Review roundup

18 Aug

Clairo ‘Immunity’

Clairo’s ‘Immunity’ is a memorable debut that carves plush pop out of burgeoning emotions. Her voice is a breathy thing that, In its fragility, makes Clairo sound reluctant to commit to what she’s saying, even as she’s saying it. This hesitancy extends to the way she drifts nonchalantly from genre to genre, tackling lo-fi indie (‘Sofia’) as  awkwardly, and endearingly, as she does dreamy pop (‘White Flag’) or R&B (‘Softly’). Only lead single ‘Closer to You’ misses the mark, with a trap beat that conspires against her excessively manipulated vocals. Clairo is a sophisticated lyricist; her writing on the subject of blossoming love is nuanced and well observed, bypassing cliche and the usual pitfalls almost entirely. While nothing on ‘Immunity’ matches the majesty of ‘Pretty Girl’, the gem that propelled her to YouTube stardom in the first place, there is more than enough promise here to suggest that song won’t define her.

8/10

Bruce Springsteen ‘Western Stars

Bruce Springsteen’s first out and out solo album in over a decade is a surprisingly ornate collection that recalls the style of MOR country, popular in the 1970s. If the concept sounds questionable (song titles like ‘Tucson Train’, ‘Hitch Hikin’ and ‘The Wayfarer’ don’t help fill you with confidence) then the execution certainly isn’t; Springsteen hasn’t sounded this vital for a long time. 

On ‘Western Stars’ his aging characters are restless, moving from town to town, haunted by memories and the ghosts of their past. They’re In conversation with “the voice that keeps us awake at night“, trying to make sense of a world that is changing all around them. There are musical ghosts to reckon with as well – the howl of the guitar was born in ‘Nebraska’, the love sick melodies and opulent production are reminiscent of ‘Tunnel of Love’. Springsteen himself sounds weathered and mature – never more evocative than on the helplessly nostalgic ‘Chasin’ Wild Horses’ and ‘Moonlight Hotel’, two of the finest ballads he’s ever written. The lavish orchestral accompaniments are as wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle – they sound pleasing in the background but closer inspection reveals the water to be syrup. Still, Springsteen fans are more than used to a little saccharine here and there – that doesn’t stop ‘Western Stars’ being an unexpected triumph. 

7.5/10

Strange Ranger ‘Remembering the Rockets’

Strange Ranger are one of several fringe emo bands to emerge recently who sound more like Big Star than American Football. They front load their debut ‘Remembering the Rockets’ with melodic pop-rock before the paint flakes and reveals darker shades on the record’s second side. They’re stretching at points – three quzi-ambient instrumentals kill momentum and are too slight to be purposeful – but generally this is an impressive meditation on early adulthood. ‘Remembering the Rockets’ is a low key, subtly ambitious breakthrough.

7/10

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