The musical ingredients on “Visions” — cascading keyboards, slippery beats, generous dollops of reverb and delay — are the same ones used by dozens upon dozens of electronic artists attempting a balancing act of having one foot planted firmly in the past while the other tries to step into the future. Claire Boucher, the 23-year-old Canadian who records as Grimes, has a knack for turning what can be a familiar and innocuous collection of sounds into something invigorating.
Boucher offers surprises on almost every track of her third album. She never settles for the easy way out, taking her most straightforward pop songs for disorienting detours and sneaking sweet sounds into every heavily textured soundscape. Only rarely does this turn out to be self-sabotage, and even when that happens, it’s easy to forgive because Boucher is a curious composer who is most interested in stretching her limits. “Oblivion” is a seductive synth-pop single, one that will surely be the subject of countless remixes, built on Boucher’s whimsical falsetto and an instantly familiar vocal melody (Borrowed Tommy James, perhaps?). That falsetto is presented at its most squeaky on “Eight,” but when presented in tandem with robotic effects and some of the album’s most crisp beats, it manages to be intriguing instead of irritating.