“Eighth grade was never that tight,” Clairo sings in the final line of “Alewife”, the first track on her debut album Immunity. It’s an ironic understatement, ending a song about an averted teenage suicide attempt. It sounds like something a kindly older student would say in Bo Burnham’s movie Eighth Grade, or the sardonic cousin of that famous exhange in The Virgin Suicides: “You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.” “Obviously, doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.”
Clairo, the musical identity of 21-year-old Claire Cottrill from Massachusetts, first found success after her lo-fi, deadpan music video “Pretty Girl” went viral. Immunity holds many of that song’s charms – mumbled vocals, barely there melodies, crisp drums and wry distance – but adds more intricate production, maturing lyrics and moments of surprise. The boldest songs come as a hat-trick: the vocoder-laced “Closer To You” is a masterclass in disorientating, frustrated longing: angry and distant one moment, tender and soulful the next. The anxious electricity of “North” layers light, floating vocals over distorted fuzz to tentatively explore a stalled relationship. Lead single “Bags” starts with a simple, propulsive combo of drums, bass and vocals, before steadily building contrasting textures that blend together.
Elsewhere, Immunity is subtle and unexpected. “Sofia” starts off like the Strokes but melts into an electro-pop ballad. “Sinking” explores the singer’s chronic pain through sultry vocal trills with R&B backing. And “Alewife” could end after that reflective eighth grade lyric, but pushes forward instead, adding a new synth melody and scuzzier reverb, becoming more complicated but possibly more hopeful, too.