Weekly Spins

Point / Counterpoint on Grimes’ Visions

Point: Sometimes Simple is the Truest

Claire Boucher (aka Grimes)’s Visions is the third record in two years from the Vancouver-to-Montreal synstress, and her debut on 4AD Records. The 23-year-old specializes in Do It Yourself recording, the breeding space for her unorthodox sounds and burgeoning artistic ability.

There’s no doubt her self-proclaimed “post-Internet” sound has met the crux of hipster hype, but it would be no surprise if this record opens the gateway for Grimes to become popular in the mainstream. With elements of electronica and pop, the blossoming animated sounds on Visions gel seamlessly with her sampled, looped and reverbed vocals that continuously shift from a low-tone to high pitched howls. It is possible for this record to reach a wider audience in the near future; she’s conjuring sounds of female juggernauts of pop like Mariah Carey and early Madonna .

After the cheery and joyful opener “Infinite Love Without Fulfillment,” the familiar “Genesis” serves as the kickoff to a string of impressive songs and ear-catching melodies. “Be A Body” and “Vowels = Space and Time” could even fit on commercial radio or on late night TV talk shows. Boucher doesn’t stick to normal arrangements, instead improvising and going along with what fits best for a particular song, a simple but admirable formula.

This record is inspiring and impressive, despite its simple, anyone-could-do-it aesthetic. What’s compelling here is how spastic and compulsively passionate Boucher comes off. This is the work of an artist with many ideas and visions (no pun intended). It is difficult to pass this album by without acknowledging the material on this album: the spastic and jittery sounds, the chaotic tunes and the calm, atmospheric songs. These elements make a strong case for Grimes to be one of the most inventive artists in music today.

Visions is an escapade that shows self-progression as well as a sense of belonging, begging you to pay close attention. It might not fascinate everyone, but it is definitely worth the time and critical acclaim.

– Alex Giardini

Stream full album here.

CounterPoint: Is this Really so Original?

Ever since hearing her Geidi Primes cassette about halfway through 2010, I’ve been trying to see what’s so alluring about this hype enigma that is Grimes. With something of a cutsie-minimalism to her solo-synth approach, it came off as something tolerable, the kind of sound that you’ll bob your head along to encouragingly as your friend has fun making music. But that’s exactly what Geidi Primes was, a record made because Boucher wanted to do what all her friends were doing. It had some surface value, but little bubbling underneath. Which was understandable, since Boucher was so new to songwriting.

But since then the buzz has built incessantly, with the similarly blasé Halfaxa and the re-release of Geidi Primes. But now with her 4AD debut Visions, there’s nothing ambiguous about her intentions; this LP can’t be brushed off as a negligible hip passtime. The reality is, Boucher has gotten major attention with marginally better music.

While on Visions the production value is leaps and bounds ahead of her first two records, the songs remain half-baked and ultimately unmemorable. Every synthesized line sounds like it’s queued up from a list of Casio presets, and while layering bits of that Casio canon under a guise of reverb will get you dancing, nothing will be remembered at the end of each two-minute space-vamp. It’s a record of re-hashed ideas and empty calories.

Like her Arbutus label-mate Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Boucher loops and layers her voice, but unlike Grimes, the Braids / Blue Hawaii frontwoman can actually sing. When you take away the overdubbing and effects on Visions, all you’re left with is a thin voice singing half-melodies. Her delivery is impersonal and uninterested; it would be surprising if the lyrics mean anything to her.

At its best this record supplies filler dance tunes for a DJ set, and at its worst it’s little more than shitty, pseudo-Bjork noise trying in vain to capture the intense nostalgic delicacy of How to Dress Well. If she’s really emulating pop hits, why is none of this sticking in my head?

– Colin Harris

Grimes / March 31 / Cabaret Du Mile End (5240 Parc Ave.)