Clairo’s ‘diary 001’ falls back on overfamiliar sounds

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Grade: 3.0/5.0

In August 2017, Clairo uploaded her homemade video for “Pretty Girl” to YouTube. Since then, her rise to fame has been as well-documented — with The FADER covering Clairo’s every step before eventually signing her to its label — as it has been rapid. Now, just shy of a year later, Clairo has released diary 001, her very first six-song EP. With a title evocative of her signature dreamy, girly bedroom pop, Clairo pretty much tells fans upfront what to expect from her new release, and the EP gives nothing more and nothing less than promised.

In each of the EP’s six songs, Clairo languidly grasps at love and questions its permanence, seeming content with the idea that she may not ever secure the answer nor the promise of love itself. On diary 001, asking the question is far more important than knowing the answer.

Sonically, the album’s most interesting moments occur where Clairo’s voice is unobscured by the fuzzy tones that have earned her her bedroom pop star status. On these tracks, Clairo is no longer shuttered behind the idea that her musical style may be a product of her DIY circumstances. Rather than being bound immobile by the simplicity of her production, on these tracks Clairo’s voice is able to move steadily parallel to it and her playfully detached tone begins to take on the power of intention.

Of the three new tracks on the EP, “B.O.M.D.” (short for “boy of my dreams”), produced by former collaborator Danny L. Harle, is the clear standout. The track plays to both artists’ strengths, showcasing Clairo’s sweetly idle musings on love and Harle’s whimsical, twinkling production style. “B.O.M.D.” sounds just like any other Clairo song, but with a glossy new sheen that distinguishes it as a new and upgraded model.

If “B.O.M.D.” and “Blue Angel,” Clairo’s older song with Harle which isn’t on the EP, are indicative of what’s to come for Clairo, the EP comes to serve as a sort of bridge between “Pretty Girl” and Clairo’s next moves. The entirety of Clairo’s artistic transformation is mapped out in the space of just six songs.

Still, even given these few moments of small but bold modifications to Clairo’s signature style, the EP sticks quite closely to expectations, which, perhaps, is its greatest problem. On diary 001, there are absolutely no surprises. Of the six songs featured on the EP, three (“Flaming Hot Cheetos,” “4EVER” and, of course, “Pretty Girl”) were released before the EP, leaving little to look forward to with the release itself and little room for the EP to work its own charm.

In the long run, this may be no big deal. In the grand scheme of Clairo’s career, as diary 001’s release begins to move further and further into the past and seem like a more and more abstract phenomenon, it may not matter at all what the ratio of new material to old material on the EP was. If the album’s title is to be believed, to Clairo this EP serves as little more than a reference point, an introduction, the first part of something, with perhaps many parts yet to come.

But speculation on what this release could mean in the context of Clairo’s entire career does not save diary 001 from being a boring release in the present day. Full of gems though it may be, the release is simply not exciting enough to feel like it was worth the hype that was generated in its wake. While “Pretty Girl” may have been the video that launched a thousand think pieces, even with its presence on the EP, diary 001 seems like too lackluster of a release to launch even a single one.

Sannidhi Shukla covers music. Contact her at [email protected].