Miss Anthropocene (4AD)
While working for DC in the early 1970s, the iconic comic-book writer and artist Jack Kirby created an entire cosmology centred around the distant planets Apokolips—ruled by the villanous Darkseid—and New Genesis, home world of the New Gods.
If you took a quick glance at the track listing of the new Grimes album and saw that it includes such titles as "Darkseid" and "New Gods", you could be forgiven for assuming that Miss Anthropocene is a concept album inspired by Kirby's work. In fact, you could be forgiven for maintaining that notion even after listening to it, because it's almost impossible to understand any of the lyrics through the haze of studio effects—to say nothing of the fact that most of "Darkseid", which features Taipei-based artist 潘PAN, is actually in Chinese.
The lyrics are all available on Genius.com, though, from whence we can ascertain that one line, from "Before the Fever", sort of sums it all up: "This is the sound of the end of the world."
That's easy to believe when listening to the dense cloud of distortion and throbbing beats that is "My Name Is Dark", or "So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth", an ethereal number whose sky-watching prettiness is shot through with menacing synth buzzes like something out of Annihilation. At the opposite end of the spectrum you'll find "Delete Forever", which, with its acoustic-guitar strumming—and banjo!—is as close to "rootsy" as Grimes is ever likely to get.
Grimes (born 31 years ago in Vancouver as Claire Boucher) is always going to be a divisive figure, which is largely her own doing. After all, she doesn't have to tell interviewers that she wants to upload her consciousness into a "humanoid vessel" and send it to Mars (where it will presumably live happily ever after with a cyborg version of Elon Musk). Nor is she obligated to announce to the world that her new record is about "the anthropomorphic Goddess of climate Change: A psychedelic, space-dwelling demon/ beauty-Queen who relishes the end of the world".
In the end, what matters is the music, and Miss Anthropocene is a richly layered and occasionally frustrating but ultimately rewarding listen.