Album Review: No One is Immune to Clairo’s Immunity
Departing from the lo-fi production of her earlier tracks, Clairo reflects on her past and its influence on her present on her debut full-length album, Immunity. With increased production value and lyrics that cover the emotional spectrum, this album proves Clairo’s talent transcends “Pretty Girl.”
Written by Laiken Neumann
In the two years since the toy piano and MacBook photobooth video of her song “Pretty Girl” went viral on YouTube, Claire Cottrill, known musically as Clairo, has come a long way. Her debut full-length album, Immunity, reflects upon her relationships and how they have shaped her.
While many were initially drawn to the lo-fi production of Clairo’s earlier tracks, the addition of higher production value of this album proves that her success was not unwarranted. Produced by Rostam Batmanglij, former member of Vampire Weekend, in collaboration with Peter Cottontale, and Clairo herself, the instrumentation on the album builds on Clairo’s lyrical bases and expands the world of each track.
On the song “Impossible,” the choral voices and quick, rolling keys scream Modern Vampires of the City (Vampire Weekend’s 2013 album). Rostam’s influence on the album is not entirely tied to Vampire Weekend call backs, however. He filled Immunity with ethereal piano, warped guitar, and little frills in the soundscape that fully flesh out Clairo’s ideas. The collaboration between Clairo and Rostam allows Immunity, and each song within it, to have a distinguished sound, proving the prophetic pair to be a match made in music lovers’ heaven.
Even without considering the elevated production level of Immunity, the album is emotionally and thematically rich in Clairo’s personal rumination over the experiences that have shaped her.
The opening track, “Alewife,” sets the scene of the album with a slow ballad in which Clairo thanks a friend who stopped her from committing suicide in the eighth grade. The song’s dive into Clairo’s past introduces the idea of reflection and growth, serving listeners a soft, solemn welcome into her history. On “Alewife,” Clairo speaks an ultimate truth to all who experienced a below average middle school experience: “Eighth grade never was that tight.”
Both “White Flag” and “Feel Something” are laments to past lovers. “White Flag” is an anthem of personal closure with someone who has hurt her. On “Feel Something,” Clairo discusses the struggle of a fading relationship and letting go of something that isn’t working. These songs contribute to the nostalgic theme of reflection that constitutes Immunity.
Another theme on Immunity is Clairo’s acceptance of her bisexuality. She told Genius that the album’s first single, “Bags,” is about “one of her first experiences with a girl.” It captures the uncertainty of an entirely new love interest. Clairo’s shy comments (“No, you’d make fun of me”) paired with the distorted guitar trailing along the chorus create an unstoppable track.
Just as she began the album with a storytelling track, she closes it with “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” which describes her boyfriend taking care of her after she was admitted to the hospital with arthritis. The song features a tonal shift half way through, creating two distinct sections to the song. The first half is a slow, piano-driven ballad, while the second takes the form of a catchy, almost hopeful R&B-influenced track. Both parts of the song utilize a children’s choir, which Clairo herself has said reflect upon the extremity of emotions she feels, suggesting that the two parts themselves represent the extent of her emotions. Ending the album with “I Wouldn’t Ask You” is like tucking you into bed and saying, “Everything is going to be okay.” After the tone shift, the children’s choir even repeatedly echoes, “You’ll be alright.”
Essentially, Immunity is an album of acceptance. Clairo finally recognizes these formative tales of her past and the person they’ve made her into today. The album’s title itself suggests her growth and immunity to things that would have brought her down previously.
As an album of bops that you can both dance and cry to, Immunity is a complete experience. It fortifies itself as Clairo’s best work to date and cements Clairo as a versatile artist who will not be defined by her past successes.