5. Haim – Women in Music Pt. III: Released in the early summer, it took another six months before I really listened to the third album from the Haim sisters. Employing a number of musical styles, the band released another set of great songs including their three stellar singles from 2019. Highlights include first track “Los Angeles” and the pop rock of “Don’t Wanna”.
4. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death: The fiery rock of the band’s debut Dogrel was our favourite album from last year. The band further expanded their sound with added atmosphere and nuance particularly on “Living in America” and “Love is the Main Thing”. Second single “I Don’t Belong” was a highlight as the minimal instrumentation allows singer Grian Chatten’s weariness to shine.
3. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters: Fiona Apple’s first album in 8 years was a staggering accomplishment. It caught many ears when it came out to a locked down world reeling from the early throws of the pandemic. The lyrics are raw as Apple recounts terrible dinner parties, arguments with bandmates, and the fury of “For Her”. “Shameika” is the standout track for it’s uplifting childhood story one liner told over a rollicking piano.
2. Grimes – Miss Anthropocene: Over the past few years, Grimes has been in the media spotlight due to her relationship with billionaire Elon Musk. Not always putting her best boot forward, it’s not always easy being a Grimes fan. But then the latest album drops and all is forgiven. An atmospheric and cinematic delight, the highlights are many. After a few dense soundscapes, the acoustic guitar of “Delete Forever” is standout as is the club beats of “Violence” and pop chorus of “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around”. Grimes is an enigma and truly wonderous musician.
1. Taylor Swift – folklore: Famously in the summer of 2019, pitchfork.com went back and reviewed all the Taylor Swift albums they had otherwise ignored over the years. A year later, Swift released a surprise album in July. She once again worked with Jack Antonoff but also with new collaborator Aaron Dessner from The National. This news was catnip to introspective 40 year old rock fans the world over. At 17 tracks, the album might be a tad long but jumping around, it’s hard to find a wrong note anywhere. Swift makes it sound easy on a run of tracks from “Mirrorball”, “Seven”, the pop of “August”, and the heartbreaking “This is Me Trying”. Then right at the end of the year, Taylor Swift released yet another surprise batch of songs that once again sent music fans scrambling to download and endlessly listen to while parsing through the lyrics.
Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, described her new album Miss Anthropocene as “a concept album about the anthropomorphic Goddess of climate Change.. Each song will be a different embodiment of human extinction as depicted through a Pop star Demonology.” No idea what any of it means or how it all ties into climate change. However, a new Grimes album is certainly enough to pique the interest of many music fans.
First track, “So Heavy I fell Through The Earth (Art Mix)” has lyrics based on a dream and the decision to have a baby with boyfriend Elon Musk. The music floats along while synths keep pulling it back to the ground. At six minutes it feels like it could keep rolling along for much longer. “4ÆM” is inspired by a Bollywood film and also floats along before the club banging chorus cuts in. “Delete Forever” and “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around” are the most straightforward songs here, and the best, with the acoustic guitar on the former sounding not unlike Oasis’ “Wonderall” and written the night Lil Peep died. At seven minutes long, the lighter pop sounding “IDORU (Art Mix)” lets the light in after some fairly dark moments on the record.
Much of the album sounds cinematic with “New Gods” being the best example, a slower piano driven track. Third single “My Name Is Dark (Art Mix)” was inspired by NIN but never truly takes off. Grimes’ music hits so many pleasure points that even the lesser tracks glide by effortlessly before something catches the listeners ear. As Claire Boucher continues to change and mutate, the music that she makes as Grimes continues to do the same.
It’s no secret that we here at The TLA are massive fans of electronic artist Grimes. Having alrady released one of the best albums of 2012 in Visions and signed up to play festival dates with Skrillex, here she teams up with producer Blood Diamonds to try to create in their words the perfect pop song… and they come very close, albeit a pop song from another planet. Halo drums are used throughout while Grimes’ vocals float over the beats. The verses lead up to a pleading/glorious chorus and then it all drifts away as quickly as it came.
This will be Blood Diamonds (Michael Diamond) first commercial release in a year and is out next month on 4AD Records.
In the past year, Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes has been a busy woman. The Vancouver native, now living in Montreal, has released 3 albums as well as a split 12” with D’eon and toured with Lykke Li. Grimes latest release is Visions and is also her first on legendary label 4AD (Grimes remains on the Arbutus Record label in Canada).
Already making waves across the internet, Visions is absolutely stunning and one that is not easily comparable to other artists. In spots Grimes sounds like a lighter, poppier version of Crystal Castles with a dose of Austra thrown in for good measure. The upbeat “Circumambient” is one remix away from being club ready as is “Be a Body” with its slashing keyboard lines. Visions really shines on tracks such as the Japanese sounding “Genesis”, the haunting echoed vocal effected “Nightmare” and first single “Oblivion” with its buried lyric – “it’s hard to understand cause when you’re really by yourself it’s hard to find someone to really hold your hand”.
The hype surrounding Grimes coming into this year was well justified. Visions is one of the first great albums of the year and sure to hold up as one of the best of 2012.