It’s probably a sign of my increasing cynicism that my automatic reaction to Grimes’ newfound success was dubious suspicion. Everything about the act just seems calculated for indie stardom: a slightly edgy name, an obsession with synthesizers, an alternative Montreal chick for a personality. Grimes is just so damn in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time that listening to the record alone seems impossible without looking at its cultural context.
But the truth is when it comes to setting aside the pretentious banter and just listening to the music, Grimes is a perfectly enjoyable band. That doesn’t make this album particularly remarkable or unique, but for what it’s worth, Visions is about as respectful of a dance album that you could ask for.
Grimes' album "Visions." (Courtesy Grimes/Arbutus Records)
Despite the “Is it danceable?” entrapments that are usually associated with making an electro-pop album, Visions’ best qualities truly unearth themselves on headphones. Claire Boucher has an excellent ear for layering minimalist sounds on top of each other to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Boucher’s voice is at best heavenly and encompassing, but at worst nasally and over-insisting. Over the course of its undoubtedly overly long 48-minute runtime, Boucher finds moments of pop catharsis among her many reiterations of one musical vision. The album highlight comes from the first single, “Genesis”, which goes from a chunky synth line to a washed out collage of soundscapes. Boucher then proceeds with a delightful journey through the simple four-chord progression, finding endless hooks and melodies along the way. This idea is restated with the following track, “Oblivion”, which finds several attention-worthy riffs.
Throughout the remainder of the album, Boucher throws in some heavier beats and rave-worthy distortion blasts, however, many of the melodies fall flat with similarity towards each other. The only other moment on the record where Boucher finds a peaceful respite from all the disco-noodling comes with the outro “Know The Way.” As with “Genesis”, the short track creates a microcosm of effects, using simulated guitar strums and a flowing water sound that falls somewhere in the uncanny valley of sounds, but ultimately works in the song’s favor.
From viewing the album artwork and namesake of Boucher’s project, it’s evident that Grimes is attempting to capture an uglier side of dance music. However, this idea is sadly under-pronounced throughout this record.
What dark energy there is to be found on the album is stunted by an inconsolable pleasantness that leaves both sides of the spectrum only half-baked. When Boucher shoots for pure serenity, she accomplishes it with overwhelming success, but the hints of an edgier sound aren’t yet developed enough to set Grimes apart from the countless other synth acts parading around today.
Still, all the pieces are in place for Grimes to step up from buzz band status to a nationally recognized act. Hopefully with another album or two, Boucher will develop her voice into the bigger, more unique voice hinted at on Visions.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.email@example.com.