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Sling Georgie Brooke , July 28th, 2021 08:32

Claire Cottrill moves to Massachussets, gets herself a dog, and snuggles up on new album, Sling. Georgie Brooke feels the warmth

Clairo writes music that finds you in places – geographical and mental – and takes you out of them for a few minutes. They are songs that follow you around, that play on the radio as you’re driving on the motorway, or in a warm flat amongst a gathering of friends, something that sweetly permeates your stream of normalcy. I first found Clairo on a train to Manchester. Despite listening to post-punk consistently for a month at that point, somehow my Spotify Daily Mix brought me to her, and I saved ‘Pretty Girl’ because I liked how airily intimate it felt. I later realised that this is what Clairo creates when she reflects and warps her life into art: organic, fragile gems. Two of these reflections inspired her to create Sling: her move to upstate New York, and the adoption of her dog, Joanie.

On ‘Amoeba’, it feels as though Clairo is trapped within the glass world of a privileged social scene. She sings of being confined within “echo chambers in a neighbourhood”. Drenched in wah-infected electric keyboards and rubbery bass lines, the song is sparkly and harmonious. It takes us on a 70s tinged dream, feeling like she is descending a spiral staircase in a mansion to a pool party that she doesn’t want to go to. Clairo muses on how she “shows up to the party just to leave”. There’s a feeling of isolation, much darker than the jaunty vintage pop that saturates it.

This retro cinematic splendour is sustained throughout the album. The most fast-paced song on the album, ‘Zinnias’, grows stronger as it relaxes into itself until it erupts with a hypnotic guitar lick. Clairo’s voice is light and wispy, as she admits that “Quietly, I’m tempted / Sure sounds nice to settle down for a while / Let the real estate show itself to me / I could wake up with a baby in a sling”. Along with the soft laps of guitar, Clairo creates a place of rest and protection. In an interview for NME, Clairo said that “I was too scared to even think that domesticity could be something I crave.” But ‘Zinnias’ is a creation of domestic bliss, a place to be patient in the face of bad days. As Clairo looks forward to to being nestled in her new home in a tiny Massachusetts town, she’s created a little feeling of home in Sling already.

In ‘Blouse’, Clairo describes depression and being a young woman navigating the music industry. Along with the gentle guitar, she depicts a kitchen table, her mother’s anorak. These fragments of pleasant domesticity make the penultimate lyric that penetrates the safely of the song all the more jarring: “Why do I tell you how I feel / When you’re just looking down my blouse”. There is no feel-good ending to this. The lyrics repeat, becoming unavoidable, claiming control of the whole song. I think that this is the point of the song, that objectification of women should not be ignored, or made light of.

If in ‘Blouse’, Clairo’s pleasantly domestic world is ruptured; in ‘Joanie’ it is rebuilt. The song begins as if rubbing the sleep from its eyes after a long nap to the warmth of crisp sun through a window pane, blanketed in quilts of rising notes, with soft guitar, jumping piano, sparkling woodwind, shimmering and soaring throughout. ‘Joanie’ is the album’s only instrumental and flows to emulate the pure energy of her Chow Chow-Pyrenees puppy, Joanie. The beauty of Sling is immediately apparent, but it is so much more than ‘pretty’, Clairo is letting us in to her safe space and reminding us to nurture one another. She is creating songs that throw an arm (or paw) around you and share the weight of your experiences.