is like Kylie Minogue having an orgy with South Korean girls band 2NE1.
Grimes is often explaining how much she hates the fact that indie music blogs generally depreciate women’s work in music. I hope we term to change her mind!
Arnaud: I am a bit afraid I have to say. If we misunderstood something in her album, do you think she will write a hate song against and scream after us on Twitter? Griiiiiiiimes I’m sorry, I love you. Don’t kill me!
Matias: It would be amazing to have a hate song especially for us. But as I prefer love to hate, I give the album a 9/10. I would have given a 10/10 if “REALiTi” was not changed.
Arnaud: I share this deception for the track and the excitement for the rest of the LP. 8/10