Review Summary: As a goodbye to her bedroom-pop chapter, it has some good moments.
For my first review here, I wanted to talk about a shorter project that nobody here has written a review for (honestly, my writing can't even hold a candle to some people's writing here) from an artist whose work I admire. Claire Cottrill's (also known as Clairo) first two albums, 2019's lovely 'Immunity' and 2021's incredible 'Sling', are her explorations of warm and inviting soft rock, indie-pop and folk and her restrained, hushed vocals allow her to shine in this style of music. It's a natural fit and it almost makes one forget that "Pretty Girl", her lo-fi, bedroom-pop single from 2017, is the song that put her on the map. After the song's video, containing footage of Clairo dancing awkwardly in front of her webcam while she sings about the need to be the perfect girl for another person, went viral, she got signed to FADER Label and created 'diary 001', a 6-track EP that hopefully, according to her, "can close off the bedroom-pop era of Clairo".
And indeed it does. It contains some of her most fun and essential songs to date and proves that she can be a skilled lyricist. It also contains limp vocals that don't do her lyrics justice and songs that barely manage to make some sort of impression.
Let's break it down.
"Hello?" opens the project, creating a hazy, hypnotic atmosphere where she sings about being "just one click away/from something real or fake" and wondering "how you look when you're in the dark", delivering these lines with seemingly no emotion. Her consistently flat vocals hurt majority of the songs off the EP, but they actually fit the narcotic feel of this track. Assisted by a simple, bouncy drum beat and a Rejjie Snow feature — who doesn't make a strong impression, but adds some variety — she manages to get the song's hook stuck inside my head and despite the fact that the verses aren't very interesting, this muted duet is a respectable opening number.
"Flamin' Hot Cheetos" follows, with a gentle lo-fi beat, soft vocals and Clairo looking back at a toxic relationship that she used to romanticize. The lyrics can be really affectionate ("I'd buy you anything and everything I can't afford") and the vocals, even though they're flat, can swell into sweet harmonies. However, the song feels like an experiment — nothing really resembles a chorus and it all feels like a build-up but the track just ends right after the 2-minute mark. It's a nice track, just not a memorable one.
With a much more focused pop backdrop, "B.O.M.D." (which stands for "Boy Of My Dreams") immediately stands out as one of the richer instrumentals of the project. There's a playful attitude in the music that perfectly fits Clairo's playful lyrics and personality ("Put me in your bed at night/I wanna stay here forever"), but her plain delivery almost ruins the song, as she sings lines like "You're the boy of my dreams" with not a lot of conviction and a more dynamic vocalist could bring life to this track. It's fun, but little else.
After "B.O.M.D.", however, 'diary 001' picks up momentum. Over some lovely synths and a funk bassline, "4EVER" brings some energy and urgency to the EP. It's the most groovy and detailed song, allowing Clairo to employ some of the most straight-forward and emotional lyrics of the project ("Am I gonna feel this way forever?/Are you gonna be around for me to count on?"). Even when the vocals aren't very remarkable, she sings about the anxieties of growing old and changing with the conviction that is missing elsewhere. In short, it's the best song off the EP and one of the most memorable and essential songs of her discography.
The aforementioned "Pretty Girl" comes next, with a lo-fi beat that betrays the lush instrumentation presented with "4EVER", trading it with a simple drum machine, keyboards and an emotionless delivery that contrasts the more punchy lyrics ("And I could be a pretty girl/Shut up when you want me to"). But her numb vocals and chill vibe of the song make for an addictive combination. When she sings "I could be a pretty girl/I'll wear a skirt for you", she does so with little emotion in her voice and it's almost sarcastic. Overall, it's a lovely track and even if it lacks dynamism, it has plenty of character — and that alone, makes it a win.
Sadly, the EP ends on a downright bad track, "How? (demo)", which sounds like a slower, more drab and uneventful version of "Pretty Girl". The backdrop and the vocals make for a mind-numbing experience and as the last song of 'diary 001', it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Overall, it's obvious that songwriting is Clairo's talent and first priority, as there are many compelling lyrical moments throughout this project. However, the instrumentals seem to seesaw in quality and the vocals lack punch most of the time. On its own, it's a fine listen. Considering the newer additions to her catalogue, it pales in comparison. But as a goodbye to her bedroom-pop chapter, it has some good moments.