Claud – Super Monster Album Review

Saddest Factory – 2021

This album is a debut in two aspects, being the first album from LA based bedroom-pop star Claud Mintz and also being the first release on Phoebe Bridgers‘ newly founded Saddest Factory Records, launched last October. Claud first gained attention for their woozy dream-pop infused “Wish You Were Gay” released back in 2019 followed by their Sideline Star EP released later in the year. Following on from the likes of fellow bedroom-pop stars Clairo and Beabadoobee, who have gained a loyal set of fans thanks to their intimate, yet sonically rewarding pop ballads. They now return with a coming of age album that is infused with heartbreak and yearning to be loved.

The album title refers to a drawing done by Daniel Johnston titled Claud And The Super Monster and this idea of a superhero and monster merged into one is something that Claud inhabits on this album. Everybody’s got the good and the bad within them, but ultimately they’re just trying to do their best. Claud spent most of their adolescence moving from city to city, the inevitable fallout that this had on personal relationships can be felt throughout this album. Over various moods of indie-pop tinged musings Claud tells the story of somebody clinging on to love when ultimately it may be doomed to fail. The opening line of the glittery opener “Overnight” tells this exact tale, “I fell in love like a fool overnight”. Claud has previously said that they “feel love really intensely” and you can hear every ounce of the love that Claud wants to give, especially on intimate moments like on the intoxicatingly catchy “Soft Spot” where they sing “Pull the covers over our short hair, Pretend like the city wasn’t there”. They’re not even afraid to put aside embarrassment and share unpolished anecdotes like on “Pepsi” as they sing “I hate that you told me to masturbate, Instead of comin’ over”.

Perhaps one of Claud’s strongest assets that is explored on this album is their ability to turn experiences into unapologetically catchy melodies. You only need to hear the chorus line of “In Or In -Between” once to have it stuck in your head for days. Even on softer moments like “This Town” the serenity of Claud’s vocals reign supreme above every other aspect of the track. Bathed in psychedelic infused textures, there’s a certain natural cool to Claud’s vocal stylings, never straining too hard but always hitting the sweet spot of momentary bliss, the like of which can be felt all over “Soft Spot”. And she even invokes some of the tendencies of pop’s super queen Taylor Swift on “Jordan”, through its country tinged ballad flow, it wouldn’t feel out of place on Swift’s Red album.

It’s not just the modern pop greats that Claud leans on for influence though. There’s also hints of early 2000’s pop-punk on the misogynist put-down “That’s Mr. Bitch To You”. And on “Guard Down” they infuse elements of post-disco, with the obnoxiously gratifying back and forth groove. There can be moments however where the influence and genre fusing can become slightly off-putting. Unfortunately this is found during the second verse of “Guard Down” where Claud’s faux-rap interlude takes you away from the sweet tendencies the rest of the track offers and almost borders on the line of parody. It’s clear that Claud was obviously just having fun whilst making these tracks, but that sometimes comes at the cost of losing the rawness of the songs sound.

As this album progresses you can at times feel Claud get too fixed into her comfort zone of short indie-centric, flanger-infused ballads. On penultimate track “Rocks At Your Window”, the melody and guitar passage is oozing in raw longing, however as this song is just about to reach a potentially powerful climax it fades out. There’s a glimpse of where the track could have gone on the first chorus, but instead it’s exchanged for a short fade out of swirling synthesisers. And on “Pepsi” the 80’s inspired bass line and synth pop soundscapes never really bring the song to any new grounds that can’t be heard elsewhere on the album. Claud’s vocal don’t even feel as inspired here, that hint of understated prowess just feels slightly missing. But this album does end on a strong conclusion however with “Falling With The Rain”, a track that features Shelly, a band compromised of Claud them self, Clairo and former Toast bandmate Josh Mehling. The power pop groove breathes new life into the end of the album and Claud’s natural flair returns with her juxtaposing lyrics of “In my head, I hang on by a thread” that backed with a swirl of uplifting and dance hall worth instrumentation. The super monster metaphor still runs true.

