Almost-23-year-old Claire Cottrill’s transition from URL to IRL stardom has been prolific. The story is well told by now, from lo-fi breakthrough single ‘Pretty Girl’ in 2017 to ‘Immunity’, the rich and romantic LP which followed soon after. Stoic and serene, ‘Sling’ is a brave new chapter that introduces a Clairo transformed.
More than just a pandemic-induced exercise in reflection, this record finds the singer meditating on her own self-growth. In places, she doubles down on some of the themes ‘Immunity’ introduced; silky lead single ‘Blouse’ has a sullen arrangement but whip-smart lyrics that call out male misogynists in the music industry, while ‘Zinnias’ sounds more complex than Clairo has ever before. On it, she muses on the temptation of domestic bliss over a twitchy melody: “I could wake up with a baby in a sling / Just a couple doors down from Abigail / My sister, man and her ring”.
‘Sling’ is a world away from the crisp, sometimes cold tone of its predecessor. Here, woozy keys and loose percussion illicit an analogue, organic feel, while Clairo’s paper-thin vocals rarely stray from a whisper, commanding patience and calmness with striking ease. Across the album, producer Jack Antonoff is in his stride, drawing on his wealth of experience eking out the finer details of Lana del Rey, Taylor Swift, and Lorde’s confessional storytelling. At no point does his vision infringe on Clairo’s, though; you sense the back-and-forth nature of good collaboration in the negative spaces, like on ‘Harbor’, which could easily be elevated to the tear-jerking heights of Lorde’s ‘Liability’, but embodies a softer, more intimate soundscape instead.
Clairo has spoken candidly about struggles in her life both from before and since finding success. For a generation lost in the mist of topics like mental health and sexuality, ‘Immunity’ was a shoulder to cry on, a promise that it will all be okay, eventually. ‘Sling’ feels like that “eventually” coming true.
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