Grimes’ ‘Art Angels’ expands the boundaries of pop

Annie Zaleski

Four stars

Grimes Art Angels

The ascent of Claire Boucher (the musician who releases music under the name Grimes) from indie-electro auteur to pop-culture phenomenon was swift and well-documented, thanks to her articulate Tumblr posts and legions of devoted fans. How she reconciled this attention and followed up her 2012 breakthrough, Visions, proved to be more complicated.

After ditching the music she’d been working on—including the sleek, hip-hop-tinged “Go”—she emerged recently, and somewhat suddenly, with the kaleidoscopic Art Angels. More outgoing and less insular-sounding than Visions, the full-length approaches pop as a cross-pollinated genre with ever-expanding boundaries. The marching “Scream” merges animated verses rapped in Mandarin by Taiwanese artist Aristophanes with Boucher’s background banshee screams; standout “Kill V. Maim” is a punkish, new wave playground chant; and “Laughing and Not Being Normal” boasts a Tim Burton-esque orchestral tilt.

Elsewhere, Art Angels references a diverse array of styles—’80s Euro-pop (Pet Shop Boys-meets-Madonna jam “REALiTi”), b-boy electro-disco (the Janelle Monae-featuring “Venus Fly”) and ethereal synth-folk (“Belly of the Beat”), among them—while ruminating about flouting expectations, flirting with danger (and bad ideas) and railing against preconceived notions and stereotypes. Art Angels is the kind of forward-thinking, compulsively listenable album that spawns legions of imitators—the highest compliment a young artist can receive.

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