Grimes performing in 2013NRKP3/FLICKR

After four years of drip-feeding her fans a selection of agonisingly short track demos and the occasional glimpse of artwork, Grimes’ much-anticipated album, Miss Anthropocene, has been released. It sees Canadian art-pop auteur Claire Boucher, cosplay as an anthropomorphised, benevolent climate goddess, presiding over a dying Earth. In case the titular double entendre didn’t make that clear. 

Boucher’s latest album unashamedly capitalises on the bizarre and otherworldly to chilling effect. 

The album is weird – something that will hardly be surprising for those well acquainted with the oeuvre of Grimes’ output. Having been at the mantel of indie-pop auteurism for most of a decade, Boucher’s latest album unashamedly capitalises on the bizarre and otherworldly to chilling effect. This self-professed ‘Last Earth album’ traverses several musical genres, themes and production styles; the result is a kaleidoscopic blending of unsettling, cybernetic sounds and harrowingly beautiful visual accompaniments.

The uptempo tracks on the album are inspired by Boucher’s fascination with late 90s nu-rave culture, and find their brilliance in the complicated sonic layering that epitomises the Grimes project. ‘Violence’, sung from the perspective of the Earth, personifies the relationship between humans and climate change as an abusive one; this and the frenetic ‘4ÆM’ both stand out as singles that will likely follow the commercial success of 2015’s Artangels.

Miss Anthropocene was released on the 21st FebruaryWIKICOMMONS

More contemplative, rueful efforts like ‘IDORU’, and country-ballad-with-a-twist, ‘Delete Forever’, which, written on the day of Lil Peep’s untimely death, grapples with the tragedy of the opiate crisis, are reminders of Boucher’s newfound emotional clarity. However, it is the exploratory and introspective album opener ‘So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth’ which sees Grimes at her most innovative and technically accomplished, a demonstration of Boucher’s unique knack for production. The track is a meditation on her pregnancy (announced via Instagram in January) - specifically, the ‘weird loss of self, or loss of power… the ego death associated with making that decision [to have children].’ The resulting spasmodic pendulum swinging between intensely personal and obliquely political themes is perhaps the biggest design flaw of an otherwise exhilarating and tonally congruent effort. It is somewhat mystifying that Miss Anthropocene is being lauded as a high concept album given this narrative discord.

To produce an album which figures as an exegesis perpetrator of an impending climate apocalypse seems difficult to reconcile with dating a techno-fascist with a net worth of approximately $40bn

Abstracting this latest release from the enduring Grimes discourse is near impossible. This is, in no small part, a result of Boucher’s predilection for stardom-by-numbers: a chaotic social media presence, numerous feuds and controversies (most abiding is perhaps the time she attempted to sail down the Mississippi river in a DIY houseboat), and of course, her well-documented relationship with Silicon Valley bulwark Elon Musk. Boucher’s artistic output has often been subsumed by her personal life. It’s a fate that befalls many female artists – but you get the sense that she delights in it all, in that guileless celebrity way, and harnesses it to her advantage. 

The cool-yet-cognizant earnestness that has defined Boucher’s sound over the last decade has long been what excited me about her work. But to produce an album which figures as an exegesis perpetrator of an impending climate apocalypse seems difficult to reconcile with dating a tech-giant with a net worth of approximately $40bn. Not relenting on self-styling as everyone’s favourite manic pixie anarcho-pop-darling makes it more abrasive still. As one twitter user deftly put it, ‘I like a lot of Grimes's music but can't mentally or emotionally bring myself to listen to an album that's both about the climate crisis and having sex with Elon Musk.’

One wonders what mental gymnastics Boucher has embarked upon to balance these facts. A career built on boundary-pushing subversiveness won’t be forgotten by quietly removing ‘anti-imperialist’ from your Instagram bio, but alienate much of your left wing-indie fanbase, it might just do. To be so committed to acts of empty political significance is indulgent at best, and woefully ignorant at worst. ‘I never trust the government’ she declares over the melancholic, unsettling reverb of My Name Is Dark. It begs the question: who should we be trusting? Has Boucher given it much thought herself?


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I am arguably more sympathetic than those critics that have exploited the unfortunate ‘climate change is good’ billboard promotions and ‘I want to make climate change fun’ interview soundbites. It remains that Miss Anthropocene is the grand crescendo of a brilliant career – a culmination of everything I have loved about Boucher’s signature disturbed etherealness, but this time technically refined and imbued with a sense of urgency. However, to punctuate an anti-capitalist rallying cry with love-ballads about a man who wants to spur the world towards a transhuman AI future risks being written off as vapid and out of touch. This time I’m dubious as to whether Grimes can pull off the parody and the proximity, taking aim at an elite class she has now long been a member of.

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