Sling

by Clairo

Released July 16, 2021 via Fader Label / Republic Records

Reviewed July 27, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Amoeba (78%), Blouse (37%), Harbor (33%)

Since 2017, Jack Antonoff has been working non-stop, from St. Vincent’s sharp MASSEDUCTION to Taylor Swift’s radical sonic turnaround with Big Red Machine. Following folklore’s (2020) pervasion into critical spheres, her contemporaries have succumbed to Antonoff’s soft-but-never-stripped-back direction, including viral indie-kid Clairo. Her debut Immunity (2019) was some pretty, yet impressionless bedroom pop. But I still love that it opted for more organic, live instrumentation over stale GarageBand-esque stems. Sling (2021) expands on this instrumentation with a greater range of timbres and improved compositions. Autumnal and intimate with hushed strings, plinky keys, and acoustic licks, Sling’s atmosphere is certainly well crafted. Clairo’s whispery delivery contributes to this strength, but overall, the album’s lyrical themes and vocal performances don’t ever stand out. A step forward for Clairo’s and Antonoff’s respective songwriting talents, but not for the genre they’re nestled in. A must for Phoebe Bridgers fans, though. – Cam (7.3/10)

Despite having breached the entryway into folk while simultaneously maturing as a singer and songwriter, Clairo seems to be still searching for her voice on her second album, Sling. The Atlanta singer-songwriter made a name off her catchy, self-produced, multi-instrumentalist bedroom pop tunes; on her first effort, the influence of an ex-Vampire Weekend member serving as co-producer for the record took the album in a soft indie direction. In this most recent outing, Jack Antonoff fulfills a similar co-producer/co-writer role and brings his familiar element of folk into frame. Clairo is the most recent in a trend of singers teaming with Antonoff and adopting a folk-pop style for a change-of-pace effect, apropos for the mid-quarantine era. In large part, this trend has been an effective haven for these artists and continues to yield okay results at a minimum. Is it intriguing? Sure. Satisfying? Not always. For better or worse, the “Antonoff effect” typically avoids reconstructing, and rather redresses singers in a way that compliments their strengths. In Clairo’s case, Sling’s best moments are similar to the best moments of Immunity—music that successfully adds vibrance to a fairly limited range of vocals. On Sling, Clairo’s singing voice and writing voice are solidifying, but she’s yet to unlock that side of her potential the way she has as an instrumentalist. – DeVán (7.3/10)

Hushed harmonies, a warm embrace, and lullaby-like flourishes await you as Clairo appears as an apparition of sorts—ghost-like and vapid. Akin to Big Thief and their effervescent mood music, Clairo exists in the space between sleep and the apparitional state. Sling is full of soft instrumentals, many eloquently light and soothing, but it certainly lacks memorable moments—nothing that sticks out or warrants replay value grabs the listener’s attention. The slivers of experimentation and forthright musicianship are present, but their impact wanes from a decent attempt to a failed one. Sling is like eating a meal, yet remaining hungry afterwards; the process is over, but fulfillment hasn't occurred. In the end it's a lovely listen, just don't expect anything to stick. – Peter (6/10)

Daniel: 7.5/10 | Pax: 7.5/10 | Cam: 7.3/10

DeVán: 7.3/10 | Dominick: 7.3/10 | Peter: 6/10