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No.35 - Best Tracks of 2012 - In the opening of “Oblivion,” Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, is terrified of what could be looming in the dark. The music sets that tone, with synth sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place in an ’80s slasher flick. Grimes needs someone to accompany her through the dark, and as she becomes less afraid, she mocks the shadows with a light, little “la la la la la.” In a year where ear-shattering bass and dubstep ruled, Grimes brings humanity back to dance, ready to skip through the darkness rather than fear its looming presence.
No.1 (ONE) - Best Tracks of 2012 - Though it wasn’t the lead single from the Artist Also Known As Claire Boucher’s 4AD debut Visions (that was “Genesis”), “Oblivion” might as well have been, for this nouveau dream pop triumph is surely the album’s calling card, the definitive encapsulation of everything that makes the record (not to mention the musician behind it) so beguiling to listen to. Boucher’s helium-light voice darts along like a precocious youth over a squelching synth figure, and her gossamer background harmonies glide about and intertwine with one another as much as they rise and fall in sing-song fashion. Lyrically “Oblivion” is wracked by anxiety over the dangers of walking alone at night, and though the earworm melodies and tinkling textures put a carefree face on the circumstance, hearing Boucher sing “And now another clue / I would ask / If you could help me out / It’s hard to understand / ‘Cause when you’re really by yourself it’s hard to find someone to hold your hand” breaks the heart, as it candidly communicates how vulnerable she truly feels. By the time the last bottom-heavy tones of the track finish winding down, it’s unclear if she ever found someone to dote over her health after all—or if she even made it home.
No.1 (ONE) - Pitchfork Best Tracks of 2012. Some songs reveal themselves to you right away; others take time to figure out. When "Oblivion" began circulating as an mp3 in October 2011, certain things were immediately apparent. It was clear that Grimes' music was growing and changing rapidly. Its steely, hyper-minimal beat, layered vocals, and hypnotic, circular melody represented a marked progression from where she'd left off earlier that year with the fine Darkbloom EP. "Oblivion" was an in-between kind of song; it sounded both chilly and machine-like but also radiated human warmth and imperfection.
That's how we heard it as 2011 came to a close, and of course, it boded well for her upcoming album, Visions. But as Claire Boucher's star rose in 2012 and Visions racked up plaudits and she found her way into glossy magazines and was seen on late-night TV, "Oblivion" developed a life of its own. The song became a major highlight of Boucher's live sets, which grew wilder and tighter as her crowds and venue capacities increased in size. Part of its beauty is that its meaning was never precisely fixed; the lyrics hinted at dark nights, the threat of violence, the difficulty of finding love and companionship when you can't stay still. But the song was beautifully fragmented and open to interpretation.
"Oblivion" will be remembered in part for its video, which found Boucher cheerfully dancing and singing amid scenes of cartoonish masculinity. "Art gives me an outlet where I can be aggressive in a world where I usually can't be," she told Pitchfork, "and part of it was asserting this abstract female power in these male-dominated arenas." Late this year, she told SPIN that "the song's sort of about being-- I was assaulted and I had a really hard time engaging in any types of relationship with men, because I was just so terrified of men for a while." So now the image of walking alone at night and fearing a broken neck could mean something more, something specific. It was information from the artist about where the song came from, but even this knowledge didn't define the song completely, and that's to its considerable credit. "Oblivion" is a shapeshifter, just like its creator, a song with open spaces and hairline cracks in which you can see parts of yourself. And being impossible to pin down kept it sounding fresh and new again and again, each listen feeling a little like the first one. --Mark Richardson
No.6 - NME Best Tracks of 2012 - A swirling whirlpool of synth. A skippingly playful rhythm that danced over the blackest of heartbreak. Above all of which Claire Bouchers delicate vocals snared and trilled.