Art Angels

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Art Angels
Grimes - Art Angels.png
Studio album by Grimes
Released November 6, 2015 (2015-11-06)
Recorded 2013–15
Genre
Length 49:37
Label 4AD
Producer Grimes
Grimes chronology
Visions
(2012)
Art Angels
(2015)
Singles from Art Angels
  1. "Flesh Without Blood"
    Released: October 26, 2015
  2. "Kill V. Maim"
    Released: March 4, 2016

Art Angels is the fourth studio album by Canadian singer and songwriter Claire Boucher, professionally known as Grimes. It was digitally released on November 6, 2015, by 4AD, and in physical formats on December 11. Boucher began planning the record in 2013 as the follow-up to her third studio album Visions, however she scrapped most of the material from these sessions and began a new set of recordings in 2014. The track "Realiti", which came from the earlier recordings, was released as a demo in early 2015.

Art Angels has been described as being more accessible than Boucher's previous albums while retaining her experimental influences. The album features guest appearances by Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes and American singer Janelle Monáe. The album spawned two singles—"Flesh Without Blood" and "Kill V. Maim"—as well as music videos for several tracks. Art Angels sold 11,000 copies in its first week in the United States and became Boucher's highest-charting album so far. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim and was ranked by several publications as one of the best albums of 2015.

Background[edit]

Boucher's constant touring in 2013 for her 2012 album, Visions, almost led to a physical collapse by the end of the year, bringing her to a point where she recalled "putting a hand up and grabbing a piece of [her] hair, and [she] could just pull [her] hair out". She also became tired of how the music industry ignored her technical abilities, who would focus on her being a "female musician" and having a "girly voice"; she responded to these generalisations with "yeah, but I'm a producer and I spend all day looking at fucking graphs and EQs and doing really technical work".[4] When media outlets began running her Tumblr posts as headlines, she wrote a post on her blog about her misrepresentation in the media and the sexism she had faced in the music industry, declaring "i dont want my words to be taken out of context. i dont want to be infantilized because i refuse to be sexualized [...] im tired of the weird insistence that i need a band or i need to work with outside producers [sic]".[5] Being in an "unstable" and "beyond exhausted" state, along with her frustration toward the media, caused her to consider ending the Grimes project and solely writing songs for other artists, or at least putting her life in the public eye on hold. Her experiences, however, eventually began to strengthen her conviction in her being a solo artist. In a 2015 feature by The Fader, Boucher stated that while working in music studios "there [were] all these engineers [that didn't let her] touch the equipment [...] and then a male producer would come in, and he'd be allowed to do it". These incidents, which she described as sexist, left her "disillusioned with the music industry" and made her "realize what [she] was doing is important".[4]

Recording and production[edit]

American singer Janelle Monáe contributed vocals to the track "Venus Fly".

Boucher produced and engineered all of the tracks on the album alone. She began using Ableton Live[7] after recording Visions entirely in GarageBand and also learned how to play the guitar, drums, keys, ukulele, and violin to explore new musical directions on Art Angels. Realizing it was "too much pressure" to pay per hour to work in a professional studio, the album was recorded by Boucher in her home studio in Los Angeles, California.[8]

By 2014 Boucher had produced "hundreds of songs" for her next album, most of which were not included on Art Angels. She described the recording of these tracks as "this period where I had no way of dealing with anything, so I was writing these really depressing songs, and nothing was fun at all". Aside from the tracks being too gloomy, Boucher also rejected the tracks she had made during this time because they were not enough of a sonic departure from Visions. Boucher's 2014 single "Go", recorded during these sessions, was originally written for the Barbadian singer Rihanna, however after Rihanna turned down the track Boucher released it as a "surprise" under her Grimes alias. The negative response to the single from fans, who believed Boucher was "pandering to the radio", led media outlets to report that this was the reason she had started over the recording of her new album. Boucher stated this was false and commented that "Go" and the other tracks she had cut were not from a complete album; they were only songs which had not made it onto Art Angels. She later stated that she would consider releasing the archived material for free sometime in the future.[4]

Release[edit]

On March 8, 2015, Boucher released a music video for the demo version of her song "Realiti" as a gift to her fans. "Realiti" was produced during the scrapped recording sessions for Art Angels and not intended to be included on the final version of her fourth album. Boucher stated that the demo version which she released was "not mixed or mastered" as she had "lost the [song's] Ableton file". Despite Boucher regarding the demo as "a bit of a mess", "Realiti" was well received by critics and fans, which led her to consider including a new version of the song on the final release of Art Angels.[9][10] When the track listing for Art Angels was announced, a new version of "Realiti" appeared on the CD and digital release and the demo version was included as a bonus track on the CD edition only.[11]

Boucher shared the title and cover artwork for Art Angels on social media networks on October 19, 2015 and announced that a new music video would be released the following week.[12] On October 26, 2015, Boucher revealed that her new album would be available digitally on November 6, 2015, with releases in physical formats on December 11 in the same year. To accompany the announcement, Boucher released her self-directed "Flesh Without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream" music video, a digital single for "Flesh Without Blood" and individual artwork for each track on Art Angels.[13] "Scream" was released as a promotional single on October 29, 2015.[14][15] Boucher also directed a video for "Kill V. Maim" with her brother Mac Boucher which was released on January 19.[16] "Kill V. Maim" was released on March 4, 2016 as the second single from Art Angels.[17] On May 9, 2016, Boucher released another co-directed music video for "California", using an alternate mix of the song.[18] On October 5, 2016, Boucher released self-directed music videos for four songs from the album: "Butterfly", "World Princess Part II", "Scream", and "Belly of the Beat", as part of The Acid Reign Chronicles, a long form video project shot on her phone while on tour.[19] On February 2, 2017, Boucher released a music video for "Venus Fly", starring the song's featured artist Janelle Monáe along with Boucher, who also directed the video.[20]