For a first outing Claud has certainly set the bar high for whatever may come next, a bare bones album full of honesty and unpolished tales of a life of love. But for now lets just enjoy the pop-centric grooves that Claud has brought us and try and find the super monster within ourselves as we listen.

beabadoobee – Fake It Flowers Album Review

Dirty Hit – 2020

Bea Kristi, the Phillipines born, London based singer-songwriter has spent the last couple of years building up an online base of dedicated fans, thanks to her slew of bedroom-pop orientated slew of EP’s. Following from the likes of Clairo, Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail, Kristi has helped in the revival of the guitar ballad for a new generation. The chorus filled guitars and dreamy melodies of 2019’s Loveworm showed an emerging songwriter that played into the intimate side of a song, creating emotion through vibrant soundscapes and affection filled lyrics. On her debut album Fake It Flowers Kristi’s songwriting is as potent as ever, whilst expanding her sound out to incorporate a more grunge fuelled drive.

The bubblegum pop sound that Kristi has attributed herself to is still present on this album, “Dye It Red” with its driving groove and Kristi’s ever potent lyrics of self worth “And maybe it’s time to change my ways, But that doesn’t include you”. But the feel of this album is that of blending nostalgia with the present. The early 2000’s pop punk sounds of Avril Lavigne can be heard throughout opener “Care” through its punchy guitars and slacker like groove, whilst still infusing the signature chorus filled indie guitar leads. And on “Charlie Brown” the cinematic guitar hits build perfectly to the all out rager chorus lines of “Throw it away” that have all the elements of a Blink-182 Enema Of The State era hit. This expansions of Kristi’s sound is a natural progression for the grunge superfan, who previously stated “I want to live in the 90’s“. Coming out in its harshest form on “Sorry” as the fuzzed up guitars crash in on the chorus, backed by a Nirvana style riff. A short but potent burst of pure raw emotion.

Kristi also explores new textures of her more dreamy and ethereal side on “Back To Mars” and “Emo Song”. The first of which does come to a conclusion rather quickly, leaving you wondering how much more of this sound Kristi could have incorporated if she’d just given it that extra push. But the latter does present some of Kristi’s most nostalgia filled soundscaping to date through its gliding melodies and twinkling synthesisers. Tapping into that 90’s inspired throwback sound that could be found all over fellows contemporary Soccer Mommy’s debut album Clean.

This album is beabadoobee in and out. Not just in the sense of her being the one that created it, but rather laying down every aspect of herself into this album. Her inspirations are clear within the sound but where the honesty of this album really comes through is in the storytelling. One of the saddest sounding songs on the album, “Emo Song” also has one of the most personal stories on the album as Kristi tells the story of how being mistreated in her childhood let to her developing trust issues later in life. “You call me up, and lie again, Like all the men I used to trust, Nobody knows when I was young, I lost myself in cosmic dust”. There’s even reference to self harm on “Charlie Brown” as Kristi explains how a tattoo of Snoopy helped stop her from harming herself. “Back on old habits, That no one knows about, Too bad that Charlie Brown, Has inked you up to slow you down”. It’s this level of intimacy and emotional outpour that helps establish Kristi’s earnestness, creating a truly relatable and authentic songwriter.

Where this album looses its footing however is towards the latter half of the tracklist, almost as if Kristi has used all her impact to on the opening of the album and runs a bit dry of new ideas. “How Was Your Day?” is the second longest song on the album and it really feels like it. At 4:20 it’s not the longest song in the world but after chugging through a multitude of verses, it can become a bit overbearing and dragging after a while. The lo-fi recording of it also feels like a throwback to some of Kristi’s earliest releases, but this late on in the album slows down the pacing and the flow and just feels almost like an unnecessary gimmick. And for all the bravado and show tune-esque emotion that is thrown into “Horen Sarrison” it still seems to spend a bit too much time floating about on a violin sweep or instrumental breakout without offering any real direction for the song. There’s some fantastic use of melody shifting within the track, but too often it leans back on this as a way of prolonging the song out further. The frantic nature of Kristi’s sound returns on closer “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene” but the wild flailing guitars and rolling melodies feel a bit too raw and unpolished to finish off an album that has been all about impact and packing a punch.

An album that showcases what beabadoobe is all about, and why you should know her name. That’s not to say it isn’t without its flaws, but it stands as a very solid starting position, ready for beabadoobee to race out into the world and show it what she’s made of.