Clairo's transitional album from bedroom pop princess to '70s siren
( @clairo // Instagram )
“I’m stepping inside a universe designed against my own beliefs,'' croons Clairo, in the opening line to her sophomore album, “Sling”.
In her latest project, Clairo constructs a wistful state of consciousness, providing herself and listeners the space to reconsider their own aspirations and values, as we jointly navigate the pressures of picking a fulfilling life path.
Clairo remembers the first time she hungered for the (sometimes shamed) simple life of the homemaker. In an Instagram post, she said her writing was inspired by the connection between herself and her dog, Joanie, and she revealed that the reflection on parenthood led her to discover that “domesticity is what I [she] was missing.”
With “Sling,” Clairo delves into uncharted territory. Before this one, in her debut album, “Immunity,” she discussed topics such as navigating young love, seen in her song “Softly,” or coming to terms with one’s sexuality, in the sensational “Sofia.”
But while “Immunity” lends to the standard mind frame of her majorly young adult audience, “Sling” surfaces thoughts that might live in the back of a young-adult woman’s mind—the pressure to one day become a mother.
In an apparent sonic evolution from the likes of her bedroom-pop viral hit “pretty girl” and alt-pop, "Immunity,” Clairo leans into a richer, lyrically enhanced sound, littered with references to ‘70s folk-pop. The instrumentals are reminiscent of those used in Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album “Hejira” (Joni also happens to be Clairo’s dog Joanie’s namesake with slight alteration to the spelling).
Specifically in the second track “Amoeba,” a tangible likeness to Mitchell’s “Song for Sharon '' appears in the introduction instrumentals. Not to mention the curve of Clairo’s voice, which has obvious influence from Mitchell. They both share the tendency to run after the latter half of a line, which always felt like an attempt to catch up with themselves. A similar tactic is used by Clairo in the song “Zinnias.” I’m sure I am not the only one who can’t hear the word tapestry without immediately having the image of Carole King sitting against a windowsill, with her cat in the foreground, pop into my head. However, the lyrics “in a circle under my Claud’s tapestry” is the only smallest of similarities to King’s sound, as Clairo breathes a sort of nostalgia into her music, evoking a familiarity between herself and the women of Laurel Canyon.
Clairo’s album came to be, not under the star power-infused rays of sunshine in the Hollywood Hills, but the bucolic calm of Allaire Studios in Upstate New York. Similar to Taylor Swift, whose 2020 saving-grace “Folklore” and winter gift “Evermore'' were created at the Long Pond Studio in Hudson, N.Y. Clairo also constructed “Sling '' with the help of fellow infamous women in music, Swift, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey’s producer of choice, Jack Antonoff.
The opener “Bambi,” instantly references the classic tale of a doe who watches hunters kill his mother. This allusion is especially on the nose, seeing as Clairo uses her album as a space to discuss how womanhood interacts with patriarchal society. Have women and mothers become collateral damage in a society that values procreation and underplays the responsibility of parenthood? In “Blouse,” she raises the question, “Why do I tell you how I feel? When you’re too busy looking down my blouse.” After she speaks to the reality that a man is too focused on consuming the image of her chest to comprehend what she is attempting to tell him, she emotes a familiar feeling of defeat through the line, “If touch can make them hear then touch me now.” Clairo discusses feeling conquered by the male dominion, and the unspoken thought of giving in, because that seems to be the only viable option.
Since her song “Alewife,” Clairo has effortlessly pinned down the withstanding battle to overcome internal demons.The gut punch that is “Just For Today” illuminates the struggle to grasp control of one’s mental health. The devastating line that clues listeners in to the song’s motive is sung in a vulnerable call for help: “Mommy, I’m afraid I’ve been talking to the hotline again.” I will let you sit with that one.
The cohesion strung throughout the album comes not only in an auditory form, but through lyrical repetitions. She continuously points to the concept of motherhood through lines as simple as, “I hang my scarf and my mom’s anorak” in “Blouse”, and as pointed as, “I’ll wake up with a baby in a sling,” in “Zinnias”. Meanwhile, “Amoeba” references a world where mothers congregate; she dissects the glossy mystique of suburban life, pressing, “Aren’t you glad that you reside in a hell and in disguise?” She continues, “Nobody yet everything, a pool to shed your memory,” poking at the emptiness that can accumulate in a suburb; but hey, at least there’s a backyard swimming pool where you can watch your first world problems float down into the deep end.
In the closing track “Management,” Clairo nods to her contemplations throughout the prior songs, recalling “a flash to the upbringing of the child, the canine, what will become mine,” and simultaneously summarizes her reasoning behind the album.
And to think, all of this evolved from a dreamy apparition of a claw on her shoulder that communicated to Clairo, “eventually you’re gonna have to be a provider too.”