Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Best Albums of 2012, Edition Nine: Grimes

Visions — Grimes

What can I say about Grimes (Claire Boucher) that hasn’t already been said? The 24 year-old released her third record this year, and it has been universally praised as an incredible accomplishment. It’s textured and nuanced, but bold enough for you to take notice. Her voice is absolutely sublime, providing an excellent contrast against the kickin’ beats.

The record kicks off with the requisite intro track for contemporary albums, but jumps right into “Genesis”. It’s a sparkling, meandering exploration of electronica. It’s truly danceable, but it’s also quite listenable. (That description fits much of the record, though — enough to tap your toes to, but not aggressively so.) Boucher treats her voice with substantial amounts of reverb, enhancing its already ethereal quality. But the beats stay dry. It’s a sharp contrast, and particularly noticeable in the rightfully-acclaimed “Oblivion”.

“Vowels = Space and Time” is reminiscent of every 1980s pop song you’ve ever heard, but in the best of ways. It’s ABBA-esque, without becoming grating as so many ABBA songs do. It’s funky, but still somewhat restrained. It’s innocent, but fleetingly seductive.

Just a few songs from the end is the often-overlooked “Symphonia IX”. I’ve rarely heard it outside of my frequent play-throughs of the entire record, but it’s absolutely excellent. It’s part of a selection of songs this year — Four Tet’s “Pyramid” and Burial’s “Loner” being two other examples — which have noticeable dub overtones and influence, but have managed to tame what is often an unwieldy genre. It’s very listenable, and there’s delicacy to it.

Visions closes with “Christmas Song”, featuring her brother rapping over Grimes’ music. It’s an odd way to finish the album, because it doesn’t quite feel like it belongs. But that’s okay — Boucher likes to think of her music as “A.D.D. music”, and it fits that idea. Perhaps it also hints at further explorations of that mix of genres in the future. Which, mind you, would be a long way off, because Visions already sounds like it’s from the future. It’s sublime.