Daring reinvention

While the general pop world is still reeling from the double whammy of cash cows One Direction and Justin Bieber dropping their new albums last Friday, Canadian singer songwriter Grimes is gleefully reinventing the genre with a collection of intrepid, hook-filled songs on her fourth full-length effort, Art Angels. The timely new album comes ahead of her return to Singapore at music festival Laneway on Jan 30. Pushing the boundaries on her first full album since 2012's highly feted Visions, the 14 tracks are a work of avant-pop that are whimsical, adventurous and irresistibly danceable.

Art Angels is a significant release for Grimes (real name Claire Boucher) as it illustrates her ongoing evolution as a singular producer and songwriter. While Visions was created almost solely on basic software such as Apple's Garage- Band, Art Angels was crafted with advanced studio work and sees her adding more live instruments. In addition to the mostly processed vocals, Boucher also learnt and plays instruments such as the guitar, piano and violin. The arrangements are layered, kinetic and dynamic, and the backing beats and rhythms, which borrow from a variety of genres ranging from hip-hop to dance-pop, rarely stay the same.

Boucher is aware of the hype building up around her in the last few years. On California, she takes on critics who pigeonhole her music and persona as melancholic: "California, you only like me when you think I'm looking sad/ California, I didn't think you'd end up treating me so bad". On Scream, she recruits underground Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes to rap in Mandarin, while spunky American modern-soul singer Janelle Monae trades snappy verses with her on the female-empowering Venus Fly.





    4/5 stars

Daring, dauntless and hyper- melodic, Art Angels is the work of a blossoming pop innovator.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'Daring reinvention'. Print Edition | Subscribe