Clairo: Immunity

2019 / FADER

From a Hidden Bedroom Heroine to a Sought-After Pop Icon

04 August 2019 | By Shino Okamura

It would be inappropriate to talk about the album without introducing its producer—Rostam Batmanglij—first. Frank Ocean, Solange, Charli XCX, Lykke Li, Carly Rae Jepsen, Haim, Angélique Kidjo, Cloud Nothings, Ra Ra Riot, …. Those are just a few artists whose works involved Rostam. Be it be a composer, a producer, or even an engineer, this multi-talented man has many times showed the audience his prowess ever since his time working as a member in the Vampire Weekend. Rostam’s music neither forces any changes with the intense strength hidden in the sound nor does it flexibly change the atmosphere like how a chameleon would do. Instead, Rostam creates a clear, yet elegant Pop music based on his vision, which spans over every single genre in the world of music including Dance, Hause, Techno, African Music, Soul, Folk, Classic, and contemporary music. The music which he wrote clearly displays the “professionalism” which any listeners could easily discern. Of course, Rostam isn’t a jack of all trades. Through his vast knowledge and clear directions, any keen observer could easily notice the artist’s mindset of “sharing one’s expressions as if they were shared treasures” instead of the classic “keeping one’s expressions as their pride and joy.” Rostam’s first solo album—“Half-Light,” which were released by “Nonsuch”—is, undoubtedly, the very harmony of the artist’s vast musical knowledge, independence, and professionalism.

Listening to “Father of the Bride”—Vampire Weekend’s latest release which was composed, produced, mixed by Rostam—any audiences could immediately tell that Vampire Weekend is completed once again. But, what if we listen to both this release and “Summer Girl,” the album marking the official debut of Clairo, a 20 years old girl coming from Massachusetts? No listeners could escape from the unshakeable hunch of Rostam’s next successes as the melodies from these two works start playing. Even though Haim’s latest release will also be reviewed in our July’s “BEST TRACKS OF THE MONTH,” compared to Haim’s release, “Summer Girl” gives off a much stronger delicacy.

First, let us listen to “Closer to You,” a song that utilized auto-tuning. The harmony of the bridges in the song, which employed processed vocal, emphasizes the image of her bedroom, Clairo’s starting point. Bearing a close resemblance to Saint Etienne and New Order, “Sofia,” the next song on our list, features a sudden noise in the middle as if trying to recreate the feeling of a machine going out of control. While they weren’t produced in her bedroom, all of the songs in the album utilized the echo of the drum and various beats to retain the “DYI” feelings from Clairo’s “Pretty Girl” PV.

The true charm of the album this time, however, isn’t the intoxicated “DYI” feelings, but the deep perspectives which are encompassed in all of the songs. With its piano sounds, Clairo’s vocal, the children’s chorus, the gospel and choir which also included a few electronic touches, and the sudden changes to abstract hip-hop, the 7-minute long “I Wouldn’t Ask You” is the clearest proof of these perspectives. Furthermore, this song, which is structured like a medley of two different melodies, served as a documentary, helping listeners to experience the path which Clairo took to move from a cheap bedroom to a professional, intense pop singer. Of course, it’s not difficult for music lovers to realize Rostam’s role in the song. While learning after deeply respected revolutionary music producers such as Phil Spector, Brian Eno, Sylvia Robinson, Dr. Dre, Rostam’s works have significantly supported the young Clairo on her path to becoming a tough pop icon. With this support, Clairo’s vocal has become ever more refined after two years since her first appearance.

The album’s title—“Immunity”—literally means the body’s immunity, though we still do not know what this “immunity” truly implies. However, if we ever think of this title as Clairo’s immunity against pop music, then maybe what the title truly implies is Clairo’s readiness to step on to the big stage. As a young songwriter and a vocalist, for Clairo, this debut album is truly her first step to becoming a strong and dominant figure in the world of music. (Shino Okamura))

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