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Clairo’s Charm Album Review: Beautiful, But Strangely Numbing

Clairo’s Charm Album Review: Beautiful, But Strangely Numbing

Clairo has come a long way since livening up her bedroom in a dorm in Syracuse. FascinationOn her third album, all that remains of those early viral days are Clairo’s steady, feathery vocals. Everything has changed, replacing synthesizers and electronic beats with natural instrumentation. SlingJack Antonoff’s quiet, intimate retreat to the Catskill woods was a change of pace. Fascination, She fully embraces an organic, earth-bound sound.

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This time around, Clairo brought in Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings to head the board, bringing in Leon Michels of El Michels Affair and a handful of studio musicians to record. Fascination was recorded (mostly) live. The resulting recording is undoubtedly beautiful, with moments of majesty and tenderness. But Fascination’Passivity can be a challenge; despite the continued focus on instrumentation and analog recordings, Fascination It doesn’t feel like a risk to Clairo. It really doesn’t feel like anything.

It’s almost surprising to hear that the album was recorded with such a heavy emphasis on live instrumentation, as there doesn’t seem to be any room for human error in the equation. There’s not a single hair out of place. Fascinationand that certainly owes a debt to the experienced ears of Michels and the studio musicians, as well as Clairo’s decisive arrangements. Fascination attempts to create a sense of lived-in feel through record scratches, soothing vocals, and nostalgic, vintage instruments—but these elements give the impression of “lived-in” in an Urban Outfitters way, rather than in a way that reflects Clairo’s personal and professional transformation.

Fascination shows some maturity—for one, he definitely brings more specificity to his musical arrangements. There’s a delicate balance between syncopated instrumentation and more expansive, legato modes; “Terrapin'” features flourishes of jazz piano dancing throughout the track, “Second Nature” adds some cartoonish “hum-dum” choruses to the mix, and “Echo” finds a satisfying interplay between a swirling vintage synth and a finger-plucked guitar.

There’s barely any guitar except for “Echo” Fascinationthe indie rock tone of her debut album Immunity and Antonoff-esque crazy guitar Sling is removed from the mixture. Instead, Fascination is a piano album through and through, and it helps Clairo achieve the classically-driven sound she was looking for. Michels’ work is also prominent throughout, his knack for injecting soul into a variety of genres adding some much-needed character to the record.

Whereas Sling Withdrawn into vulnerable thoughts and solitude, Clairo let the light in Fascination. Lead single “Sexy to Someone” is deceptively simple, but its message of desire is somewhat poignant: “Sexy to somebody, would help me/ Oh, I need a reason to leave home” is the warm, yearning chorus, a fitting reminder that being wanted is a tenet of existence. On standout track “Add Up My Love,” she yearns for a romantic comeback and laments the collapse of a relationship, shrugging in the chorus, asking, “Add up my love/ Is it ever enough?”

Yet, even with the gorgeous instrumentals and melodies, as well as the heartfelt lyrical meditations, there’s something missing from the album. FascinationMuch of that missing feeling can be credited to Clairo’s languid, murmuring vocals. She’s undoubtedly a talented singer with impressive control and the ability to convey the weight of her cutting lyrics (See: “Walking Out the Door with Your Bags”).

But on it Fascination“her vocals are so utilitarian and pillow-soft that they strip these songs of their emotional facade.”Sexy is something I see in everything/ On “Sexy to Someone,” she drops the final line “honey sticking to your hands, sugar on the rim” — an appropriately descriptive, evocative phrase — making it seem as if she lacks desire. When she repeats “Thank you for your time” on the fast-paced “Thank You,” there’s nothing in the way she says or delivers those words that suggests anything other than indifference. Too much Fascination falls into this strange, impressionless arena; everything sounds are nice, but none of them seem to be enough to impress the listener.

Open SlingClairo’s vocals similarly fell into this mode, but the album’s tone was much more introspective; her compassion also made songs like “Blouse” and “Reaper” more devastating. Fascination’The singer’s mood is undoubtedly more upbeat, and with the exception of the beautiful vibratos on “Add Up My Love” and “Nomad,” her vocals fail to convey the energy she puts into her arrangements and instrumentation.

And even that’s asking for more spark. Songs Fascination They’re stylish, but they more or less reside in safe territory. A few songs flirt with a more cosmic approach, like “Terrapin'” and “Juna,” but “Echo” finally cracks the psychedelic window. There’s a jarring moment in “Echo” where the band behind Clairo suddenly cuts out for half a bar and then continues. It’s an earned shift in momentum, but it’s also Fascination The rest of the album could use a few more unpredictable moments; the fast-paced numbers deserve just a dose of chaos, the ballads need a little searing emotion.

Explaining what “fascination” is, Clairo said: Lately that it’s “a feeling you have”. “When you’re enchanted, it’s the perfect mix of making stupid looks at someone platonically, romantically, and not knowing how long it’s going to last.” He’s definitely pulled off some kind of magic Fascinationthe “goofy-eyed” feeling manifested by a hypnotic, pleasant voice.

But the second half of his statement – not knowing how long it will take – is not available Fascinationbecause that would mean higher emotional stakes, more tension, greater risks. The magic she casts is nostalgic, comforting, and warm; it’s certainly not a dirty potion. And yet Clairo’s music, for all its goodness, can be more powerful when the spell is broken.