Album: Clairo – Sling review

by Philip Moss

Sling… shot! Claire Cottrill fires emotional stones direct from the heart

Where Clairo’s debut saw Rostam Batmanglij help the songwriter pull together diary entries, scrapbook jottings and iPhone voice notes, Sling feels like it’s been written in close to one sitting. The lo-fi, demo-like feel has been replaced by new collaborator, Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, St Vincent, Lana Del Rey), with a sound that feels like ‘classic songwriter’ territory.

But Antonoff hasn’t lifted his blueprint from previous projects, and pushed them onto the Atlanta artist. Sling‘s production feels measured – thoughtful – and as if each song has received the treatment it needs, rather than some pre-determined, restrictive vision. The first clues for this change came with the release of lead single, Blouse. Understated and small in sound, it is anything but in terms of melody and ideas – a quiet blur of a song that digs its anti-patriarchal teeth in on first listen, but without a hint of clever studio trickery or bombast. Antonoff’s skill here is placing the voice – the feeling, the intimacy, the importance of her words – right against the microphone, and without any distractions.

The patience of the lead single is emphasised by the album’s opening cut, Bambi. The percussion is lazy, slow and meandering – but it hits at exactly the right moment. Again, nothing gets in the way. There’s no rush to the chorus – if a chorus even comes, who cares? There’s flange guitars, flutes and poppin’ bass – her contemporaries are no longer just contemporary – with messrs Mark Hollis, Stuart Murdoch and Paul Buchanan coming to mind.

So often, records that cross over from the overt pop world fall flat because songs positioned as singles get shoehorned into the track listing. But Sling suffers no such issues. Every syllable has been crafted with love and labour – chiselling away at her own heart using her bare hands to make a record with real moments of light and dark. If Immunity featured songs that would make a party playlist, Sling‘s overarching mood occupies the journey home, or the morning after. Amoeba‘s jaunty rhythms does bring a touch of Paul Simon theatre, and Zinnias has the playful melodic feel of Frankie Cosmos, but Partridge and Harbor are fired directly from the heart, and do not feel like the comeback work of a major pop act – in the best way possible!

The title of Little Changes feels ironic. Whether Cottrill has overhauled her processes, only she knows. But the outcome of Sling feels like a giant leap from Immunity – one that even the best of songwriters would only be expected to make over a four or five album journey. It’s by no means immediate, but it already has the early feel of a future classic.

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