Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2015-12-25

2015-12-25

BjŲrk: Vulnicura (One Little Indian, 2015) I always thought she was too lifelike for him anyway ("Stonemilker," "Atom Dance") *

Grimes: Art Angels (4AD, 2015) Generally the soprano signifies purity, which has never been my idea of virtue, not to mention fun. And given how hard it is to achieve, there can be a vanity to it as well--or in earlier Claire Boucher, a self-regarding freakishness. But on this pop-yet-not breakthrough, that pretension is blown away by generous tunes, changeable grooves, and dedicated intensity of purpose. This singer-composer-producer is neither cute nor ethereal, and although the consistency of her register is an affectation by definition, she'll convince anyone who isn't a grouch that she's just being herself, not merely female but, fuck you, feminine--the fairie she likes to claim crossed with a charming three-year-old getting what she wants. Which includes adrenaline highs and mitigated perversity and California love and pornography in phonetic Chinese. She embodies hyperfeminist individualism for a post-rock mindset that likes a good beat fine. A

Grimes: Visions (4AD, 2012) As an album, too, well, ethereal, but as an overture . . . ("Oblivion," "Be a Body") *

Janelle MonŠe: The Electric Lady (Bad Boy/Wondaland, 2013) Vocally and compositionally, greatly enhanced by the cameos of the many luminaries who admire her ambition and range ("Givin Em What They Want," "Dance Apocalyptic") ***

Sophie: Product (Numbers, 2015) It's hard to hear this 26-minute, eight-song, album-shaped deliverable as sex music even though its deluxe edition offers a pricey dildo-plus-buttplug item difficult for guys to share so it must be for ppl with two nearby holes--that is, despite the male auteur's trans gestures, an anatomically conventional woman or two. Not only are the detextured girly voices too cartoony to be sexual, the many clever electronic noises--"Bipp"'s bips, "Lemonade"'s fizz, "Hard"'s panoply, the descending hook of the transitional "Just Like We Never Said Goodbye"--just aren't tactile enough. Except on the merely electronic "MSMSMSM," however, they are funny, beaty, imaginative, and so consumer-friendly they could pass for kind. This is not the future of music. But as a diversionary substitute, it's aces. A-

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