“I’ve come to realize that so much about this job doesn’t have to do with skill, but about the way you perceive yourself and the way in which you make other people perceive you. If you tell someone you’re doing something innovative, they’ll think you’re doing something innovative. If you tell someone you’re playing a flawless show, they’ll think you’re playing a flawless show.”
Truer words could not be spoken by a musician who has achieved critical success and is steadily gaining popularity without any proper vocal training or musical education. Claire Boucher is gaining quite a bit of attention as an emerging Canadian producer/singer and she’s pretty much doing it on her own. Her sound has been likened to Enya on steroids or the Cocteau twins on rohypnol, but avoiding blatant comparisons, Grimes music embodies an ambient dream like state of a future Utopian world. Labeled as shoegaze-bedroom pop to electro-goth and all that’s in between, Grimes is a genre bending musician who beautifully blends all her influences seamlessly. The Vancouver born Montreal-based musician has previously released two albums, Geidi Primes and Halfaxa yet it is her third studio LP, Visions that is generating the most buzz.
Released on Feb 21 by labels Arbutus and 4AD across North America, Visions has been receiving favourable reviews and Grimes is being heralded as one of the most compulsively listenable albums of 2012. She has received amazingly favourable reception for an experimental musician from the Montreal indie scene. She sings in a moody falsetto that is childlike and airy, not at all what you’d expect from someone with Grimes as their stage name. But she defies expectations, delivering an album that is both beautiful and dark. Boucher has opened for Lykke Li, a suitable match since both young women share a similar passion for eerie dark melodies. On Visions, Grimes commands your attention with whispery vocals and smooth compositions. Listening to her album is like letting oneself drift out to sea without a care in the world, getting lost in the beauty and never wishing to return. Her music is a much needed vacation from standard dream pop and the dreariness of a monotonous life.
‘Genesis’ kick starts the album with a melody that captivates. Keyboards and Boucher’s angelic voice transport you to another world. ‘Oblivion’ is a lo-fi ambient jam whereas ‘Eight’ reminds me of chipmunks who have tripped out on acid at a rave, the song has a distinct raver feel but works in a crazy, hallucinogenic sort of way. Experimenting with her vocals never diminishes how awesome this record is. The New York Times even named Visions “one of the most impressive albums of the year so far.”‘ ‘Circumambient’ is one of the best tracks this album can offer, with a killer dance beat and intense energy drawing from dubstep, electronic and goth influences. At times reminiscent of Zola Jesus and Fever Ray, Grimes album is moody but often infuses uplifting beats and atmosphere. Visions plays out like a mish-mash of layers and loops, whispers and sighs, indecipherable lyrics, electronic bliss and energy. ‘Be a Body’ makes me want to dance on a crowded subway with my headphones on. Her album is nothing if not infectious. Anyone who was lucky enough to grab a ticket for her sold out performance March 19 at The Horseshoe Tavern on Queen St. West will not be disappointed. After Pitchfork named Grimes in their Best New Music section, I doubt many will get the privilege to see Grimes in such an intimate setting again.
Her album is much like her aesthetic appeal, cutting edge and attention grabbing. Her sound is easily identifiable and her voice is clearly distinguishable as are her omnipresent, perfectly cut, baby bangs.
I was more than pleasantly surprised upon listening to Canadian singer-songwriter Lights’ sophomore album Siberia. I never really considered myself a fan of the 24 year-old, synth-pop star until I heard this album. Lights inclination for experimentation has led to vast improvement since her 2009 debut album, The Listening.
Siberia starts off with her traditional synth-pop style but grows harder and edgier right into the second track “Where the fence is low.” It quickly becomes evident that Lights Poxleitner has decided to go with a heavier dubstep-influenced album this time around. Which suits her angelic voice perfectly. Her vocals seem effortless and provide a nice contrast to the distortion of the dubstep sound. Thus making the genre tolerable for those who reject the controversial genre as meaningless noise. She also changes up her sound with the inclusion of hip hop, creating an unpredictable pop album that is quite different than the ordinary mainstream fare served up, non-stop daily on the radio. Any electro enthusiast will be able to appreciate the direction Lights has decided to take with her second studio album.
This album sounds a little dirtier, and a little grimier than The Listening. Most likely due to heavier beats and the collaborative efforts from Canadian hip-hop artist Shad and electronic band, Holy Fuck providing drum production and synths. You can expect an upbeat, feel good tone for most of this album but there are some surprises with a rap here and there and some chilled out numbers like “Cactus in the Valley” where Lights slows it down with a moving electro-ballad. Vocally, Lights Poxleitner seems perfectly suited for the dubstep genre, her voice is soft yet strong and capable of conjuring whatever emotion she wishes to express. Popular tracks like “Toes” and “Banner” will reassure her earliest fans that Lights has not abandoned her pop beginnings while tracks like “Flux and Flow” and “Everybody breaks a glass” will entice new listeners that crave something a little more than synth-happy pop.
Her debut album established Lights as the 2009 Juno award winner for Best new artist and gained her respect as a self-made musician. So it comes as no surprise that Siberia has also landed her a 2012 Juno nomination for Pop album of the year. It’s clear she deserves the recognition and respect.
Best tracks – “Where the fence is low,” “Timing is everything,” “Everybody breaks a glass,” and “Flux and Flow.”