Given that she took on the roles of multi-instrumentalist and producer to gain full creative control, you would probably have expected electro-pop pixie-girl Grimes to have out-weirded herself for her fourth studio effort, Art Angels. And yet, despite recent talk of being impossible to pigeonhole, the 27-year-old has largely dialed down the hyperactivity that made 2012’s Visions one of the most wonderfully warped pop records of the decade.
Sure, Art Angels still contains its fair share of dizzying genre-clashes. “Scream” is an unsettling blend of nu-metal and rumbling bass-pop which sees Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes flit between hushed whispers and banshee wails. “California,” a diatribe against the media’s treatment of female musicians, fuses an addictive dancehall riddim with the kind of sickly-sweet Europop that has defined the PC Music scene. And neo-classical opener “Laughing and Not Being Normal” briefly suggests that the Canadian has decided to pursue a new career as a female soprano.
But although Grimes’ labor of love could never be described as conventional, it’s certainly not as far removed from the mainstream as its predecessors. In fact, take away the helium-voiced delivery, and the driving pop-rock of “Flesh Without Blood” and “Belly of the Beat” could easily have slotted onto a mid-00s Kelly Clarkson album.
The slinky synth-pop of the title track and closer “Butterfly,” the pulsing EDM of “Kill V. Maim” and the breakbeat-tinged “World Princess, Part II” could just as effortlessly fit into today’s chart landscape. There’s even an acoustic ballad, albeit one that barely lasts 90 seconds, in the shape of “Life in the Vivid Dream.”
Art Angels, therefore, isn’t the mind-boggling sonic adventure perhaps anticipated, but it’s still a record which serves as an intriguing middle ground between Grimes’ love of experimentalism and unashamed pure pop.