There’s a book I read, a long time ago, called Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. In it he describes his protagonist like this:“She was elusive…We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a cork board like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”
Stargirl may have been a manic-pixie-dream-girl archetype designed to fulfill the creative void of an Arizona boy’s heart, but Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, is very, very, real.
Art Angels was my first peek into her music, and although I’ve heard that it leans more pop than her previous albums, it doesn’t take long to realize that a) it’d be wildly offensive to dismiss this as a simplification of sound and b) there’s little use in trying to assign a single genre this artist.
Grimes’ latest effort thrives on an inexhaustible supply of frenzied, frenetic beats, otherworldly vocals and a sonic bombast that sounds like the digital, fantasy world that Claire Boucher must have crawled out from.
She growls, whispers and shrieks through the appropriately named “SCREAM”, sarcastically cheers on thrasher “Kill V. Maim” and casually throws out an ironically sunny hook on “California”.
But although it’s easy to distractedly bop your head to something like the aforementioned “California” or the bouncy “Belly of the Beat”, there’s a feeling that everything is still making some sort of statement, whether it’s about the way the media has thrown her image about like a rag doll or her thinly-veiled disgust with men.
Perhaps what left me the most impressed was the knowledge that the entire album was produced and engineered by Boucher herself using Ableton Live, a departure from her entirely Garage Band-produced Visions. This independence could be risky for some, but for her, it’s the only way to get things done the way she wants them-her decisions need to be entirely hers.
Like Susan Caraway’s alias Stargirl, Grimes is not someone you can just pin on a canvas. As a musical artist, she deals in mixed-media projects; bringing together select sounds, cutting them out and then gluing them meticulously into her sonic collage. Every moment is unique and yet seemingly part of a mosaic, just like herself.
If anything, I’d say that’s my favorite thing about my aural rendezvous with Claire Boucher-the funny way her ears take in everything except bullshit.