clairo
Sling


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
July 17th, 2021 | 93 replies


Release Date: 07/16/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Retreat, redemption, and reinvention.

Claire Cottrill's life to date has in many ways been a depiction of the Gen Z plight: she's open about her sexuality, frustrated with the objectification of women (in music and universally), and exceptionally forthright about her emotions. 2019's Immunity successfully transformed Claire, who performs as Clairo, from an overnight YouTube sensation into a bonafide indie-pop star. Tracks like 'Bags' and 'Sofia' - both of which chronicle crushes she's had on other women - became anthems for other gay or bisexual women, sparking fan comments such as "Every day is hard, but this makes it a little easier. Thanks for existing." Despite the outpouring of support, something much darker was brewing behind the scenes: as Claire rose to a moderate level of stardom, she got a bigger taste of the music industry than she bargained for.

The gut-punch line from this record's lead single is the fiercely delivered passage: "If touch could make them hear, then touch me now." In a remarkable interview with Rolling Stone, Cottrill elaborated on Sling's cornerstone verse: "That line is really important to me, because it just captures so much of what that experience feels like," she said in a reference to being asked out multiple times while attending recording sessions alone. "I was pissed off. I was pissed off that that's a part of this, and that I'm just supposed to accept the fact that that's a part of it...I put in so much effort, but is it going to get to a point where I'm just overly sexualized again? You're so desperate for someone to hear you out that you just let them do it." The idea is conveyed again when she sings, "Why do I tell you how I feel / When you're too busy looking down my blouse?" On an otherwise breathtaking folk tune reminiscent of Phoebe Bridgers singing an Elliott Smith song, it's a dark cloud that hangs over the track's wispy, delicate atmosphere.

It's no wonder that Cottrill contemplated walking away from her career after touring for Immunity. She found herself steeped in depression and going through the motions at shows: "I felt like I was in someone else’s body...When there’s, like, 40 shows, it’s easy to feel like you’re not even there. But we forget that someone has planned a whole weekend around it. You just feel like a fucking asshole." The fast life turned her into someone she wasn't, and her desire to slow down is evidenced throughout Sling's lyrical fabric - from 'Bambi' ("Rushing so I can beat the line / But what if all I want is conversation and time?") to "Amoeba" ("I can hope tonight goes differently / But I show up to the party just to leave"). She was so determined to get out of the limelight that she initially rejected an offer from Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey) to collaborate on her upcoming album. As far as Claire was concerned, there was simply nothing to work on. She'd had enough.

Fortunately, she eventually accepted that offer and met with Antonoff at Allaire Studios in upstate New York - a twenty acre hidden estate with no internet footprint, located right on top of a mountain. She ended up spending a month there, getting away from everything except her rekindled interest in music, her newfound "big brother" Antonoff, and her dog Joanie - whose paw can be seen cradling Claire's face on the album cover. The experience proved to be nothing short of healing, as Cottrill went from writing about what she feels to getting at the root of the problem. It's why Sling doesn't care for bops: it's a retreat; a desire to move away from the kind of material that fans sing along to in a crowded venue. That's a path Claire has already walked, and she didn't like what she saw. Sling sees her creating more serious and introspective pieces with a confident voice, using her art to further her own ambitions rather than a pair of lusting eyes.

Sling might lack the immediacy of its predecessor, but this particular work means so much more. That's why on the opener, when she sings, "I'm stepping inside a universe designed against my own beliefs", you feel it. It's an indictment of the music industry and its unfair treatment of women; a microcosm of society at-large. Sling's aesthetically breathtaking snow globe is undermined by Cottrill's serious battles with life-threatening depression ("I'm afraid I've been talking to the hotline again / I blocked out the month of February for support"), uplifted by crucial self-affirmation ("Know myself better than I have in years / I don't know why I have to defend what I feel"), and invigorated by her own promise ("A flash to the upbringing of the child, the canine / What will become mine / I'm doing it for my future self"). As she delivers such shy yet clever verses, Sling does what all excellent folk records should: tell a story, and provide a glimpse inside the narrator's mind during that process. Sling's only real fault is that the melodies don't stick, but knowing the plight behind Claire's music makes it worth returning to again and again. Albums like that always seem to win us over in the end.

Sling is very much the anti-Immunity. Whereas that album sang about conflicted feelings over same-sex attraction, Sling looks around at the world and asks why anyone should feel that way. Immunity was melodically convex, pushing its hooks to the forefront of trickling beats and guitar fuzz, while Sling is concave - inviting listeners inside with its soft woodwinds and elegant strings. There will undoubtedly be some fans who are alienated by this effort, but this is a cathartic moment for Cottrill. Honestly, it's the only reason she's still making any music at all. Sling sees Claire coming to terms with her mental illness (depression), reckoning with sexism, and most importantly learning to work towards her own goals. Whether it's creating the folk album that she "always wanted to make", adopting a dog, pondering her potential as a mother, or purchasing five acres in her home state of Massachusetts to convert into a barn studio, Claire is figuring out Claire. This album is a byproduct of all that soul-searching, and an essential step towards merging Clairo the artist with Claire the person. Thanks to Sling, now they're closer than ever.



s
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user ratings (57)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Cormano
July 17th 2021


2812 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sweet



agreed with everything but the Phoebe comparison, that trend needs to stop

Sowing
Moderator
July 17th 2021


38515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think the Bridgers comparisons are a lot more accurate here than they were on Immunity to be honest. It's not a bad thing.