Art Angels debuted at number one on Billboard's Top Alternative Albums chart with first-week sales of 11,000 copies, earning Boucher her first number one on the chart.[21] As of February 2016, the album had sold 50,000 copies in the United States.[22] The album also peaked at numbers two and 36 on the Independent Albums and Billboard 200 charts, respectively.[23][24] The album debuted at number 31 on the UK Albums Chart, selling 2,964 copies in its first week.[25] Upon the album's release on CD five weeks later, it re-entered the UK chart at number 59 with 4,193 copies sold.[26]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic88/100[27]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[28]
The A.V. ClubA−[29]
Billboard4.5/5 stars[30]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[31]
The Independent4/5 stars[32]
NME4/5[33]
Pitchfork8.5/10[34]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[35]
Spin8/10[36]
ViceA[37]

Art Angels received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 88, based on 32 reviews.[27] Corbin Reiff from The A.V. Club called it "slick and gritty, fun and funny, and horrifying and grotesque all at once" and said "it will also make you shake your ass like nothing else". He also highlighted the track "Kill V. Maim" as holding "the full weight of Grimes' abilities as both a producer and singer".[29] In Billboard, Rob Tannenbaum praised Art Angels as "a marvel of meticulous, even obsessive home-studio recording, uncompromised by bandmates or collaborators".[30] Clash magazine's Maya Rose Radcliffe deemed it "the truest representation of Grimes we've heard yet: 'Art Angels' is boundary pushing, it's listenable and it's Boucher's most ambitious and most consistent work to date" and commended the production of the album as the "one thing that does tie it all together".[38] Although referring to Art Angels as "simultaneously [Boucher's] most accessible and her least personal body of work", Consequence of Sound also said it exemplified her artistry, being "performative, maximalist, joyful, and broad".[39]

DIY's El Hunt found Art Angels "impossible to resist", possessing an "instant, limb-grabbing appeal".[40] Cam Lindsay from Exclaim! said it was "worth every second of the wait" and hailed the album as "a complete record that's everything pop should be in 2015: utterly uncompromising, imaginative and, somehow, universally accessible".[41] Writing for NME, Barry Nicholson dismissed notions that Boucher had "sacrificed some of what made her seem so alien when 4AD debut 'Visions' emerged" by "embracing the pop orthodoxy", and commented that "she's still laughing and not being normal, only this time, it's all the way to the bank".[33] Pitchfork's Jessica Hopper deemed the album "evidence of Boucher's labor and an articulation of a pop vision that is incontrovertibly hers, inviting the wider world in", while calling Boucher "a human zeitgeist, redrawing all the binaries and boundaries by which we define pop music and forcing us to come along".[34]

In a less enthusiastic review for The Observer, Kitty Empire stated "packed as it is with all this goodness, Art Angels fails to comprehensively blow your mind" and "ultimately, Grimes has not reinvented the pop wheel, she's just driven it off road a little".[42] Similarly, The Line of Best Fit gave the album an average review and wrote that "on Art Angels, we hear that high art experimentation fall into mainstream territory with only fleeting moments of brilliance".[43]

Year-end lists[edit]

Art Angels was voted by Robert Christgau the fifth best album of 2015 in his ballot for The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.[44]

Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
The A.V. Club The 15 Best Albums of 2015
4
Billboard The 25 Best Albums of the Year
3
Consequence of Sound The 50 Best Albums of 2015
3
Exclaim! Exclaim!'s Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums
1
Fact The 50 Best Albums of 2015
5
The New York Times The Best Albums of 2015 (by Jon Pareles)
3
NME NME's Albums of the Year 2015
1
Paste The 50 Best Albums of 2015
24
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2015
3
Rolling Stone Rob Sheffield's Top 20 Albums of 2015
2
Slant Magazine The 25 Best Albums of 2015
3
Spin The 50 Best Albums of 2015
26
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2015
1

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Grimes, except where noted.

No.TitleLength
1."Laughing and Not Being Normal"1:47
2."California"3:18
3."Scream" (featuring Aristophanes; writers: Grimes, Pan Wei-Ju)2:20
4."Flesh Without Blood"4:24
5."Belly of the Beat"3:25
6."Kill V. Maim"4:06
7."Artangels"4:07
8."Easily"3:03
9."Pin"3:32
10."Realiti" (excluded from vinyl pressings)5:06
11."World Princess Part II"5:05
12."Venus Fly" (featuring Janelle Monáe; writers: Grimes; Monáe)3:45
13."Life in the Vivid Dream"1:27
14."Butterfly"4:12

Sample credits

  • "Butterfly" contains a sample from "Penguin Dancer" co-written by Masayoshi Takanaka and Shu Suzuki.

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Art Angels.[58]

  • Grimes – vocals, engineering, production
  • Aristophanes – featured artist (on "Scream")
  • Tom Coyne – mastering
  • Randy Merrill – mastering
  • Janelle Monáe – featured artist (on "Venus Fly")
  • Mark "Spike" Stent – mixing
  • Geoff Swan – mixing assistance

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various November 6, 2015 4AD [11]
Canada
  • Eerie Organization
  • Crystal Math
[73]
Various December 11, 2015 4AD [74]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]