Photo of Clairo by Savanna Ruedy, courtesy of Fader.
Claire Cottrill, aka Clairo, makes music that sounds like a printed-off text stuffed in a bottle and tossed into a winedark sea. Central to her quietly confident debut album Immunity is a sense of a guarded friend trusting you enough to tell you their secrets; this is bedsit pop that actually wants you to knock on the door and be let in.
On Immunity, Cottrill blends lo-fi indie pop with trip-hop and what can only be described as mutated easy listening to great effect. “Alewife” opens the record in tender, vulnerable fashion. Over minimalistic pianos and a gentle acoustic guitar, her trembling, guileless voice expresses gratitude to a friend for saving her life after an attempted suicide. The dampened, overdriven bass and analog synth that float in over the outro sound like a silent smile and wet-eyed nod saying thank you.
Album standout “Bags” hops along at midtempo and warps everything, using treated pianos and compressed guitars as an eerily accurate representation of what it feels like to walk out, or be walked out on.
Not everything here works. “Closer to You” is a blob of generic modern pop synth bass and autotuned vocals that sounds forced and out of step with the rest of the album. Thankfully most of the rest of the album isn’t as self-conscious.
Cottrill’s songs can come off as initially understated, but the deal is sealed in the details, which are abundant and attractive—a bit of negative space here, a vocal line floating on an old school synth there, and plenty of subtle, sticky melodies. There’s a cool, nerd-friendly support crew, too: co-production by Rostam Batmanglij, mixing by Dave Fridmann, and drums by Danielle Haim. Immunity is full of a messy, sometimes scary, but always illuminating sense of self-discovery. It’s a moody Instagram Polaroid accompanied by a detailed, heartfelt, intelligent caption. It’s abstract and a little bit reserved at first glance, but with a huge emotional payoff if you take the time to look at the entire presentation. | Mike Rengel