Grimes' music has frequently sounded like pop music for the end of the world, so it makes sense that she leans into that mood on Miss Anthropocene. On her fifth album, she taps into mythology's power to make vast forces easier to comprehend by envisioning climate change as a demon-goddess pop star (as hinted at by the title's clever blend of "misanthrope" and "Anthropocene"). Humanizing the harm humans have caused to the environment by evoking deities of destruction and the singles chart is an intriguing concept that Grimes commits to completely. She trades the surreal, hi-def brightness of Art Angels for a murky mix of ethereal, nu-metal, and industrial-inspired sounds that call to mind a thoroughly polluted world: The tempos are sluggish, the atmosphere is thick, and guitar riffs struggle to emerge from processed sludge. At once breathy and weighty, the six-minute "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth" begins the album by rolling in like a blanket of smog; on "Darkseid," Aristophanes' tweaked vocals float over the track's grinding menace like an oil slick. As doomy as Miss Anthropocene gets, Grimes always honors her talent for balancing contrasting elements within her music. She brings a subversive catchiness to the album's apocalyptic vibe with "Violence," which suggests a ghostly echo of her own "We Appreciate Power" as much as it does something that "Toxic"-era Britney Spears would sing. Similarly, "My Name Is Dark" builds from bleak hedonism into a pop song worthy of a dance number that becomes a fight scene -- a Grimes specialty, as Art Angels' "Kill V Maim" proved. She's just as skilled at cloaking heavy emotions in deceptively light sounds on the Charli XCX-reminiscent "You'll Miss Me When I'm Not Around," where death wishes and pitch-black humor go down easy thanks to its sugary melody. As the album begins to wind down with the narcotic ballad "Before the Fever," Miss Anthropocene seems to trace a slow arc that feels more deliberate than much of her previous work, but Grimes still offers some surprises along the way. "4ÆM," which samples the song "Deewani Mastani" from the Bollywood film Bajirao Mastani and oscillates between moody passages and revved-up ones, is one of the most dynamic tracks; "Delete Forever" is as startling (and successful) for its hushed confessions as it is for its use of banjo and brass. Likewise, when Grimes leaves listeners with "Idoru"'s unabashedly romantic reminder that there's still hope and love to protect in the world, it comes as something of a shock (though not an unpleasant one). Even if it's not always as vivid as some of her earlier albums, Miss Anthropocene is often fascinating and defies expectations in ways that still fit her always thought-provoking aesthetic.
Miss Anthropocene Review
by Heather Phares