It’s hard to participate in the indie pop scene without hearing mention of Clairo (the stage name of Claire Cottrill.) Since her 2017 hit “Pretty Girl,” Clairo has been an artist to watch, especially after gaining mainstream appeal from notable sad bops such as “Bags” and “Sofia.” Clairo has also had a resurgence on TikTok over the past year and become a queer alternative staple, dominating the playlists of yearning sad girls everywhere.
However, her ascent is not applauded by all — facing accusations of being an industry plant as well as her two year break from releasing music, Clairo had a lot to prove with her record Sling. Luckily, she delivers.
Sling marks a definite maturing of Clairo’s sound and prowess as an alternative artist as she tackles more complex themes throughout the album and steps up her songwriting abilities to match. As such, Sling is a much more fully realized album than her 2019 record Immunity, especially in its melodic and thematic cohesion. In this album, Clairo masterfully explores with delicate ease the comforts of domesticity, her troubles with growing up in the music industry as a young artist and the pitfalls of her past relationships. Unexpectedly, Clairo leaves behind her typical use of studio beats and a low-production bedroom pop sound, trading it in for intricate instrumental arrangements to match her matured lyricism.
As a result, Sling sounds much more reminiscent of what someone would hear in a piano bar or jazz club rather than something created in someone’s bedroom. The album’s single, “Blouse,” which tackles the objectification Clairo feels as a young artist, is full of the helpless yearning typical of her earlier music, which works wonderfully as a smooth coda to her older works as well as a graceful introduction to the grown-up themes and melodies of Sling.
The album’s second track, “Amoeba,” has the makings of a radio hit and fan favorite, as its groovy beat and catchy chorus make it more similar to her other sad bops that have gained acclaim from fans. Other standouts from the record include “Partridge” and “Reaper,” which contain the most poignant and haunting lyrics of the bunch. However, the album’s best songs, including its first song “Bambi,” are placed in the first half, so the album can feel as if it drags on for too long without reprieve.
Most notably, Sling has an unexpected jazz influence, featuring much more saxophone, trumpet, drums, cymbals and flute than one would ever expect from Clairo. Many of these instrumentals are performed by Evan Smith and co-written by Jack Antonoff, both former Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift collaborators.
In this sense, Jack Antonoff’s contributions to the album, especially in his contributions as a co-writer and a co-producer on a myriad of the songs, tend to sound just like the many other albums he’s produced. That isn’t a bad thing — Antonoff is currently dominating the indie pop scene with producing credits on the latest albums of Lorde, Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey. Antonoff might deserve some of the credit for the leap in Clairo’s artistic maturity, especially as the instrumentations that mark this genre shift are so new to her. However, it is plainly clear that Clairo writes most of the album’s lyrics and melodies herself, keeping her artistic integrity as well as her intentions for the album’s sound intact.
Sling undoubtedly cements Clairo’s lofty place within the ranks of today’s indie pop girls, proving her intricate lyricism is not to be underestimated or outshined by her catchier songs. After this album, it’s clear that Clairo is no longer a teenage sensation but a fully realized artist. With an album this dreamy, who even cares if she’s an industry plant? She deserves our water and sunlight all the same.