Clairo, “Charm”

Claire Cottrill goes all in on love on her third album, with slick, sophisticated, and richly detailed modern production fortifying the confidence and intimacy of her storytelling.

Clairo, Charm

Claire Cottrill goes all in on love on her third album, with slick, sophisticated, and richly detailed modern production fortifying the confidence and intimacy of her storytelling.

Words: Matty Pywell

July 10, 2024


When Clairo’s debut album Immunity was released back in 2019, we were introduced to an emotionally intelligent songwriter who effortlessly translated the woes of her generation into song. In diaristic style, we heard of Claire Cottrill’s struggles with mental health, the awkwardness of navigating young crushes, and various other growing pains. Quickly heralding “voice of a generation” headlines, the term never really sat right for Clairo—hardly surprising given the term’s lack of nuance. But in putting her experiences of adolescence on record, Clairo made space for vital conversations and a figurative shoulder to cry on for people who hadn’t quite been able to articulate these types of feelings themselves. 

Following 2021’s Sling, which saw Clairo reprioritizing things as she pondered domesticity and initiated a period of healing, her third album Charm sees her willing to go all in on love, regardless of the consequences. What’s immediately apparent is Charm’s continuation of the warmth felt throughout Sling. That earlier record was inspired by the Laurel Canyon scene, utilizing ’70s-tinged psychedelia and elegant folk melodies. Charm has similar psychedelic moments, but doubles down on a sense of slick sophistication. The swooning “Slow Dance” features crashing cymbals, where you could swear you can hear dust shaking off of the vibrations. There’s soul-inspired guitar riffs which shine alongside deeply melodic piano lines. The keys create a sound like cascading rain droplets and, in what is a constant throughout Charm, small touches (in this case brass sections and woodwinds making fleeting but lasting impressions) elevate “Slow Dance” even further. 

Clairo has always placed an emphasis on intimacy, from Immunity’s shy forays into early affection to Sling’s quiet ruminations on inner complexities. Charm achieves a much tighter sense of closeness. The culmination of “Slow Dance”’s layered melodies feels like an embrace, like pulling someone in and gripping them so tightly you can smell the history of their fabrics. Meanwhile, “Juna” sees Clairo pondering if she’s being too intimate, although that façade is quickly dropped as she yearns for a sense of closeness. To be charmed is to be trapped in the spell of another, but Clairo sees the spell right in front of her and willingly follows it anyway from the very beginning of the album. Now in her mid-twenties, Clairo is willing to jump into romantic situations with abandon (long gone is the trepidation that dominated Immunity). Songs such as “Thank You” contemplate fate and recognizing someone’s importance to you from the start, even if you’re doomed from that point onward. It features a piano hook in the chorus that’s so simplistically joyful that you can feel it leap in your heart.

There are constant moments of infatuation on Charm: “Add Up My Love” is a declaration of being willing to finally give oneself fully to someone, something that they can’t reciprocate. Instead, Clairo becomes a shadow to them of what could’ve been—a shadow which she, too, inherits across Charm. This is Clairo at her most confident, willing to face the various pitfalls that romance brings in a search for understanding, to counter the loneliness she’s experienced in her life and really learn what love means to her. It retains her tendency to hit upon universal feelings, as we all look for connection and our own individual definitions. 

You can feel that sense of confidence oozing throughout the meticulous and lovingly constructed Charm. It coincides with a satisfying sense of evolution for Clairo in which she takes the elegant and sometimes shy palette of Sling and imbues it with her most irresistible grooves and splendidly detailed melodies to date. If Immunity chronicled the scars of teenage life, and Sling was the healing process from those deep wounds, then Charm serves as the chapter where Clairo finally allows herself to explore her desires and take risks with her heart, for better and worse.