Art Angels is a brave attempt by Grimes to reintroduce herself to the music scene after a three-year absence. It stands out in a way that’s almost uneasy, with strained, whiny vocals carrying most of the songs to their bitter end. “California” gives us a peek into the mindset of an indie star already jaded by the music industry, complete with off-beat drums and a shimmering Barbie-esque vibe. Grimes herself has a sort of niche appeal: her music isn’t for everyone, but on a track like “REALiTi” you’d be hard-pressed to find something to complain about. It’s catchy, but not to the point of being sickening, and it retains the dreamy otherworldliness Grimes fans have come to know and love. All of this synth gives way to a darker place on “Scream”, featuring the Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes – its harsh foreign tongue is comparable to Die Antwoord, jarring and strange but invigorating at the same time.
From there we move into “Flesh Without Blood”, the atmospheric fourth number that lives up to Grimes’s alien-like aesthetic. It certainly sounds like this record comes from another planet, or maybe Grimes is orbiting on a higher plane of awareness that the rest of us just aren’t privy to yet. If there’s any artist this is reminiscent of, it’s Purity Ring. The fast pace and overall computerization work to Grimes’s advantage, providing an easy distraction and thereby preventing us from lingering on any one of the LP’s flaws. The music isn’t rhythmic by any means, but a choppy, discordant sound is evidently what Grimes prefers anyway. While each track could stand on its own, the full effect is a powerful lesson in electro-pop. By pushing the limits of the genre and bending the rules of harmonious-sounding music in general, she has created something harsh yet deeply alluring.
It goes without saying that Grimes is one of the most interesting artists in the game right now, female or not. Art Angels charts unfamiliar territory and makes it seem as if conventional recording strategies have ceased to matter. From “Laughing and Not Being Normal” to “Belly of the Beast”, we’re given clean, crisp sound as well as bizarre lyrics. The remainder of the album sounds like it should be living inside an arcade game – upbeat, yet strangely cold and digital. Grimes doesn’t care about making anyone comfortable, and let this music be a reminder of that.