As much as the internet loves a viral story, it also loves a conspiracy theory. A burgeoning young artist, it’s exciting Clairo is willing to toy with her sound and expand her network of collaborators so thoughtfully and openly.
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Singer-songwiter Claire Cottrill, known better by her stage name Clairo, released her recent album, Immunity,” on Aug. You can almost taste the moment. Two teenage girls are riding in a car in Los Angeles. They’re singing along to Joni Mitchell (Blue”, of course), driving into the timewarp of Laurel Canyon, veering between a loyal kinship they have with one another and flickers of romance—a hormonal tension at the heart of intense companionship. This was Claire Cottrill (aka Clairo)’s experience one summer, as she spent time with a girl. They were more than friends. It was the type of situation that can lead to obsession as she’d dissect the tiniest of glances, or the tone of passing words. One day, they were driving, and listening to Motion Sickness” by LA songwriter Phoebe Bridgers on repeat.
It’s impressive how many directions Clairo and Rostam were able to bend her aesthetic without ever compromising her identity, a goal Clairo pointedly outlined in the Paper interview. Closer To You” — which breaks its trance with a startling command to Shut up!” — successfully transposes the Clairo sound into the realm of Auto-Tuned trap music. Bags,” perhaps her most beloved single since Pretty Girl,” mutates the sound of reigning indie rockers like Soccer Mommy into crystalline pop. Sofia,” a song about her first forays into queer romance, was supposedly informed by both Robyn and the Strokes, a hybrid that works much better than you’d expect. A children’s choir emerges out of nowhere on the spacious, twinkling album closer I Wouldn’t Ask You.” Like many songs on Immunity, that final ballad is buoyed by lyrics like Wish I could get past insecurity,” perhaps a clever reference to the concert barricades Clairo has been seeing more and more of.
The video is incredibly simple, with Clairo mouthing along to the song into a webcam as the lyrics scroll by karaoke-style, but something about it is inexplicably endearing. It’s a soft, teenage daydream wrapped in a sheen of millennial pink — a relic of ‘80s keyboard synth-pop as much as it is a brand new offering of digital age bedroom pop and vaporwave.
BK: It was more of pop-punk phase! I listened to a lot of Green Day and Blink-182. Man, I still love Green Day though. That whole Dookie album rocks. I still love the Smashing Pumpkins, too. I don’t think my playlist has changed a lot.
But her embrace of pop, and the surge it’s given her career, also made Ms. Cottrill uneasy, especially as her every move has become fodder for dissection on Reddit She recalled a particularly dark night in her dorm room at Syracuse — where she studied in the Bandier music business program — when the negative comments sent her into a spiral of shame and sobbing.
Clairo is an artist who is known for making her music in the four walls of her bedroom. She has stated that it was never her intention to make bedroom pop” music and that she wants to expand into Lo-fi, a genre that comes from low fidelity,” meaning it captures the flaws recorded during recording and production, often with the sound being lower quality compared to contemporary standards.
Pretty Girl,” which she initially recorded for an indie-rock compilation benefiting the Transgender Law Center , was organic and took off without any marketing muscle or shortcuts, Clairo insisted. I put it on YouTube, and then the algorithm just ate it up,” she said, which led to interest from major labels, including Columbia, RCA and Capitol.
Immunity is a smoothly-produced pop record about queer relationships—there’s no discounting the value of these stories in the lives of queer people and the population at large. Her sultry confidence and steadfastness, even in the face of anxieties and insecurities, is empowering. Immunity has just enough unforgettable glimmers to justify Clairo’s buzz. The question is whether listeners who weren’t already head over heels for her previously released music will hop on board too.
The album is instantly enthralling, with that ticking clock drifting into a lush synth-rock cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence.” The Chromatics have a history of deftly covering other artists’ songs, dating back to eerie renditions of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill” and Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black),” from Night Drive and Kill for Love , respectively. And the through line for many of these covers is time slipping away as dangerous outside forces mount an offensive, both themes that the band continues to explore here.
Like Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos, to whom her early lo-fi recordings were often compared, Clairo has rich, well-connected parents. Her father, Geoff Cottrill, is a marketing executive who has worked for giants like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and has been notably involved with Converse’s Rubber Tracks recording studio, Starbucks’ record label Hear Music, and MusiCares, the charitable arm of the Grammys. So when Pretty Girl” blew up and Clairo began attracting high-profile attention from the media and the music industry alike, some (including me!) were suspicious that powerful forces behind the scenes might be manufacturing the illusion of DIY success. Clairo’s rapid rise seemed especially sketchy given that her songs struck me as bland and inert.
After releasing dozens of accumulated home recordings in 2013, the Clairo EP do u wanna fall in love? arrived in 2014. It was followed by more EPs in 2015, including have a nice day, late show, AQUARIUS BOY, and moth girl. In May of that year, she released the full-length metal heart, a collection of spare acoustic recordings with notable tape hiss. Meanwhile, she became active on YouTube with posts that included acoustic guitar covers of songs by the Cure, Frankie Cosmos, and (Sandy) Alex G, among others. The year 2016 brought the creased laundry EP and the six-track brains a bus station, which introduced new equipment, including electric guitar, various keyboard voices, and drum samples. In July of that year, she also released a split EP with established English lo-fi musician Keel Her as Claire Cottrill.
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t offer a definitive conclusion on that front either way, as its highs—vintage Crazy Horse guitar workouts, a small handful of charmingly intimate ballads—are intermittently marred by the same sort of problems that have characterized Young’s recent solo work. This includes particularly tuneless vocals and a tendency toward clunky, Facebook uncle-level environmentalist and political ranting. An accompanying making-of fly-on-the-wall documentary, Mountaintop, is similarly schizophrenic, seemingly devoting about as much time to Crazy Horse effortlessly falling into their usual groove as it does to a cranky Young chewing out his engineers over a faulty monitor.
