Tag Archives: clairo

Clairo – Immunity

9 Sep

Immunity is a surprise of a debut album. Clairo was already a rising star before its launch, primarily due to the breakout “Pretty Girl.” That was a song that felt like everything bedroom pop could be. Between the literal bedroom of the music video, the smart-teen-feminism of the song and Clairo’s immense charm, it’s anything but inexplicable that the song was a hit and the EP that accompanied it explored even more of that vein. However, that EP was also meant to close that chapter and Immunity marks a significant change.

You can see the difference as soon as the album opens. “Alewife” is still understated soft rock, but it’s bigger and lusher and just more produced than her earlier work. It’s a transition that mostly works. The production is bigger, but never blunt or maximal and somehow her voice stands out more than ever before. Ever in places like “Closer To You” which features some very prominent AutoTuning, you never stray too far from the core that makes Clairo so promising a musician.

Her music is still a little unformed though. “Closer To You” does just need a little more both musically and lyrically. “Sofia” is very good soft rock and opens with distinct flair. The story of an early crush on another girl is a strong central conceit. However, the song ends up feeling a little immature in terms of narrative and of craft. “I Wouldn’t Ask You” has an appealing gentleness that works very well with its premise, but is undercut by falling a little too far into its slow tempo in the first half. It ends up being a beautiful, heartfelt song and it has moments like a very clever chorus of children in the second half, but as a whole is just a little short of the brilliance that it needs. Both “Sinking” and “Softly” are solid R&B, but unexceptional.

However, “Bags” is the best song that she has ever made. It’s clever, it’s heartfelt and it shows an impressive maturity and completeness. It’s a truly excellent song and filled with little things that sparkle. Her voice on the repeated lines of “Know you’d make fun of me” and “Walking out the door with your bags” is heavy with emotion and yet as understated as ever.

Immunity is a strong album. There are few missteps and a very consistent quality to the project. However, it’s clear that Clairo can do more, as she did with “Bags”, and it’s all but certain that she soon will.

Top Five Lo-Fi Indie Albums of 2018 With Female Singers That We’re Listening To Right Now

26 Aug

This title may seem overly specific, but it’s a subgenre that I cannot get enough of and one that 2018 has been anomalously fruitful for. These albums are lo-fi not only in music but in topic, but it’s that lowering of stakes that’s what allows them to shine. I love this space for smaller stories

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

Courtney Barnett continues the long tradition of lo-fi indie rock set down by people like Pavement in the 90s. She’s more clever and more understated than her predecessors though. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit had a strong voice of its own and was a fantastic debut. Tell Me How You Really Feel is not quite up to the same standard. The understatement goes a little too far here and the album just feels muted.

She’s still an excellent musician and there are some real moments of cleverness, such as the put down to an anonymous troll in “Nameless, Faceless” or the happy roll of “Sunday Roast”. It’s a very solid album. It’s just also one that’s a little too quiet about what it has to say.

Clairo – diary 001

Bands get younger every year. It takes someone like Clairo to really bring that home to you though and to bring home just how talented these young stars are. Her hit song “Pretty Girl” is well worth the attention, but there’s a lot in here worth your attention.

She has a wonderful voice that blends mellowness and disaffection to the point that they’re indistinguishable. It’s manages to be deeply compelling though, standoffish or no, and gives you the space you need to submerge yourself in it.

Her music is young and whip-smart and earnest all at once. There’s a lot of craft underlying the album’s pose and every song was clearly assembled with care. For all of the softness and all of the understatement, there’s still quite a bit of muted fun in the effects around “B.O.M.D.” and “4EVER” is highly danceable pop.

Even with the short runtime of 14 minutes, there is a bit here that could have been removed safely, but there’s also as much actually worth listening to as most full releases.

Speedy Ortiz – Twerp Verse

Speedy Ortiz have always been the cleverest kids around. Sadie Dupuis is sharp and incisive enough to make a scalpel look like a foam bat and combines that with an unbelievable skill with poetry. With Twerp Verse, Speedy Ortiz has moved further into their own voice than even before. More opaque, more stripped-down and more rewarding than before, this album continues the evolution of this band into something that is more confidently their own.

Firstly, “Villain” is an exceptional song. The plainness of the lyrics highlights just how disturbing they are and the off-kilter timings of the song are disorienting and beautiful. “Lucky 88” is catchy and surprisingly Silversun Pickups-like for a band that once toured with Stephen Malkmus. “You Hate The Title” is really playful music as well.

As always, Speedy Ortiz are the smartest indie rockers around. They’re just much too good for you not to listen to.

Snail Mail – Lush

This is the most lo-fi of the albums here. It has deeply textured, hazy sounds that are very reminiscent of the recent fantastic Vagabon album. Her voice is wonderfully teenage though and so deeply sincere. This is the kind of debut that forces people to pay attention. For all that it is clearly part of a long tradition of ‘90s indie rock, it’s stunningly modern and derives from a wide variety of influences. It’s the rare album to live up to the promises of the title.

You can really see this in pieces like “Speaking Terms”, where the drawn out segments epitomize the lo-fi that I adore. The composition of the song perfectly introduces and then frames her voice. “Pristine” moves faster and the lyrics are personal and honest and then challenging of itself and so of you.

Strong, honest, layered and skillful, this is a startling debut and a strong statement of arrival.

Mitski – Be The Cowboy

We’ve saved the best for last with this list. Mitski’s previous album Puberty 2 was one of the best albums of 2016 and Be The Cowboy is, if anything, better. It’s exceedingly clever and complex and uses that to keep you off-balance the entire way through.

While it lacks anything on the level of the breakout single “Your Best American Girl” and steps into a more remote realm, the quality of the songs here are stunningly consistent. Whether it’s the threads of “Old Friend” or “Me And My Husband” that braid through each other to make a deeply layered narrative or the cleverness of the rise and then abrupt walk back of “Two Slow Dancers” or the knife-edge and thump of “Washing Machine Heart”, every one of these songs is just really good music.

Mitski just goes from strength to strength. She’s sharp, incisive and very human and Be The Cowboy is everything you could want from a lo-fi indie album in 2018.

@murthynikhil

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