ALBUM REVIEW: Grimes, Miss Anthropecene
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Miss Anthropocene is the worst Grimes album by far. It’s also one of the best albums of 2020. Weird. With a five-year gap and a new romance to one of the world’s foremost douchebag/stock manipulating conmen Elon Musk, the influences going into this album seemed to be totally sour. Coupled with Grimes’ penchant for over-explaining her songwriting process and the weird “Climate Change Is Good” advertisements, I had absolutely zero hope that this album would be anything but a failure. Somehow, even with all that garbage surrounding it, she still manages to put together a better electronic pop album than most of her contemporaries.
While I’m letting the AK spray on Grimes and her questionable life choices like naming her baby after a fighter jet, let me talk about what sucks about this project real quick. Overall, I would say this is the most atmospheric and non-descript Grimes has sounded. She is more buried in the mix than ever before, she sounds more neutered and unpassionate than ever before. She sounds more like she is trying to chase her old sound than make a new one. On 2012’s Visions, she basically created a brand new style from the ground up by locking herself in her apartment and depriving herself of sleep and food. This yielded such God level, timeless tracks as “Oblivion” and “Genesis”, songs that sound like they could’ve come out in 1988 or 2094. Her improved follow-up Art Angels took her impressive sound to new heights by putting her vocals front and center and making her production more punchy and accessible on standout tracks like “Kill V. Maim” and “Venus Fly (feat. Janelle Monae)”. A major misstep on that project was the inclusion of 潘PAN, who comes back here to ruin another track “Darkseid”. Her fast rapping is NEVER on beat, she just goes on and on and on and on over a pretty good industrial track beat. It’s ear torture. “New Gods” is so winding and boring it puts me to sleep every time I put it on. “Before the Fever” is boring too.
Ok, now that I got all of that out of the way I can praise Grimes for continuing to do her thing like no other artist. Fuck Elon Musk, fuck billionaires, eat the rich, you’re better than this Grimes. OK I’m done. “So Heavy I Fell From Earth - Art Mix” is a really great intro track, it’s title really says it all. Heavy drums and dark atmospheric, high pitched vocals subsume the entire track, giving it this slow building, Hellish tone. It’s a great way to kick off the record.
Many of the instrumentals take an approach that is a mix between industrial, nu-metal and ethereal pop. “My Name is Dark - Art Mix” kicks off with some really punchy drums and picked guitar, with Grimes’ signature vocals and cryptic lyrics “You know me as the girl who plays with fire/But this is the song I wrote you in the dark” perfectly woven in. “You’ll miss me when I’m not around” takes a more cock-rock approach, the bass is heavy as Hell as are the lead guitars. Again, they provide a great counterbalance to the sweet vocal work as do the electronic manipulations. “We Appreciate Power” does this style best, with an excellent, incessant guitar riff that just doesn’t quit, and some of Grimes’ best and most political lyrics on the whole project, “What will it take to make you capitulate?/We appreciate power/We appreciate power/Elevate the human race, putting makeup on my face”. I really wish Elon would listen to her music and learn from this shit to be honest.
Two of the best tracks go full EDM, 120+ BPM, and are both from 2019. “Violence - Original Mix” is a head-knocking track that combines a smacking drum beat with a nice, ethereal synth groove. It is a little mild and even kind of bro-y by Grimes’ standards, complete with an EDM buildup and drop halfway through, but I still really enjoy this track. “4ÆM” was one of my favorite tracks of 2019, and it still BANGS, goddamn. I f*cking love everything about this song. From it’s floating baby vocals, to its watery plopping drums and keys to its intense, building rhythms. But that drum-and-bass switch a quarter of the way through is just *chef’s kiss*. I want to listen to this song at a club so badly, it’s not only a top five Grimes song but it’s also one of the best rave songs I’ve heard in my life, no exaggeration whatsoever. Drive 100 mph and blast this and see if you don’t transform.
The main problem with this project, to be honest, is that a lot of the newer tracks get totally washed by the 2019 tracks. All four tracks that I just went through all vary in style and are from last year. It feels like Grimes had four different directions she wanted to go in but never really chose a specific one. Visions was so good because it felt like a singular, well, vision. It felt like Grimes wrote it all in a short span of time, warts and all, and dropped it to acclaim. Art Angels felt like a major label progression on that sound as I said. This album feels like Grimes had too much time and too many resources, she definitely lost her touch a bit as a result. “Delete Forever” is a good argument against the point I just made, damn this album is full of contradictions. The track is an incredibly done, anti-drug ballad “float into the sun, f*cking heroin/Lately I just turn into reasons, and excuses” with a beautiful, sunburst chorus, acoustic guitars, and bangos. It is freaky and alternative like a piece of ‘90s guitar pop, but is somehow still electronic. I just love how the entire track bursts and shimmers as Grimes says “I did everything, I did everything” on the chorus. As someone who has dealt with friends who are addicted to drugs, I understand where she is coming from and it feels cathartic to hear it in a song, especially such a great one.
The closer “IDORU” saves the album a bit, it feels ambitious in its length and with its really off-kilter keyboard horn beat. I like it’s electronic style and how it throws back to Visions in how lo-fi and rainforesty it is. It kicks into high gear pretty early as well with some great, smacking drum beats and more of Grimes’ one-of-a-kind vocal power. Technically I guess “We Appreciate Power” is a bonus track but I’ll still include it in this review because it knocks. Anyway, the project is a solid effort and it stands out, but she can do better. There is a lot of potential on this album, and I think if she sticks to a more specific, refined sound next time instead of being so indecisive, the product will turn out significantly better as a result.