Photo Credit: Adrian Nieto
Following up a massively successful debut album is no easy feat, and Claire Cottrill, professionally known as Clairo, has stepped up to the plate with her sophomore album, Sling. Produced by Jack Antonoff, Sling takes a more low-key approach than the bedroom pop of Immunity. Maintaining that intimate feel, Clairo brings listeners into a world of hushed tones and whispered confessions as she discusses “experiences that were far too emotional or intense to unravel” such as “motherhood, sexualization, mental health and a lot of [her] own mistakes and regrets” she writes in an email newsletter to fans.
Recorded in the mountains of upstate New York, Clairo embraces the introspective, folk-trend to comment on her own human experience. The lead single, “Blouse” discusses allowing yourself to be sexualized in order to get ahead in your work. “Why do I tell you how I feel? // When you’re just looking down the blouse,” she sings with a resigned bitterness behind her words. By the end of the track, she ends up succumbing to the moment: “If touch could make them hear // Then touch me now.” The closing track, “Management” also offers commentary on the state of the music industry and how defeated Clairo feels by her career. In fact, she previously told Rolling Stone that before making this record, she was fully prepared to quit music after relentlessly touring and going through the motions of establishing herself.
Clairo is as strong as ever with her soft harmonies and pretty vocal arrangements. She conveys a sense of intimacy as if she’s your best friend telling you a secret under the covers at a sleepover. Though, her tendency to murmur lyrics can cause honest and raw sentiments to get lost in the fray, despite how pleasing her voice sounds to the ear. Harmonious production whisks listeners through a dream world, building up a sonic landscape, not unlike the mountains where this album was recorded. With the orchestration stripped down to its core, each song could be an inner monologue as Clairo takes a morning walk in the woods, musing on her life and emotions. It’s an honest and simple release, filled with sentiments that Clairo felt she needed to get out and into the world.
Honest and simple are two words that carry lots of risk along with them. After opening with two strong tracks: “Bambi” and “Amoeba”, some of the other songs get lost in the homogenous production and could be interchangeable in the lineup. The longer the album goes on with minimal sonic diversity, listeners start to lose the glossy shine that was present at Sling’s beginning. Even her raw honesty can be a bit much as we delve deeper into her psyche. When coming to terms with all of these emotions, sometimes it’s beneficial to include a song that makes the listener forget about their struggles. Clairo does not do this and instead lets them get swept away by the heaviness of her words. This overload of emotions seems to work for her, but does not produce a massively successful record in terms of streaming, charts, or radio play. Instead, it is a deeply personal album and one that you may find yourself turning to in the quietness of nighttime or on a serene, yet rainy day.