Album Review



by Grimes

7.5 / 10
9th March 2012

Reviewed by Christopher Hunt

First impressions can be deceiving. Whether it’s meeting the new kid in school, using a new iPhone, or being introduced to your girlfriend’s father, we all succumb to judging, and more than often, being fooled by first impressions. Grimes’ third album Visions falls into this category, seamlessly misleading you from any initial preconceptions you have of Grimes and any of her work. While the pixie-like ‘female Skrillex’ image of the young Claire Boucher reeks of bubblegum indie-pop, Visions is not a pop album. Although there are more hooks and “laa-la-la”s  than a Dianna Ross Greatest Hits collection, Visions is a very complex, intricate, and dark album that requires more than one listen to appreciate it as a whole.

Claire Boucher is making music that is absolutely unique and original. Where artists like Purity Ring and Blood Diamonds are blurring the lines between electro-pop and ambient experimentation, Grimes has established herself as a leader within this sub-genre. Visions builds on her previous work and takes some ‘rub-off’ inspiration from her peers to create a very ambitious, and at times, overwhelming album. 

Going back to first appearances, the opening intro-track cuckolds the listener into a false sense of security, leading us to anticipate a nice clean and crisp pop album to follow. The track is undeniably cute, innocent, and sounds like a teen heartbreak electro-ditty. That is until second track ‘Genesis’ takes over. ‘Genesis’ appears warm and sweet with it’s stompy drum beat, but Boucher’s vocals elevate the track to something much more dark and haunting. Boucher truly uses her voice as an instrument using whatever production techniques she can to get the most out of her vocals and lyrics. Generally indistinguishable, we hear the odd lyric such as ‘My heart will never be…./ Never feel never... ‘ before the lyrics are lost and drenched in haunting echoes, pitch shifts, and reverb. ‘Genesis’ is a great song, and so too is the following track, ‘Oblivion’. Well, actually, ‘Oblivion’ is an absolutely amazing track and will be one of the best songs you could hope to hear in 2012. It’s an odd and creepy song based on melodic ‘oooohhh-la-la-la’s that has an amazing appeal and takes the spot for being the album’s most accessible and finest moment. Like the a lot of the album, ‘Oblivion’ documents a tale of loneliness, darkness, and love lost.  

‘Circumambient’ picks up and follows similar suit, heavy drum beats coupled with soft over-produced vocals that explode with layers in the chorus. As the song progresses the listener begins to lose track of the many vocal layers and tracks, yet without really losing focus. However, as Visions enters the second half, we do lose focus. And interest. The over produced tracks grow increasingly difficult to intake, and combined with almost no song structure in the latter of the album, Visions is sadly unable follow up the first six tracks of the album. Employing unique studio experimentation is unquestionably fine, yet it does not produce great music if it is not accompanied with solid song writing, which the second half of the album lacks. However, as I mentioned, this is not a pop album. You cannot expect Visions to produce pop structures and songs to put ‘on repeat’ for the ENTIRE album.

Yet as the album draws to a close, it does produce some truly fine moments. Grimes seems to work in ‘musical segments’ within a song, and she produces some magical moments in them yet they frustratingly seem to fall apart, sway, and drift into nothing.  This is most notable on ‘Nightmusic’, a piece with beautiful potential and amazing segments, yet it slowly tears at the seams and builds up to nothing. It’s almost teasing you, it’s like she’s halfway to greatness but falls just short of the finishing line.

With the release of Visions, Claire Boucher does prove she has amazing potential as an artist. It’s clear that she does not want to be categorized into the indie girl-pop group and with good reason: she’s one of the most exciting emerging young artists. She’s still finding her feet, still learning and experimenting in the studio, and producing some amazing work. Visions is no masterpiece, but it is giving Grimes solid ground to build upon, learn from, and gives reason for the world to keep a very watchful eye on the bright future of Claire Boucher and her musical entity, Grimes.

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