Graphics by Ainsley Basic
By Tatum Jenkins, Music Coordinator
Favorite Songs: “Amoeba,” “Management,” “Reaper,” and “Zinnias”
For Fans Of: Girl In Red, Billie Eilish, Phoebe Bridgers
I’m a believer that there are albums that come at exactly the time we need them. And Sling, Clairo’s latest album, was one of those albums for me. Starting with the opening track, “Bambi,” I felt as though I was invited into Clairo’s sprawling sonic daydream, guided by the echoes of the women who shaped the seventies Laurel Canyon music scene. “Bambi” introduced me to a new kind of sound from Clairo. Her vocals remained similar – layered and lush – but were now grounded with more solid instrumentation. There was even more lyrical and musical honesty, inspiring me to be honest about the listening experience as well.
CLAIRO PUSHES THE BOUNDS OF NOSTALGIA TO CREATE SOMETHING NEW
Every song cracked open my memories and desires in different ways. “Amoeba” winds its way lyrically like strings of glue around the instruments, whisperings of suburban neighborhoods and echo chambers. I couldn’t help but think of games of hide-and-seek with my neighbors as children and the eventual distance I felt from my peers once I left. “Partridge,” in all its sweetness, emits a low level of sorrow. It demonstrates her ability to balance every element of her craft – instruments winding with vocals, built by lyrics and melody. She gracefully exhales a story of loss and letting go to heal. “Zinnias” instantly recalls Joni Mitchell. Specifically, her wit, her storytelling ability, and her ethereal, light voice. With this track especially, she quietly revolutionizes what it means to be inspired by your favorite artists, pushing the bounds of nostalgia to create something new.
SLING BRINGS A SENSE OF DELICACY AND COMFORT TO COMPLEX EMOTIONS AND ISSUES
Directly following “Zinnias” is the song that initially opened my heart to this album in June, “Blouse.” I remember listening to “Blouse” in my room the morning it came out. I was moved by its delicacy and the comfort it presents in such a devastating moment – the moment you realize someone is only paying attention to what you’re saying because of your body. Clairo presents this social issue in such a way that it extends beyond its societal examples into emotional ones. It addresses the common issue of not being understood but also the pain of knowing you won’t be understood by someone you desire comprehension from. “Blouse,” to me, is the track that quietly dazzles and glimmers on this beautiful album, like the snow peeking out from the edges of Clairo and her dog, Joanie, on the cover of Sling.
It is this image – the caretaker and the provider, mother and child – that bleeds through this album in such an intimate way. Her dog “Joanie” gets an entire track, a beautiful instrumental ode to caring for and loving a pet.
“Reaper” directly deals with the complications of motherhood, and the possibility of motherhood. “I’m born to be somebody, then somebody comes from me,” she sings in the beginning line of the chorus. Clairo reflects on our personhood before we become providers, something she wanted to understand with her own mother before applying it to herself. Both in our early twenties, Clairo and I have questions that linger behind any inquiry into the future. How do I live out my twenties fully while also creating a safe, domestic space I can come back to? I used to think these things couldn’t occur simultaneously until Sling gave me the chance to explore my domestic desires.
A MESSAGE OF HEALING RUNS THROUGH SEVERAL TRACKS
Not only does Clairo explore the future idea of “home” and “family,” she also recognizes the importance of prioritizing healing for your future self in order to achieve these domestic goals. “Just For Today” may be searingly honest for people unfamiliar with depression, but for those who are familiar, it is a narration of how life runs – and is taken away – when you experience this specific kind of mental illness. She presents moving through this kind of pain as a way of healing. This idea is indicated in the song’s final lines. Clairo sings, “and finally, an answer from your throat comes crawling, and you can proceed.”
And she does proceed with this form of specific and important healing with the brilliant last track, “Management.” She explores the future while holding onto and existing in the present – that delicate balance of time and desire in your twenties. She imagines a time when “I’ll have friends, and men who don’t interject, harping over old regrets, hating how I let it get to me.” Clairo sees a future she wants without wanting it right now. However, she recognizes the importance of making those steps, personally and physically, to work toward the future she wants.
DOMESTIC VISIONS AND DESIRES BROUGHT TO LIFE
Clairo is working toward this amazing future right now. She recently bought a house in the mountains of Massachusetts. When I visualize this album, I see her and Joanie in that house. I don’t know what it looks like, but I see its shape in the mountains, carved out of a desire for adventure and safety and love. And this vision feels important to me as I listen to the album over and over again. I see my own domestic vision in Clairo’s future desires, and it moves me. We deserve to make homes for ourselves, in our own bodies, even when we are young. We are allowed to reach for these domestic visions when we want to know ourselves. And, in my case, I can reach for this album when I want to know myself in this unique, intimate way that only music can allow.