Digging: Needtobreathe - Into The Mystery

ArsMoriendi
July 17th 2021


34714 Comments


Holy crap you dropped the Season?

Digging: Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms

Slex
July 17th 2021


11857 Comments


Phoebe Bridgers sounded like everyone else before everyone else sounded like her, a true trailblazer

Digging: Isaiah Rashad - The House Is Burning

Snake.
July 17th 2021


23265 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

after today i'm really ready to not give a shit about phoebe for a while if ever again

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2021


14451 Comments


i didn't realize how huge Clairo is (in the top 500 streamed artists on spotify), i know the one song "Bags" that you mentioned but i guess i need to check this. good review

Digging: Adjy - The Idyll Opus (I-VI)

theBoneyKing
July 17th 2021


20709 Comments


I sampled some snippets from this and what I heard sounded incredibly average.

luci
July 17th 2021


12593 Comments


I'd be more receptive of the music industry narrative if she didn't have a career handed to her on a silver platter (she got signed to Fader because the label's founder is a family friend). Of course, wealth and family connections have long been entry points to a career in music. It's just that when she bemoans the sexism in the industry all I think about is the countless talented women who never got access in the first place because they don't have the advantages she had.

luci
July 17th 2021


12593 Comments


As for the actual album: it's fine! Competent songs in a style that's become played out. She was way more distinct on Immunity, even if someone believes the songwriting here is stronger (I'd disagree with that, her debut deserves more recognition in that aspect).

GreyShadow
July 17th 2021


4975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great read.



really enjoying this for the most part still with Amoeba kinda beginning to outright tower over the rest but there's still plenty of amazing moments beyond that

Digging: Adjy - The Idyll Opus (I-VI)

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2021


39089 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this made me regret every time I've called any other album latte indie; if there was ever one true application of that term...

Digging: The Flashbulb - Kirlian Selections

Sowing
Moderator
July 17th 2021


38515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Luci, I sort of get where you're coming from but at the same time I don't think having an easier entry point to the industry somehow makes the sexism more tolerable. If you haven't already I'd read the Rolling Stone interview; it gave me a huge appreciation for this that I definitely would not have had otherwise. Regarding her connections to the label, she explains it therein, but here's the snippet that matters (it's not a denial):

Cottrill got a manager and signed with Fader, which led to backlash after it was revealed that her father, a marketing executive, was friendly with the label’s founder, Jon Cohen. The “industry plant” accusation still stings Cottrill to this day. “I’m nervous to talk about it, because I want to make sure I say this right,” she says, readying herself. “I signed with Fader because I’ve known Jon Cohen my whole life. There was a sense of accountability and protection. I definitely am not blind to the fact that things have been easier for me than other people’s experiences. It would be stupid of me to not acknowledge the privilege I had from the start to be able to sign somewhere where there’s trust, to be able to sign a record deal that doesn’t revolve around keeping myself afloat financially.

“So I fully recognize that,” she continues, “but I would be stupid to not use that relationship in a moment where I was really scared and really confused. I would be stupid to not want that guidance from somebody that my family trusts. People just think what they want to think and I can’t stop that, but I am getting better at explaining it for what it is.”


I do think the industry plant narrative is disproportionately applied to women. If she was a man and she exercised her connections to start a career, I doubt anyone would care.

Pikazilla
July 17th 2021


17635 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

whoa you actually dropped the season?

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2021


2587 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review, writer formerly known as SowingSeason!



Listened to this once yesterday, and not sure how I feel about it yet.

Kiran
Emeritus
July 17th 2021


6119 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Very disappointed, Immunity kicked ass



It feels like no coincidence the best song by a considerable distance, Amoeba, is the one that shares the most songwriting DNA with Immunity

Sowing
Moderator
July 17th 2021


38515 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I definitely understand the disappointment, this abandons a lot of what made her unique.

Even though I honestly still prefer Immunity by a smidgen, I think I'm more okay with this departure than some people because it fits so snugly within my exact folk preferences, and also because her aesthetic is really the only thing that's changed. Her lyrics are still excellent, her personality shines (even if in more of a shy confessional way that before) and even if this is more of a 3.5 for me, I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt because stuff like this always ends up winning me over months down the road.

Blouse is still my favorite tune here and I wish she'd chased the wispy Elliott Smith vibes some more, but Amoeba is also really great.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2021


2587 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Just jammed a second time, throwing a 3 on it for now. I'll definitely need to read through the lyrics, as of now something about the music/her voice is making it difficult for me to pick out particular lines and I expect knowing some of the lyrics will help me vibe with this more. For now, it's pleasant but not much is really sticking out.

BigTuna
July 17th 2021


5562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been revisiting Immunity lately, so I'm excited to dig into this soon. I very much respect her going in a different direction with this release, as wonderful as Immunity is on the whole.

Digging: Low Roar - maybe tomorrow...

Chambered79
July 17th 2021


958 Comments


A sowing 4 means this is basically a negative 2 right

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
July 17th 2021


21320 Comments


Yeahhhhhh not sure how much I'm feeling this one. Amoeba kicks ass for sure and nothing here is particularly bad, just think this style doesn't suit her voice/songwriting as well on first listen

Also... who the hell was making Punisher comparisons? Can't see that comparison here



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