Grimes, the moniker of Claire Boucher, produces indie bedroom pop that removes all the baggage associated with that term. On Visions, Grimes delivers an album that dabbles in and explores the electronic side of pop with enough unique ideas to separate herself from her peers.
Grimes – Oblivion
Grimes straddles the fine line of being precious within a pop context. With this idea of bedroom pop, things can get a little too calculated, too prepared. At times this can work to the advantage of the artist as they are allowed to channel and express themselves truly and thoughtfully. Other times it becomes a mess of tricks and atmospherics losing the concept of immediacy. It’s a symptom of our, at times, over-dependence on digital creativity that makes things feel bland. Grimes’ choices on Visions get her past those trappings and creates some swirling and sweeping tunes that are bursting with vitality.
Visions starts off with solid promise as listeners are welcomed to Grimes’ world of bubbling pop, electronic rhythms and acrobatic vocals. Boucher is not as operatic as say Austra but her softer, almost pixie-ish, vocals work well and allow her to bounce off the vibrant music. Her sweeping vocals let her create hooks, adding depth and texture to her electronically-inspired pop. The opening trio of “Infinite Love Without Fulfillment,” “Genesis” and “Oblivion” establish the aesthetics early on, creating a fully-realized world that listeners can engage with.
“Eight” is where things get weird and pretty fun. At times, the atmospherics can drown out any sense of joy that pop should have. Grimes learns that pop is meant to be affirming, to be fun and not overly serious. So when “Eight” echoes early 90′s House music with a tinny high-pitched vocals and robotic accents, it feels just right. “Circumambient” continues this trip down memory lane while continuing to establish her own identity.
In the hands of Grimes, familiar cues and signatures from Electronic music get repurposed, like the whooping siren in “Vowels = Space and Time,” bending conventions slightly and producing something unexpected. Grimes uses the idea of access to broaden, well, her vision. It’s bubbly and obviously feminine. Which is not a bad thing as her “cuteness” can be expressive and dance-y at the same time. Asian culture is an influence as well, from the Manga-inspired cover art to certain elements of Japanese or Korean pop that cater to bubblegum.
Grimes – Genesis
Grimes returns to the ethereal for “Be a Body” that may feel at times too familiar to her contemporaries but lets her vocals be the focal point. “Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)” is a spiraling, genre-busting sandbox of a song that shouldn’t work because the myriad of elements that Boucher is working with but that actually works to her advantage. Grimes and Visions are full of ideas that are accessible thanks in part to the world we live in. Too many times there is this desire to add depth or mystery to pop, which means writers have to use the term “haunting.” The reason why it is pop, because it connects with people, gets lost much to the chagrin of someone who enjoys a good hook and a catchy tune. Luckily, Grimes avoids all of that.
Boucher playfully engages with the past and with Visions delivers an album worthy of being called pop. The Olympic-level gymnastics of Boucher’s vocals, the diverse influences and electronics cues add up to an album that is perfectly fine being human in a digital world. Visions is just that, a panoramic gaze of influences that is impressive, not just in its scope, but also in its exuberance of what it has found.