Grimes “Miss Anthropocene” Album Review

Written by on March 3, 2020

By Luke Winnicki

This is gamer music. Grimes made a gamer music album. This turn of events is especially funny considering Grimes’ rise as electronica’s response to the mid-aughts indie twee. Gone are the days of Grimes sitting anxiously cross-legged on the floor of KEXP surrounded by synths and samplers. Now she has embraced the AI: ”pledg[ed] allegiance to the world’s most powerful computer” as she sings on the albums lead single “We Appreciate Power”, which is conspicuously missing from the tracklist. It hasn’t really been a clean transition. This album—at its best—sounds like the soundtrack to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Dark synths ooze up from well-trodden rhythms like the backdrop to some Neo-Tokyo cyberpunk hellscape, which sadly, at this point, feels dated and out of touch.

There are some strange detours on this thing. I almost always like it when guitars come into the mix. Grimes does well to incorporate them in interesting ways. “You’ll miss me” also has some fun Animal Crossing-esqe vocal manipulation I would have liked to hear more of. The early banger “Darkseid” features a prominent rap verse in Japanese from PAN, which works pretty well, especially when the auto-tune kicks in over the high energy beat. However, this track is followed up with the worst song on the record. “Delete Forever” is basically Wonderwall, but worse. I have no idea why Grimes would do an extremely basic acoustic ballad like this on a record about AI and the limitations of our physical bodies. This track speaks to the biggest problems with this record: its tonal inconsistency and its inability to innovate.

This album is a case of disappointment overshadowing what works. I think Grimes had an opportunity here to make some extremely interesting and groundbreaking music at the start of this decade, but instead, we get mostly pastiche allusions to the future without any actual real vision of it. The record isn’t bad exactly, it just fails to deliver on its promises. The singles are mostly pretty good, especially “Violence”. “IDORU” feels like a call-back to Grimes’ older, cuter work, despite feeling like an odd place to end a record like this. So while this record likely won’t alight the streets during the revolution—or even the corporate back-room parties where the destruction of the world is plotted—it will feel right at home booming out of a gaming chair in a dark room on a twitch stream.