I didn’t expect any of my videos to blow up like ‘Pretty Girl’ did,” Cottrill said in an interview shortly after it did just that. In the coming months, she’d be profiled by Pitchfork and The Fader, ink a 12-song deal with the latter publication’s record label, and sign on with Chance the Rapper‘s manager. To the large majority of her fans, Clairo’s rise was the quintessential anyone-can-do-it success story of the viral era. But a vocal minority took to blogs and Reddit threads to wonder, after digging into her family history, whether it was in fact a more old-fashioned and familiar story than anyone else was letting on.
Less than a week after finishing her freshman year at Syracuse University, the singer, songwriter and producer Claire Cottrill, who performs as Clairo, was in the back seat of a chauffeured S.U.V., eating Chick-fil-A and living out the surprising mundanity of her music-industry dreams.
Yet Pretty Girl” was originally released on a compilation from The Le Sigh , a decidedly underground taste-making publication spotlighting female-identifying and non-binary artists. Her music was quickly embraced by fans of vaporwave, the chillwave-adjacent microgenre retrofitting ’80s and ’90s mood music into surreal capitalist satire, which is I guess how her face ended up on a onesie for infants Regardless of whether Clairo ever qualified as a so-called industry plant,” she has clearly forged a connection with her audience. Online and onstage she presents herself like a Lana Del Rey who has subbed out old Hollywood glamour myths for a distinctly Gen Z sensibility, and like Lana, she’s become not just a recording artist but a cult of personality. The clamor around her is loud, enthusiastic, and genuine.
Mr. Corcoran, 28, praised the fullness of Ms. Cottrill’s vision, from her direct, diaristic songwriting to her high-school vlogs and social media. She lives very artfully,” he said. It made me feel young again.” He brushed off any insinuation that Clairo was manufactured.
Immunity arrives nearly 2 years-to-the-day that Claire Cottrill posted Pretty Girl” to YouTube, which looked and sounded for all the world like a selfie clip of a teen holed up in her bedroom — earbuds in, hair down, slurping what looks like a super-jumbo iced coffee, pimpled, dressed in an oversized college sweatshirt (in-between jump-cuts to t-shirts and other absent-minded hairstyles) — singing love-lorn, self-actualize-y pop into her computer’s camera. That her dad happens to be a formidable figure with well-positioned music biz contacts may, or may not, have had a lot to do with it. Whatever the case, it was a compelling and convincing art meme, and at last check, had 36 million views.
Shape and form are key to the songs on FIBS. Meredith’s songwriting process reportedly often begins with a drawing—perhaps a sequence of interlocking polygons denoting build, attack, release, or a tornado-esque squiggle leading into a single line bisected by another—and it’s on the tracks that are most easily imagined visually that FIBS is at its most propulsive. From the disorienting clashes of tuba, electric guitar, and drums on Bump” that eventually cohere into a single, clear resolution, to the thwarted romance of moonmoons,” pizzicato strings bursting happily like little bubbles as bowed violins creep in, Meredith is a master of misdirection.
Juice B Crypts biggest drawback is that, with so much going on, some of these songs get lost in the album’s frenetic whiplash pacing. A Loop So Nice…” is a fleeting piece of crystalline glitch-pop that suffers from its placement alongside its superior companion piece, They Played It Twice,” which features a vocal part from Xenia Rubinos that attains almost religious levels of ecstasy. Last Supper on Shasta, Pt. 1” gets some mileage from Merrill Garbus’s typically wild vocals, but Pt. 2” buries her singing under a mountain of noise.
You can barely hear what I’m saying on all of my demos on Soundcloud Maybe that was a style thing or an insecurity thing. Maybe it’s both. I wasn’t confident and I never thought of myself singularly as a singer. I see myself as an artist who can do multiple things,” Clairo says. Working with Rostam on one of the first songs we made, my voice was so in front and I felt so exposed. It took me a minute to really get it.” As she grew more comfortable with the sound of her own voice and the vulnerability in her lyrics, it became clear to Clairo that she had to use the voice she was born with to get her message across.
Before Danielle Haim drummed on Bags”, and before Rostam Batmanglij formerly of Vampire Weekend produced Bags”, Bags” sounded very close to the Bags” you now know. It felt like the first time where I really listened to what was happening around me and tried to put it in a song. It felt how songs are supposed to feel. They’re supposed to feel like a stamp of that time.” When Cottrill showed this girl the song, she didn’t say anything. Again, her dimples crease at the thought. But I think she knew that it was about her,” she says.
Claire Cottrill (born August 18, 1998), known professionally as Clairo, is an American singer-songwriter from Carlisle, Massachusetts. Her fame escalated after releasing “Pretty Girl” (2017), a lo-fi-produced song that attracted over 40 million views on YouTube.
At the center of it all, though, is Cottrill herself. Her characteristically impassive vocal strikes a poignant contrast with her lyrics. She may be keeping her head cool, but her heart is ablaze. On White Flag,” her voice icily glides over curlicues of reedy guitar and synth as she laments, I was 15 when I first felt loneliness.” Dense synths often drowned out the vocals on her earlier work, but Batmanglij foregrounds Cottrill’s voice here, amplifying it through doubling or distorting it with Auto-Tune. Her vocal style eschews genre¬-fication, hinting at R&B on Sinking,” where her voice takes on a honeyed tone and tackles gentle runs, and redolent of trip-hop on Closer to You,” where vocal effects crystalize her belts over sputtering hi-hats.