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Album Review: Grimes – Miss Anthropocene

It’s been just over 4 years since the last full-length release from Grimes, an artist for whom genre is difficult to pin down – I’d be inclined to say her music is broadly Synth-Pop or Electropop, personally, but I think there are many different shades and hazes that she strays into that keeps her sound incredibly unique. With such a large gap between albums, it’s fair to say fans have been chomping at the bit for Miss Anthropocene to finally release, myself included even though my being a fan of Grimes is a far more recent thing. So, is Miss Anthropocene good? Oh yes. Yes indeed it is.

A small bit of background for my Grimes fandom, until very early in 2019 I had never really paid attention to Grimes and her music. I was introduced to her music by fellow UDS comrade Neale, who told me to listen to the recently released single, We Appreciate Power. I loved it immediately, it wasn’t at all what I expected her to sound like. I immediately christened the song ‘the best Nine Inch Nails song that Trent Reznor didn’t write’, and believe me, that’s high praise from a NIN fanatic such as myself. After a little uncertainty, I truly fell in love with her (at-the-time) most recent album, 2015’s Art Angels, a pure Summer album that is filled to the brim with songs you can’t help but feel euphoric and joyful when listening to. I loved it so much that it was the album I listened to the most in 2019 (in contrast, my album of the year in 2019 was Slipknot’s We Are Not Your Kind), and it even made it into my Top 20 Albums of the Decade.

I think it’s pertinent to mention my love for Art Angels simply because it’s going to be one of my main comparison points. And I’ll say this early on – Miss Anthropocene is not as good as the album that preceded it. That would have been an insurmountable feat to be fair, and I don’t think anyone was necessarily expecting it to be better – I don’t think I’d hesitate to call Art Angels a masterpiece, and so there is absolutely no shame that the new album isn’t as good. Make no mistake, though; Miss Anthropocene is another superb album, one that’s a little less readily accessible and one that’s, in several ways, quite the opposite of its predecessor.

In really basic terms, I look at Miss Anthropocene as the night that follows the bright Summer day that is Art Angels. When I say it’s a darker album, I don’t just mean slightly and I don’t just mean on a couple of tracks – this is an album I could imagine being played in an evil villain’s base as incidental music, perhaps being used to brainwash the people working/living inside. It’s a little bit like the Goth older sister of the previous album. I’ve read several different pieces that compare the sound of this album to Nu-Metal, a sound that was big with bands from the late nineties and early noughties, such as Korn, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach. Now, there’s no half-arsed rapping at all, don’t worry about that, and on the whole it’s not a comparison I wholly agree with – there are perhaps a couple of elements of Nu-Metal visible, but I would personally compare the sound of this album to Industrial Rock/Metal. Which leads me back to Nine Inch Nails…

Unfortunately, We Appreciate Power isn’t on this album (although it is a bonus track on the Japanese edition), but I think stylistically it would fit perfectly – realistically it would be the best song on the album if it were on here, which isn’t a slight to the actual tracklist at all; We Appreciate Power is just that good! The reason why it would fit is that, whether intentionally or not, this album has Nine Inch Nails fully in its DNA. And not just early NIN or later NIN (for those unaware, there are several different shades across that band’s career as well), Miss Anthropocene has tracks that could fit all across the NIN catalogue – and to be clear, for me at least this is a brilliant thing! If you’re a Nine Inch Nails fan who has never listened to Grimes, or even listens to much in the way of Pop music, you NEED to give this a listen!

Let’s talk about the tracks themselves. The album’s lead single, Violence, perhaps serves as the bridge between the brighter sound of Art Angels and the darker Miss Anthropocene – it’s not fully into the darker tinge yet, but the brightness is definitely being shed. It’s the 4th song on the album, and is without question one of my favourite tracks included. The album itself opens with another song you may already be familiar with, So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth. This is deceptively catchy; the chorus has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it. This one especially is a song I can imagine being played as you’re making your way to the final boss in a video game.

Other standout tracks include the recent single Delete Forever, which has an Oasis style strummed guitar throughout, but features probably my favourite set of lyrics on the album. Incidentally, the lyrics across this album are stellar, frequently dealing with loss, and struggling to cope with the hopelessness of a world that refuses to listen about what’s good for it (they definitely warrant reading through outside of the listening experience). My Name Is Dark is another ominous and foreboding track, with a chorus that is up there with the very best that Grimes has ever written. 4ÆM is a song that starts out with instrumentation that sounds like it would be right at home in a Bollywood adaptation of ‘The Lion King’, before segueing into the sort of song you could imagine playing in a full-on gym session montage in a Danny Boyle movie, before then switching again into a ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ vocal line that fits far better than it should, and then the whole song goes through the different styles again.

A special mention should go to the final track on the album, IDORU. Following the previous 38 minutes of darkness, IDORU is a 7-minute breath of fresh air – it’s almost like opening the door and stepping out from the darkness into the most tranquil garden you’ve ever seen. It’s a wonderful surprise.

I do have a couple of little nit-picks, though. The second track on the album, Darkseid, is a bit annoying. That’s the best way I can sum it up. I think a lot of people will like it, and whilst I like the music and chorus, the verses are rapped in Taiwanese (by the same rapper who performed on Scream from this album’s predecessor, Aristophanes) and end up just sounding like a bit of a mess. I think there are frequently times across this album when the vocals could do with being turned up in the mix a little more too – I don’t know if they are buried a little bit to make the package feel a little more abstract, which it does do, but with lyrics as good as this album has it would be nice to hear them at least a little bit more clearly. But these are the only real criticisms I have.

On the whole then, Miss Anthropocene is another excellent moment in Grimes’ catalogue, and well worth your time. It’s not necessarily going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re willing to let it, it will suck you into its world. Let’s hope it’s not another 4 years before the next one!

By Matt Dobbie

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