Clairo’s New Indie-Folk Convocations Make Sling Shine

On her latest album, Sling, bedroom pop princess Clairo is unrecognizable.

Sling album cover

Clairo:

Sling

Genre: Folk

Sound: Melancholy ’70s folk tunes that evoke autumnal forests and winter campfires.
If you like: Joni Mitchell, Elliott Smith, folklore-era Taylor Swift
Why you should listen: This heavily stylized, classic singer-songwriter release marks a notable (and remarkable) departure from Clairo’s typical bedroom pop stylings. It’s clear she’s grown up, and the notable Elliott Smith and Joni Mitchell influences make this album appealing to all ages.
Best track: Blouse

 

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On her latest album, Sling, bedroom pop princess Clairo is unrecognizable. Most know her from the genre-defining Pretty Girl, her breakout hit, which—along with its accompanying lo-fi music video—immediately established her as an aesthetic icon for the hyper-online indie girls of the 2000s.

All the more interesting, then, that the former Y2K pop girl went off the grid, escaped into the woods and came back out with one of the best major folk albums of the last decade.

Sling is quiet, pensive and enduringly understated: Clairo’s voice whispers its way throughout the album, singing wandering tunes layered with Fleet Foxes-esque harmonies and warbling Joni Mitchell sweetness. The album is so charmingly, perfectly autumnal that its July release almost seems like a cosmic mistake.

Sling was written and produced with pop mastermind Jack Antonoff, whose recent work has toyed with the themes that spring to life on the project: Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore are the obvious comparisons, and St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home leans into the ’70s with similar commitment.

Despite these thematic similarities, though, Sling is a beast all its own— there’s no trace of the pop sensibilities that marked Antonoff’s previous projects, and no track on this album was meant to be a stadium hit. It’s a folk album, through and through. Here, Clairo sounds far more like a Joni Mitchell/Elliott Smith lovechild than the pop girlies she’s often grouped together with (the album’s lead single, Blouse, is a dead ringer for Smith’s Say Yes).

Sling isn’t perfect by any means (a friend recently tweeted “I thought I was listening to a particularly long song off Clairo’s new album but it turned out to be three back-to-back songs that I couldn’t tell were different”; and that criticism isn’t unwarranted) but it’s a remarkable album, both in execution and conviction. Clairo’s transformation from bedroom pop savant to a mournful, maudlin, indie-folk faerie is an about-face the likes of which the industry hasn’t seen since Alanis Morissette.

I hope Clairo is comfortable here, and I sense that she is: the album has already drawn criticism from fans hoping for the aestheticized, TikTok-ready indie pop she’s produced in the past, but it’s clear that this is what her voice was made for. On Sling, Clairo crackles with all the warmth and light of a mid-winter campfire.

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