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The Legend of Grimes's Lost Album

The experimental musician just released a demo that's as good as anything on the radio.

Claire Boucher's making like the dog ate her homework, or at least like she doesn’t know she’s a genius. Over the weekend, the electronic musician known as Grimes posted a music video with a note explaining that the accompanying song, “REALiTi," is a rough cut: “i lost the ableton file, so its not mixed or mastered. i tried to doctor the mp3 into a listenable state, but it was poorly recorded in the first place and never meant to be heard by anyone, so its a bit of a mess haha.”

Yes, haha—the song is fabulous. Part robo-Stomp-march and part whooshing synth symphony, the arrangement demands to be dissected with oversized headphones (is that a “Sandstorm” sample?). Boucher’s wispy voice swirls all over the scales in the verses, and then locks into a chorus hook that etched itself into my head, at least, on first listen. Whatever the recording-quality issues Boucher's referring to in her intro text, they don't prevent the song from sounding airier, lusher, and more ornate than anything on the radio.

Radio, by the way, is where the track could have ended up. After the release of her acclaimed 2012 album Visions—full of freaky, glittering sound collages and a handful of more straightforward jams that immediately became indie-pop canon—Boucher went about embracing her more commercial tastes, recording a set of songs aimed at being the kind of thing Rihanna might sing. The first release from those efforts, “Go,” divided listeners; lots of people loved it for its epic, looping sound, but others thought it came across like pandering. "It upsets a lot of my fans, and I get why it upsets them," Boucher later told The New York Times, adding that she then threw out the album because "it sucked."

“REALiTi,” Boucher writes, is “a demo from ~ the lost album ~, recorded early 2013.” Note the irony punctuation around “the lost album”; Boucher knows some mythology has been built up around the abandoned project. A savvy creator who has made her mark in art and fashion as well as music, she obviously knows better than anyone else what she should release and shouldn't. But with a tossed-off demo this good, it’s hard not to want to hear the the rest of her scrapped tracks, and it’s hard not to hope that Grimes keeps engaging with the mainstream. Someone this talented deserves to be heard widely.