Album Review: Grimes – Miss Anthropocene (2020)

If the time travellers in Back to the Future II had a soundtrack in mind for their journey, ‘Miss Anthropocene’ would have been it. And they wouldn’t have gone back.

Grimes’ first album since 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘Art Angels’ is a dark, loosely-connected concept album which feels like the future. No surprise there, it is from the woman who wants to make ethereal a genre. It feels less like an album, more like a soundtrack to a dystopian future.

The sheer quality of Grimes’ music can occasionally be lost in the apparent chaos of her own life. ‘Tumblr girl who appears to transcend humanity in favour of some alien species meets billionaire inventor and meme lord and beefs with crazy shitposting rapper’ would be a great synopsis of the biopic for the making of ‘Miss Anthropocene’. However, her Spotify description written by herself states that ‘my last Earth album is coming in 2020’. Is this the end of Grimes and her music? Or is she going to send album six to the rest of the galaxy?

Whatever this cryptic message means, ‘Miss Anthropocene’ is a work of art. It’s title is a portmanteau of ‘misanthrope’ and ‘anthropocene’, which implies that the true meaning is ‘a hatred of humanity within the current geological age’. So basically, she doesn’t identify with people as we are at the moment. Mood. Preceded by five singles, it was clear that this was going to be an album which reaffirmed her position at the top of the electronic genre.

‘Violence’ was the first teaser, released in September 2019. Dark synth bass plus otherworldly vocals and a stomping techno beat equals a career highlight in my book. For Grimes, it’s just another song though. This song was stuck in my head for months. It’s also pretty good to do the Macarena to (I obviously haven’t been doing that).

It was in my head until ‘4ÆM’ came out in December, as the fourth single from the album. It seems to have more worldbeat vibes, with India being a clear influence in the opening as it samples a Bollywood track. It was teased as early as 2017. It then turns into an ethereal drum and bass track which is irresistable to dance to.

The only song which doesn’t fit with the darksynth wave is ‘Delete Forever’, the final single released only last week. It is more country than anything she’s ever done before, with a cheery guitar and a less electronic drum beat. Ironic, considering however the topic which this song breaches is that of the US opioid crisis, which has claimed the lives of some of her friends. Grimes herself identified that the album featured a song each about different ways that humans would end up extincting themselves; this one is clearly something on the lines of ‘addiction’.

Of the non-singles the highlight for me is ‘Darkseid’, which contains the lyrics of Mandarin singer PAN, interspersed with the dark voice of Grimes. It is named after one of the Justice League’s most powerful villains, and the beat was originally intended for Lil Uzi Vert. While I could see a rapper having a go at this one, I’m very happy that he didn’t in the end.

I don’t need to use any more words to describe this album, I’ll leave that to everyone else to decide. With Grimes herself hinting that she was recording two albums at once, maybe we’ll get some more of her music very soon (although her soon-to-be-born baby and the end of her recording contract with 4AD may say something about that). Allow yourself to be taken on a vision of humanity’s destruction. If it sounds this good, maybe the apocalypse maybe isn’t so bad after all.

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