For an artist such as Clairo, who burst onto the music scene with DIY pop singles that found viral streaming success, a lot of weight can be placed on the debut album in determining the trajectory of its artist’s career. With her first full-length, Immunity, Clairo seizes on the opportunity, releasing an unexpected highlight of the summer in music. It is her strongest body of work to date and solidifies herself as a talented singer-songwriter with staying power.
Immunity finds Clairo splitting the difference between Gen Z bedroom pop star and indie rocker in the best way possible. “Bags” was rightly chosen as the lead single for the album—its fuzzy guitar and earworm melody quickly became one of my most-played tracks of the year after its release. “Every second counts,” she opens the song, depicting the tension of a crush. Clairo’s queer identity is present in small but meaningful ways throughout the album, and “Bags” is cleverly complicated by the uncertainty of having newfound feelings for someone of the same gender. “Can you see me? I’m waiting for the right time / I can’t read you, but if you want, the pleasure’s all mine / Can you see me using everything to hold back?” she croons. On “Sofia,” the memorable chorus “I think we could do it if we try” doubles as not only a proposition to the titular love interest, but also an affirmation of reassurance to oneself in the face of self-doubt over one’s sexuality.
Many of the songs on Immunity feel suspended in a moment—between a feeling and an action; between the present and the future; between desires and reality. “All I’m tryna say is I miss you in every way / Fingertips on my back / Things I know that I can’t have,” she sings on “North.” Clairo writes songs about love and the uncertainty of early adulthood with just the right level of specificity. In a similar (albeit less nuanced) manner to Frank Ocean, Clairo sprinkles details throughout her songs in an impressionistic way that lends them both sincerity and relatability—her memories could be our own.
At the center of the record is Clairo’s voice. It is gentle but compelling, adding warmth and familiarity to her introspective lyrics. Her sharp but simple songwriting is further elevated by production from Rostam Batmanglij, who has created a fruitful catalogue of production and solo music since leaving Vampire Weekend in 2017. His production provides the album a level of consistency even as it moves from classical-inspired arpeggios on one track to heavily autotuned crooning on the next. Rostam continues to record drums like no other, and the drums on this album—some of which are played by pop-rock star and frequent Rostam collaborator Danielle Haim—are consistently strong throughout, adding momentum to the songs. Clairo and Rostam prove to be an inspired team on Immunity, and together have created a project that feels distinctly Clairo—an impressive and significant achievement for a young artist early in her career.
Featured image: Illustration by Elizabeth Hung