Grimes: The Triumph of a Self-Made Oddball
When Boucher talks, it’s like listening to the Internet out loud. She clicks open one conversational tab after another and it’s your job to keep up. One moment she will be extolling the merits of Rousey (“She’s so psychologically intense!”), the next she will be giving home hair-dye tips (“Get the Manic Panic kind, like the super bleach. Then use the purple toner”), and the next she will veer into a more somber place, talking about how she got so depressed one night last year that she did tequila shots until she was dizzy, and decided to write a sunny pop hook in the witching hours to stave off the blues.
Boucher’s new album, Art Angels, is even more jubilantly all over the place than Visions. Some of it sounds like straight-ahead radio-ready pop. “California,” the song that came out of that tequila-fueled all-nighter, recalls, of all things, late-period Dixie Chicks (Boucher is a huge fan; she says that when she met Natalie Maines she “had a panic attack”). “Artangels” has an exuberant mid-Nineties girl group feel, the kind of swirling uptempo track that might accompany a makeover montage in a rom com. Some of the record feels closer to the noise rock she started out making, like “Kill Vs. Maim,” an almost metal track that nods to Korn (which Boucher calls her “soul music”) and Rage Against the Machine. Some of it sounds like alien music of the future. “Flesh Without Blood,” which Boucher calls “a diss track about a false friend,” undulates in Doppler waves; Boucher says she layered on “so much Enya synth shit” to the last song, called “Butterfly” (a bubbly parable about an insect seeing an airplane for the first time) that she kept crashing her computer.
Raised in Vancouver (her mother is a former prosecutor and now edits the Vancouver Observer; her father works in the business side of biotech), Boucher was the only girl out of five children and leaned into her eccentricities at a young age. She drew up drawing, studying Akira books and thinking she might one day become an illustrator. Still, her parents pushed her towards practicality, and so she moved to Montreal in 2006 to study neuroscience at McGill University. While in class, she began making noise rock on her computer, teaching herself how to manipulate 808s and singing breathy la-las into “this shitty microphone.” After seeing the category of Grime music as one of the choices on MySpace, she decided she liked the word and adopted it as her own.
Soon Boucher was so enmeshed in becoming Grimes that she dropped out of college to make music full-time. “My dad still sometimes calls and asks if I can finish my degree,” she jokes. “My parents understand what I do now, more or less, but they still get mad when I swear on the Internet. They are like, ‘Your grandmother might see this!'”
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