Clairo - Immunity
Aug 2, 2019
85
I had the luxury of seeing Clairo a few weeks back. She came out in a fake tattoo long-sleeve shirt and denim jeans in 95-degree weather. Her dyed red hair was fading back to its natural mousy brown. It looked a like a costume; she embodied the twenty-year-old attempting to sneak into the bar with a Fake ID. I won't lie; my head was filled with assumptions about what I was about to see. As the music swelled and she began to perform, I found those thoughts dissipated almost immediately. While her demeanor presented a forced effortlessness, Clairo was a gracious and kind presence on stage. She had a small grin on her face the entire time. As much as she tried to construct a mature look, her mannerisms and lyrics indexed a girl still finding out exactly who she is.

Clairo is torn between playing it cool and leaning into her emotional turmoil. She's caught in a poignant tension between a desire for connection/popularity and a longing to be herself. The music manages to emphasize her conflict by out emoting her on many of the tracks. Filled with open lyrics and Rostam's sunkissed production, Immunity is a refreshingly honest depiction of someone in the twilight of adolescence.

My biggest fear for this album would be a repeat of the faults in her first EP. Clairo's rise into the spotlight begins with her on-brand music video for 'Pretty Girl.' Girded with a Gremlin, Clairo's sing-along, lazy bop became a viral moment. It's a pretty infectious song with a deceptively simple melodic line that burrows into your skull. On her followup EP, Clairo shifted to a more PC music sound. The sound didn't necessarily amplify her best qualities, and I was worried she would be too influenced by her producers rather than develop her voice.

Luckily, her partnership with Rostam is a more natural fit for her laid-back singing style. Rostam's production has a tail-between-the-legs vibe; he manages to evoke melancholy that feels innocent and relatable. Instead of overwhelming Clairo, this sound helps give her music some needed emotional weight. Her voice can feel distant, but Rostam helps tether her to the ground while also emphasizing the dreaminess of her lyrics.

The major highlights are when Clairo allows herself to be ridiculous and overplays her emotional struggles. 'Bags,' an absolute gem of 2019, feels like Clairo's mission statement. The lyrics flit between subtle dismissals and her childish desires. She likes to raise the stakes on her songs; "every minute counts," becomes her motto throughout the album. I love when she makes extreme claims like, 'I was 15 when I first felt loneliness.' These moments are playfully childish, and capture the reflection you feel as you transition into adulthood.

Maybe the most intriguing element of the record is how Clairo starts to realize love, intimacy, and care are not intrinsically connected. 'I Wouldn't Ask You' finds Clairo recovering in a hospital. As her partner takes care of her, she finds comfort in the fact that her love wants to be with her as she is sick. On an album that leans into emotional extremes, its a gentle realization that feels half-formed. Clairo is on the verge of self-discovery, she caught between reflecting on her past and being open for the future. While she may not be an adult just yet, she starts to accept that emotions pass.

Midway through her performance, Clairo's guitar strap snapped in half. The instrument had to weigh at least half a Clairo, and her posture comically slumped as she attempted to hold up the instrument and still play. Doubled over, she awkwardly looked up at an audience cheering her on. For a moment, her professional demeanor cracked, and she looked genuinely shocked that she was getting support during her screw up. It was charming to see that Clairo is still learning about connection and intimacy. For how thoughtful her lyrics can be, she is still growing up. Immunity is a sparkling debut that feels like a coming of age narrative at the midpoint. Clairo has some wisdom, but she manages to curtail her heavier sentiments with an open willingness to grow. She may not be the coolest kid in school, but she's starting to realize that's not the end of the world.
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