Saturday, February 22, 2020

Review: Miss Anthropocene • Grimes

For every year Grimes spends in the public eye, her unpredictability is magnified by tenfold. Within the past year, it’s hard to imagine that we haven’t reached peak Grimes. She and billionaire Elon Musk have become the most unbelievable power couple goals for Hot Topic customers and weed smokers everywhere. She was a two-dimensional meme in that ugly Tesla truck for a while. Azealia Banks alleged that Grimes abandoned her in a mansion while Musk was high out of his mind. Apparently, she’s now pregnant. Placidity has no place in the Grimes' universe – and her music matches her chaos.

Despite minor activity for a few years prior, Grimes became a counterculture phenomenon in 2012 with Visions, a mumbled GarageBand record written and recorded in three weeks under self-inflicted duress. Three years later, her follow-up was far more expansive. Guitars, lavish synths, and coherent syllables entered Grimes' repertoire on Art Angels, a record packed with hit-worthy hooks and traditional pop songwriting. And now, we have entered a period of reconciliation: Miss Anthropocene, a spastic record that points its finger at the consequences of humanity's errors and the planet's self-inflicted doom, stitches together the niches she has invaded throughout her decade in music.

Though it is buttressed by a great ambient love song and a fairly less interesting one, the record is fundamentally a late night psychotic detachment under societal pressure. Grimes makes lyrical touchstones out of mankind's demise: Substance abuse, destructive self-portrayal, the sadomasochistic relationship between the earth and the human race. (Yes, to call it just a statement on climate change would be a gross generalization.) At times, she mourns the thought of it all. An homage to sappy early '00s pop-rock, "Delete Forever" is an understated guitar track – like the underwhelming "New Gods," it's a rebellion against the Grimes musical archetype – that memorializes the opioid crisis' indiscriminate devastation.

More often, however, Grimes dances on the graves – even her own, it seems. She sets a strangely poetic suicide threat to the hypnotizing vocal and grungy guitar of "You'll Miss Me When I'm Not Around." On fever nightmare "4ÆM," she superimposes wild techno beats over Bollywood samples – a high-octane highlight at the record's centerfold. "Violence," meanwhile, is a synthetic, hyper-futuristic dance anthem with traditionally attractive features, standing opposite from something rougher like "My Name is Dark," which rips into the heavy nu-metal of "We Appreciate Power." ("Power" was orphaned from this project, but its pledge of allegiance to artificial intelligence set this record’s narrative into motion.)

Capturing current crises through a posthumanistic lens, Miss Anthropocene makes for the most conceptually coherent record in Grimes' catalog – and providing moments both to grab onto a sticky hook or to melt into synthesized ambiance, it is also her most Grimes™ record yet. A certain criticism may come from an artistic statement that makes light, if not a celebration, of suffering. The record nearly speaks straight from the perspective of our selfish primal instincts to sustain ourselves at any cost – any others in our way be damned. But whether we want to invest thought in the matter or not, we're all shooting toward disaster together. We might as well make ourselves comfortable.

Miss Anthropocene is available now under 4AD.

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