Back in 2017, Claire Cottrill was just another university student with lofty ambitions of making a career out of music. Her breakout single, ‘Pretty Girl’ was a subtle but sublime slice of bedroom pop that, coupled with an endearingly DIY music video, catapulted her from obscure to viral blisteringly quickly.
Now better known as Clairo, the 20-year-old musician arrives with her debut album ‘Immunity’, a project that sees her continue to distance herself from the trappings of the bedroom pop label that was initially ascribed to her. Clairo’s range is on full display throughout the album’s run time as she explores her queer identity and the toll her success takes on interpersonal relationships.
The album opens with ‘Alewife’, a slow paced piano-led song with a spacious instrumental that features a softly strummed acoustic guitar and sparse percussion. It’s a melancholic reflection on a time when a friend pulled Clairo back from the abyss (“Swear I could’ve done it/ if you weren’t there when I hit the floor) that serves as a beautiful introduction, slowly adding more layers as the song progresses. Lyrically, it’s a bold way to open a debut album and preludes the vulnerability displayed throughout the entire project.
That same vulnerability seeps its way into ‘Closer To You’. Sonically, it sees Clairo tread new ground as she laments her inability to walk away from a person despite being acutely aware of their toxicity. Her understated vocals are dipped in autotune and the entirely electronic instrumental staggers and stumbles as she sings: “The things you do/ only make me want to get closer to you”.
‘Bags’, a shoegaze infused pop track, is one of the stand out moments on the album, it’s a special moment. Propelled by a tight drumbeat and chugging guitar, the song is a dreamlike haze peppered with an airy synth that Clairo uses to ruminate on unrequited feelings for a girl. Clairo has said this track can be more broadly applied to embracing uncertainty about the future, something she’s been forced to confront since finding success.
Those familiar with Clairo’s discography will know that she’s endeavoured to free herself from the constraints of the bedroom pop label by drawing from a wider sphere of influence; this resulted in tracks like the funk inflected ‘4EVER’ and the R&B tinged ‘Hello?’ taken from her ‘diary 001’ EP. ‘Immunity’ continues in that vein, employing a wide variety of styles.
An example of this is ‘Softly’, a laid back tune that evokes lo-fi hip-hop with its fuzzy snares and plinking guitar licks. ‘Softly’ is immediately followed by ‘Sofia’, a pop rock leaning tune that melds crunchy guitars with danceable drum grooves, while Clairo explores her first experiences crushing on women in media.
Clairo’s pop sensibility is bolstered by the production of Rostam Batmanglij, known for his work with Vampire Weekend. Despite its mixed bag of styles, the album flows gorgeously from track to track, the recurring themes of love, loneliness and self-acceptance serving as the connective tissue binding the album together.
‘Immunity’ is a powerful statement. Unflinchingly honest and sonically diverse, it sees Clairo pair emotionally resonant lyricism with infectious melody to craft a multifaceted record. A brilliant debut that positions her as one of the brightest young songwriters operating in this age of internet bred pop stars.
Words: Sul Fell
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