Five years since her last magnificent and critically adored album, Art Angels, Claire Boucher a.k.a. Grimes returns with an absolute banger of a project. It was definitely worth the wait. Over her previous four full-length albums, an underlying standard of style has been well-established but it is somehow ever-advancing at the same time. On Miss Anthropocene, Grimes has never been more ethereal and consistent in quality across all the album’s pieces.
Art Angels (an album Boucher herself has now deemed “a piece of crap” and “a stain on her life”) was actually quite a wonderful work of glorious moments; however, it also had a few tracks here and there that are skippable upon re-listens. On Miss Anthropocene, the high quality remains predominantly consistent throughout. There are only two songs, “New Gods” and “Before the Fever”, that do not reach the same status as its fellow pieces.
The opening track, “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth”, a 6-minute floaty trip through space, is one of my favorite things Grimes has done. It immediately sets the tone of the entire album, even if it might be unorthodox in terms of following the standard “rules” of what an opening track should be. The reverbed vocals and deep electronic instrumentals, made mostly of synths and blended sound effects, are a common theme through the album.
“Delete Forever” is a pure standout on this album; a depressing yet beautiful acoustic song depicting the opioid epidemic. While I would have never associated Grimes and the acoustic style together before this, it is a pleasant surprise and one I wouldn’t mind seeing Grimes pursue in future works. The minimal instrumentation at the beginning adds more and more pieces as it moves forward while complimenting the light vocal delivery and catchy melody. When that violin kicks in during the break section… *chef’s kiss*. As the track with the most focus on an important issue, this one will stick with any listener for a long while.
“Violence” and “4AEM” really kick this album into a new boppy high gear around the midpoint of Miss Anthropocene. Both contain vivid “imagery” in their sound. “Violence” could go along with any dark club setting complete with strobe lights and lasers. “4AEM” would make for any great action movie backing track during a chase or fight scene. The beats and backing instrumentals really drive these songs, but, again, Grimes’s vocals on these are really just amazing – going through various high and low pitch sections that transition seamlessly.
“My Name is Dark” is steady and very floaty throughout, using heavy reverb on the vocals against the ambient instrumental backdrop. While this one is the least catchy of the top tracks, it is still a highly re-listenable tune. The next track, “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around”, on the flipside of catchiness, is downright addictive. This track goes more down the road of upbeat alternative rock than the others, with the electric guitars and bass taking the forefront of the instrumental work. The vocal samples that come in as little “blips” at the end of each verse line create a pleasant 4-note filler bit that I instantly looked forward to upon relistens. This is just one of the many examples where Grimes uses as much of the space as possible in Miss Anthropocene to fill with creative expression and sound.
“IDORU”, possibly the best track on the album, closes out this thinkpiece on the end of the world. A 7-minute ambient journey that begins with bird chirping and some “oohs” and “ahs” over a simple synth melody, builds and transforms more and more. In all areas vocally, melodically, and instrumentally, this thing grabs your attention and doesn’t let go all the way through its gloriously atmospheric finish.
Miss Anthropocene is Grimes’s best full-length album yet. It is easily an early top 5, if not top 3, album for me for 2020. The hazy, floaty, ambient theme that carries through these songs is one I hope to see Grimes continue to dive into and drive in the future. Though, considering each album has been better than the last with Grimes, I welcome whatever step she chooses to take next with open arms.
Best Tracks: IDORU, So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth, Delete Forever, 4AEM, Violence
Weakest Tracks: New Gods, Before the Fever
Overall Score: A