In the five years since she’s released an album, Grimes’ public image has transformed from burgeoning indie star into love interest of everyone’s favorite billionaire Elon Musk. In the interim, Grimes sated listeners thirst for new material with a one-off single called “We Appreciate Power” with her collaborator Hana. The song was exciting and metallic, and it had the most transcendent bridge of her career to date, only furthering the upward trajectory of Grimes’ artistry since 2012’s Visions. Her next studio effort, 2015’s Art Angels, was the strongest collection of songs she had released up to that point. All of which ramped up the buzz and high expectations that greeted the release of her new LP, Miss Anthropocene, which, by and large delivers on its hype.
The songs may not be as direct and punchy as they were on Art Angels, but they reward repeated listens with a bigger payoff. In my initial listens, I found the album to be a relentless grey sludge that tested my patience, but as I looped the album its moments of beauty became more apparent. “Delete Forever” is a clear standout, a bittersweet ballad built around a guitar loop, strings, horns, and even a banjo deep in the mix that makes for what’s one of Grimes’ best songs. The same goes for closer “IDORU”, which features bird sounds and nature recordings that sound like they could’ve been sampled from Bjork’s Utopia. The song is upbeat and sugary, and serves as a palate-cleanser for the more severe songs that came before it.
But forget the ballads, the darker cuts are where the record really thrives. “So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth” is one of those songs you really need to listen to through headphones, featuring dissonant and manipulated noises flying all over the mix to disorienting effect. “New Gods” is a haunting and affecting ballad that sounds like it takes place in the dystopian world Grimes envisioned for this record. “Darkseid” is a cool song with a good beat that’s sadly wasted on an uninteresting spoken word performances from her and her collaborator ?PAN.
And this leads to my main gripe with Miss Anthropocene — Grimes’ voice. It is an acquired taste that I definitely had trouble acquiring at first, due in large part to the excessive pitch-shifting and abrasive screeches that marred previous releases. But her vocals on Miss Anthropocene often err in the opposite direction, so diffusely ethereal and reverb-ed that midway through the album I was begging for one of those dissonant Art Angels vocals, because at least they were interesting. “Violence” and “4 AM” are prime examples of this, potential bangers extinguished by over-processed vocals, and “Before the Fever” is Miss Anthropocene’s worst three minutes, a tune that is far too minimal and over-produced for me to make an emotional connection to it. Also, Miss Anthropocene’s scrambled narrative left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The whole thing is supposed to be a concept album about climate change, but the lyrics are too frustratingly vague to find any meaning behind them. Her trite insights on the topic that pepper various interviews don’t inspire confidence, and her promise to “make global warming fun” comes across as glib and unforgivable, especially coming from someone dating one of the richest men on the planet. Still, while Miss Anthropocene may not be as fun or consistent as her past releases, it rates a solid addition to Grimes’ catalog. — CHARLIE COLAN