Clairo’s new album is melancholic and transparent

Clairo has unveiled her sophomore album, “Sling”, which was officially announced back in June.

Claire Cottrill, otherwise known as Clairo, who found fame on YouTube with her song Pretty Girl has seen a drastic increase in listenership in the past year, with her songs going viral on the social media platform TikTok and spawning multiple trends on the app. She is often known for her lo-fi or bedroom pop sound, which is aided well by her often-monotone vocals. “Sling” is Clairo’s second album; her debut album, “Immunity”, was released in the summer of 2019, proving her writing ability through tracks like Alewife, Bags, and the TikTok phenomenon Sofia.

The album, co-produced by multi-talented Jack Antonoff, was teased back in June with its sole single Blouse; demonstrating Clairo’s tremendous increase in storytelling ability since her debut album “Immunity”. Clairo has managed to capitalise on her position in the lo-fi, bedroom pop community with an LP as necessarily melancholic and transparent as her last, proving herself as a face of the new generation with her transparency and definitive social stance. At 22, Cottrill taps into her audience, drawing on the angst and anxiety often felt by the new generation to complement her soft, airy voice on this record.

Amoeba is undoubtedly this album’s intended radio hit

The floodgates are burst open with the album’s introductory track, Bambi, which is dynamic yet subtle. The song presents the pair’s capabilities in its captivating melodies, beautifully establishing the productive stance Clairo and Antonoff took, not to mention their clear musical chemistry. This track acts as an escalator, with the beginning being a slow piano build-up alongside Cottrell’s notorious bedroom-pop guitar before the song climbs to the climax near the end; each instrument becomes more prominent as others are added to the mix. What really surprises is Clairo’s vocal style, a clear hint to what she can really do. Usually adopting a far from noteworthy vocal range, she wonderfully demonstrates how her airy vocals encapsulate the melancholic feel, even in the higher registers of her head voice (which sound like falsetto without being falsetto).  

Amoeba is undoubtedly this album’s intended radio hit. The drums that kick in during the pre-chorus capturing the punchiness of this song, it makes it a catchy tune once it attaches to the melodious chorus vocals. The verses on this track are nothing special on their own but act as perfect tension builders towards the explosion that is the chorus. I’m glad Clairo gave us a dance track like this early on this LP, so not to intrude on the melancholic tone so apparent throughout the rest of it.

The track Partridge is perhaps the most lacklustre on the album, being driven by a minimalistic and simplistic bassline that disappears and reappears at the beginning of each bar. A personal belief is that Partridge acts to complement the next track, Zinnias, a banjo-filled festival pushed forward by a heavy, yet simple drum pattern. What is so mesmerising about this song is that the melody is essentially a glorified vocal run, with Clairo having added lyrics to it.

Zinnias takes us from a fun party to Blouse, making for a complete bubble burst. With lyrics like “Why do I tell you how feel?/when you’re just looking down my blouse”, Clairo really shines a light on how misogyny and the male gaze can seemingly bypass all standards of human decency, even creeping into what should be a meaningful conversation. It is a truly beautiful track.

Harbor is a lot more in-your-face in its lyricism and delivery

Wade is quite befitting of the name, sounding partially like what I’d imagine a Hawaiian beach resort to sound like in the beginning. Clairo and Jack Antonoff substitute a lead guitar for a ukulele in this track, showing that they really were going for that Hawaiian feel. What is spread throughout this track is a beautiful sounding woodwind ensemble, most notably in the break around the two-minute mark before travelling back to Clairo’s soft-toned vocals. The Hawaiian influences give a certain gaiety and nostalgia, even if Clairo’s lyrics sometimes contradict the former feeling.

In Harbor, Clairo once again espouses her head-on writing style about relationships. Unlike some of her other songs which feature more cryptic lyrics, Harbor is a lot more in-your-face in its lyricism and delivery, repeating the phrase “I don’t love you that way” over the course of the track. There isn’t much to say about this track other than its lyricism, which proves Cottrill has exceeded our expectations when it comes to her writing ability.

Just For Today features intriguing build-ups and a well-placed violin in the background. This is a song that beckons gloominess as Clairo uses her heart-wrenching lyricism and vocals to induce this.

Clairo’s best vocals to date

Joanie is undoubtedly a reference to Joni Mitchell, reportedly one of Cottrill’s favourite songwriters. In this track, Clairo and Antonoff completely embody Joni Mitchell, creating a song that sounds like it could be one of hers. At points, this song sounds just like Mitchell’s The Last Time I Saw Richard. The one shame about this track is Clairo’s minimal singing, opting to throw in some vocal harmonies every so often but shying away from any form of lyricism – perhaps as an act of reverence for Mitchell. Whilst Mitchell’s writing is a tour de force, that shouldn’t fault Clairo’s ambition; I believe this track would have benefitted from some of Cottrill’s Mitchell-inspired lyrics.

Much like Just For Today, Reaper places Clairo’s songwriting potential and vocals in the foreground, whilst this time maintaining a somewhat upbeat instrumental which can be confusing alongside the melancholic lyrics – though, it’s been done before!

Little Changes begins simple and minimalistic before becoming more distorted nearer the end of the song. It seems to be a teaser for the album’s closing track, Management, an amalgamation of all that has occurred so far; beautiful lyrics, Antonoff’s incredible production, and Clairo’s best vocals to date with an array of harmonies. This feels like it could be in a romance film soundtrack.

In its entirety, “Sling” shows Clairo’s want for a more honest and pedantic approach as opposed to “Immunity”, which could have seen any of its tracks being a radio hit. Teasing this record with single Blouse provides a deeper insight into what Cottrill is capable of in terms of writing and storytelling, as well as who she is outside of the façade of fame. If “Immunity” was the cracking of Clairo’s shell, “Sling” is her emerging and stepping out from it. Cottrill’s writing on this album is in no doubt aided by Antonoff, as well as obvious inspiration from artists like Joni Mitchell. She has previously cited Mitchell as an inspiration of hers, and it shines through as “Sling” has a striking resemblance to Mitchell’s album “Blue”. Though “Sling” lacks the replayability of “Immunity”, it is a more subtle and respectable effort, aligning with her morals rather than feeding the corporate mouth.