Clairo Leaves Her Bedroom for the Great Beyond on 'Sling'

BY Kaelen BellPublished Jul 16, 2021

If those sharing Clairo's understated viral hit "Pretty Girl" in 2017 could time travel to our heat-warped present, it's entirely possible they wouldn't recognize Claire Cottrill at all. They'd certainly be surprised by Sling, the 22-year-old's vibrant and unexpected second record. A masterclass in rendering your early output obsolete and a lesson in taking yourself seriously when others won't, Sling is Clairo fully realized, a record that finally abandons the bedroom for the hills.

Last year, Cottrill posted a shaky, delicate rendition of Carole King's timeless "You've Got a Friend." While it's not exactly a left-field choice, the cover, along with her takes on Johnny Flynn's "Brown Trout Blues" and Anna Domino's "Everyday, I Don't," hinted at a facet of Cottrill's songwriting voice that hadn't been fully explored on the vaporous indie pop of 2019's Immunity.

Sling is the garden promised by those seeds, a carefully orchestrated and patiently rendered collection of songs that recasts Cottrill's music in the visage of artists like King and James Taylor. Co-produced with the inescapable Jack Antonoff at Allaire Studios in Upstate New York, Sling is coloured by dappled sunlight and long amber shadows, breathing and shifting in ways her music never has previously. The acoustic lilt of first single "Blouse" was something of a red herring, as the majority of tracks here swirl with strings, Mellotron, bouncing basslines, horns, woodwinds and coppery guitar.

There's nothing quite as immediate as Immunity's instant-classic "Bags," though the driving guitar pop of "Zinnias" comes close. And the feather-lite funk of "Amoeba" would be a contender were it not for its oddly stiff drumbeat, an unwelcome holdover from Cottrill's debut that dominates the patchwork of guitar and keyboard wiggling beneath.

There are a few small moments like this — the soupy, wedding-quartet strings that weigh down "Blouse," for instance — where the production nearly gets in the way of Cottrill's tender, searching songwriting. It's an issue that's appeared on other Antonoff-produced records, when the producer's talents are expected to shift from bombastic pop to quiet, folky intimacy; there's an alien disconnect at times, like listening to someone describe warmth rather than feeling it yourself.

The slip-ups are few and far between, however, and more often than not the record is a showcase of Cottrill's immense growth as a songwriter and arranger. Songs like "Bambi," "Partridge," "Wade" and joyful instrumental "Joanie" move in patient, elliptical suites, eschewing traditional pop structures for something organic and serpentine. Her lyrical pursuits are new, too: syllable-dense cascades that explore themes of family and caregiving, isolation and growing up, and the kind of love that rewires your brain. It's a domestic record in the truest sense, one that creaks along floorboards and leans out the windows — the sounds of building a life.

Claire Cottrill may not have had a difficult time finding her way into the music industry, but she's still often felt like an artist with something to prove. And after years spent developing in the public eye, Sling feels like an arrival — it's the clearest distillation of Clairo's voice yet, a record both about and born of self-discovery .

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