Grimes

Visions

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    10
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AllMusic Review by

On Visions, Claire Boucher turns the unmistakable sound she forged on Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, where songs hovered in space one moment and hit the dancefloor in the next, into a blueprint for forward-thinking pop in the 2010s. Though her wispy vocals and four-on-the-floor beats still define her third album, she adds more elements, more ambition, and frequently, more fun to her music; on sparkly tracks like "Eight," where she's shadowed by robotic backing vocals, she sounds like an alien princess. The way she combines and reimagines familiar sounds -- dream pop, synth pop, R&B, and house are just a few of the styles she touches on -- often dazzles. "Genesis" begins with what sounds like the ethereal atmospheres of old-school sounds of her label 4AD before coalescing into irresistibly bouncy pop. Boucher performs a similar trick on the brilliant "Oblivion," which sets lyrics inspired by a sexual assault to deceptively radiant synth pop buoyed by an insistent, instantly recognizable bass line. While Visions' songs are still largely free from obvious structures -- "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)" segues into a minor-key passage like a dream turning dark -- Boucher has learned the values of space and control, as the intricate layers within "Infinite Love Without Fulfillment" and "Visiting Statue" attest. And though "Know the Way" and "Skin" spotlight Grimes' flair for ethereal sensuality, Visions' most kinetic songs are the most distinctive, and allow her to draw on many different influences and sounds. "Be a Body" boasts a surprisingly funky bass line; on "Circumambient," the song's shadowy R&B leanings are only heightened when Boucher busts out a super-soprano trill that would do Syreeta or Minnie Riperton proud. When she borrows from '80s pop, it never feels slavish, even when she uses frosty Casios on "Vowels = Space and Time" or lets "Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)" ride on a beat that sounds borrowed from "When Doves Cry." Instead, these retro winks end up bringing out the darkly rhapsodic, kinetic heart of Boucher's music as much as the Asian-tinged melodies, harps, and operatic samples she uses elsewhere. Though little sounded like it when it was released, the impact of Visions' futuristic fantasies was felt, and heard, for years to come.

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