The speed at which Clairo became an indie-rock sensation upset a lot of people in the music scene. In the months following the release of her viral track “Pretty Girl” on YouTube in 2017, Claire Cottrill became a punching bag for music enthusiasts who argued that her sound is one-noted and wispy, the references to her bisexuality are hollow panders to progressive critics and the LGBT community and her familial ties to the music industry means she hasn’t earned her stage as an organic indie-pop sensation.
As a result, there was a lot riding on “Immunity,” Cottrill’s first full-length album; it was her opportunity to prove her worth in producing truly sincere and heartfelt music and her shot to shake off the phrase “industry plant” from the Google search results of her name. And to that, “Immunity,” for the most part, exists as a mixed bag of fulfilled expectations and slightly disappointing additions. While the record has its shining moments, much of it falls flat.
The record opens with “Alewife,” a soft ballad that tells a story set in suburban Massachusetts of someone who was pulled from the edge of self-harm by somebody close to them, which begins and ends with a soft piano and Cottrill’s breezy vocals. While the song sets the tone for and eases the listener into the rest of the album, the song itself doesn’t present much in the way of vocals or instrumentation to leave a lasting impression, despite its striking and personal lyrics.
“Closer To You” is the first track on the album that got noticeable attention from listeners online. It’s the album’s attempt at a more angrily moody song, full of synth baselines and autotuned vocals. It feels out of character in sound, theme, and lyrics with a structure that feels sloppy, like a sequence of moody verses slammed into each other.
Almost all of the album after its most overrated track, “Sofia,” tends to get soaked into itself. The vocals often resign to being too low to make an impression and are laid together with very standard and equally soft instrumentation. “Feel Something”, one of these later songs, is the album’s attempt to mimic a generic billboard hit, complete with a drawn-out and unmemorable chorus that feels like it was designed to stick in your head after listening to it on the car radio. The lyrics are hollow and emotionally simplistic, and the echoing kickdrums and swooshing claps feel overproduced.
The main thing the record has to offer is its shining gems that stick true to what Clairo hit true to when she wrote “Pretty Girl.” The album reaches its peak in its center with a sequence of beautifully written songs starting with “North,” which is by far the strongest and most underrated track in the record. Its hauntingly resigned refrain of “Maybe I should just go up north” coupled with a fading grungy guitar is easily the most powerful part of the album.
“Bags,” which follows, is equally impressive with piercing lo-fi pianos and acoustic guitar chords and Cottrill’s breezy voice describing in detail the moments of being with someone and watching something that neither of you is interested in when it’s clear that both of you are only thinking of each other. “Can you see me doing everything to hold back? I guess this could be worse / Walking out the door with your bags,” she sings, knowing that even that eternal limbo of being so close yet apart is better than doing something someone wasn’t asking for and ruining your night and your relationship. “Bags” is brilliant in how it can be so specific yet so elucidating of an increasingly integral crossroads in young relationships.
“Immunity,” more than anything, shows that Clairo’s future as a songwriter and musician is promising. With her heartfelt and personal lyrics with suburban themes and the euphoric energy of her instrumentation, she creates an album that is more than worth listening to despite some of its dull parts. “Immunity” won’t be the record that makes her career, but it will be the one that shows that there is a lot to expect and be excited for from Claire Cottrill.