REVIEW: Clairo begins a new musical chapter on ‘Sling’

From ‘Flaming Hot Cheetos’ to her new-folk inspired tracks, Clairo is all grown-up on her second album

REVIEW: Clairo begins a new musical chapter on ‘Sling’
Clairo performing live at the El Rey theatre in Los Angeles, California.

On her sophomore album, “Sling,” a new Clairo has emerged, almost unfamiliar to the bedroom pop icon she once was. Could the days of the lofi-electropop Claire Cottrill we were introduced to with “Pretty Girl” be over? 

The 22-year-old artist is seemingly more stripped down and somber than ever before in this new project. Not only melodically, but lyrically, this album explores a whole new and introspective side of Cottrill, who is simultaneously embracing her newfound success in the music industry and fearful of what it means to grow up.

From the opening song, “Bambi,” Cottrill sings, “I'm stepping inside a universe

designed against my own beliefs,” alluding to her complicated relationship with the music industry she has freshly found herself in. Cottrill seems to acknowledge the pressures of continuing success as a musician on the opener of this second album, as well as in the final song on the album, “Management.” 

Throughout the album, we’re immersed in the anxiety and self-discovery of Cottrill during both the post-record success of “Immunity” and the coronavirus pandemic. Following the release of “Sling,” the artist released a newsletter detailing the album’s themes including “motherhood, sexualization, mental health, and a lot of my own mistakes and regrets.”

Pushed into isolation by the pandemic, the artist’s thoughts of her future and what it could look like to have a domestic life are the vein of this record. “I could wake up with a baby in a sling,” Clairo sings on “Zinnias,” imagining motherhood or a settled down life. Juxtaposed to the following track and lead single of this record, “Blouse,” we’re able to see that the artist is saying goodbye to her adolescence. 

“Why do I tell you how I feel when you’re just looking down my blouse?” A line that desperately screams for validation outside of sexualization by older men in the music industry. Instead of feeling confined, misunderstood and objectified in the music world, Cottrill looks to the future and comforting things for hope.

Working alongside producer Jack Antonoff, we’re brought into an instrumental conglomeration of saxophones, clarinets, flutes, strings and piano — sounds that are once again unexpected of Clairo considering past projects. 

Taking on a more folksy sound, “Sling” is comparable to the likes of another recent Antonoff project, Taylor Swift’s, “folklore” and “evermore” albums. Both recorded in rural upstate New York with Antonoff, Swift and Cottrill dove headfirst into a folk, Joni Mitchell-inspired sound. More importantly, these records were undoubtedly and distinctly quarantine albums, drawing from the largely self-reflective spirit of the time.

In an Apple Music interview, Cottrill said she wouldn’t have encountered the feelings expressed in her record “for a long time” if it were not for the pandemic.

“Gather to one corner of the woods, echo chambers inside a neighborhood,” Clairo sings in
Amoeba,” encapsulating exactly how the pandemic forced many of us to exist in our own heads.

To the average Clairo fan who adored “Immunity,” this record might be a hard one to like. At its heart, “Sling” is depressing through and through, especially without the uplifting background beats we are used to from Clairo. 

Even though the artist’s new sound may be surprising, there is something to be said for the lyrical ingenuity behind these new songs. The choices Cottrill and Antonoff make instrumentally brilliantly bring the listener into Clairo’s headspace when writing this record. 

With its poeticism and symphonic yet melancholy folk tunes, “Sling” has successfully entered us into a new Clairo era.

jschwartz@theeagleonline.com 

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