Rage, rage: Grimes, The Chills

Grimes – Art Angel

After three albums and a New Yorker profile, Claire Boucher is ready for crossover. These self-made beats are so dense that the absence of Ryan Tedder, Esther Dean, and other “topline” composers in the credits will come as a surprise. The majority of the tracks boast program rhythms and an arpeggiated riff on guitar or synths.The make or break point is Grimes’ voice, manipulated to chipmunk levels of squeak. On the dream pop of Visions, it was enough; on these crossover dreams, which require vehemence, the squeak produces a distancing effect. On “Flesh Without Blood,” the title track, and “California” (yet another heart caught in a rift, in cold pacific waters), it doesn’t matter, her register shifts punching a bridge here and brightening a chorus there. And I didn’t expect the most remarkable track, “Realiti,” to remind me of both versions of “I’m Not Scared,” of trying to hide the tremble from other people – other men – and sometimes failing.

The Chills – Silver Bullets

Song for song the first effort by this loose New Zealand collective since the World Wide Web took off is the brightest guitar album of the year. Part of my reaction is relief: those vocals and familiar rolling piano lines still syncopate (“Aurora Corona”), those tunings still tug at the heart (“I Can’t Help You”) while recalling a particular strand of early nineties college radio mush like The Ocean Blue, The Church, and much lesser lights. Distracted by sundry addictions, Martin Philipps denounces environmental crimes and the power structures that protect the scoundrels, which include mortgage lenders, and bravo to him for dealing in specifics (on “Silver Bullets” the denunciations come encased in the titular metaphor). Knowing that politics is, in his words, a trap, a trick, a terrible cynical game, doesn’t stop him from strumming and picking, nor does this fact contain his rage.

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