Review: Sling by Clairo

At just twenty-two, Clairo has released her second album. Introspective, melancholy yet hopeful, Sling appeals to the sentiments of a generation trapped inside. It also provides insight into the experiences of an artist that has entered the industry so young.

Jack Antonoff, who has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift and Lorde, is the album’s producer. He lends his sympathetic musicality to each track with subtle instrumentation and a soft touch that brings Clairo’s thoughtful lyrics to the fore. Vocal harmonies, guitar and piano take centre stage, giving the album an intimate feel. In comparison with her debut album Immunity, Sling feels quieter: you can imagine that you are sat in a room with her rather than attending a concert. This feels apt for an album produced during the pandemic.

Sling opens with the richly harmonized “Bambi”, jumping straight into a discussion of the music industry. Clairo describes it as “a universe/ Designed against [her] own beliefs” that she must learn to navigate. In track five, “Blouse”, she discusses the workplace misogyny that she has experienced, wondering if she will only be listened to while the man across from her “looks down [her] blouse”. The juxtaposition of soft instrumentals and the grim lyrics of the song could be said to mirror the experience of working in music – exciting on first glance, but in reality difficult and – at times -frightening.  

“Amoeba”, perhaps the most upbeat song on the album, opens with a groovy guitar melody and piano chords before a punchy drum beat kicks in for the chorus. She scolds herself for failing to prioritizing the correct things: “Could you say you even tried? / You haven’t called your family twice” – in a Rolling Stone track breakdown with Atonoff, she talks about how she struggled to get the right balance between work and happiness. The album continues Clairo’s tradition of candid openness when discussing mental health with “Just for Today,” a tale of frustration at not getting better overnight. In response to the common soothing words “it just takes time”, she asks “Since when did taking time take all my life?”. The healing process is such an important topic to discuss and her gentle honesty opens a discussion that is extremely important in a world attempting to navigate life post-lockdown.

Tweeting about the album’s release, Clairo described her dog Joanie (who lends her name to Sling’s instrumental ninth track) as a wake-up call to responsibility. Having to prioritize another creature’s needs over her own made her think more about adulthood and parenthood. This is a key turning point in the album: where “Just for Today” is a ballad to malaise, “Joanie” is a segue into personal growth.

In the final three tracks of the album, Clairo begins to unpick her relationship with responsibility and the self. In “Reaper”, she asks herself if she would be able to raise a child, but is plagued by doubt (“I can’t fuck it up if it’s not there at all”). In “Little Changes”, she seems to make peace with singledom, rather than forcing herself to move directly between romantic attachments. The closing track “Management” sees her looking at next steps. Acknowledging wryly her “lack of self-respect”, Clairo suggests that she now must look forward: “I’m doing it for my future self / The one who needs more attention / I’ll forget to forgive and hold it all in / I’m old with some resentment”: “Management” becomes an ode to prioritizing one’s needs and attachments over the expectations of the big man in the suit and thinking beyond the now into an unknown but exciting future.

Sling is a gentle album, but its lyrical intensity is a deep pool that spans mental health, responsibility, industry, and sexuality. Clairo crafts an auditory portrait of herself at twenty-two: still learning but starting to know her new adult self.

–Millie Green

Featured Image Source: Still via Clairo // YouTube.

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