Claud’s debut album, Super Monster, was just released on Feb. 12. One of the more unknown artists of the new Bedroom Pop subgenre, Claud has, nonetheless, already collaborated with breakthrough artists such as Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes throughout 13 songs, Super Monster is one of the best introductions of Claud’s music to the mainstream. With a colorful, LSD-esque scenescape as its album cover, alongside a mix of traditional Pop, Folk, post-Punk Rock, and, of course, Bedroom Pop, the magpage and diversity of sounds can be seen just by looking at it. Its appearance alone makes it worth a listen, even for people like myself, who hate traditional Pop, as well as my hate for derivative love and break-up albums, which this also is.
The album opens with “Overnight,” a pretty synth-filled progression with charming background vocals. The song talks about a chance encounter resulting in ‘love at first sight,’ and the upbeat sound reflects that. Starting on such a mellow but happy note only has us wonder what’s to come next. Following this is “Gold,” which brings a bit of sonic diversity; acoustic guitars and rattling percussion begins to blend in with their track, but that doesn’t make up for the lyrical content. The song focuses on self doubt between Claud’s partner and them, worrying about leaving for a new life, and describing their environment as icy.
Upcoming is one of the most popular songs — and my favorite — on the album. “Soft Spot” gives listeners a glimpse that this isn’t just a bubbly, lovey pop album, as this song delves into Claud attending sketchy parties, meeting sketchy partners, as well as their own vulnerability, before feeling regretful and depressed over their missed connection. The song itself is very mellow, blending electric with acoustic, but keeping the bass and drums relatively quiet and having no individual sound become overpowering.
As we’re now in the meat of the album, the next couple of songs are still some of the most popular and well-written. “In Or In-Between” sings about Claud’s on-and-off relationship with their partner, barhopping with them while they sing out their internal distress, talk about running away from their town, and having all their friends abandon them while at the bar — all while they debate if they have the courage to make a move with their lover. The long-held synth chords and notes give a feeling of waiting too long, as well as contribute to the laid-back atmosphere, meanwhile contradicting the drummer playing his heart out. It ends with one of the most interesting outro’s I’ve ever heard, as it abruptly stops and is replaced with the same song, but magnitudes slower. Nothing is intelligible, but I found it more beautiful than the original song. I thought I went to a different track, and it helps emphasize how slow time feels for them while they wait for some kind of hint from their partner.
Rounding out this trio of hard-hitting songs is “Cuff Your Jeans” (something every rock fan should already be doing). A short song, “Cuff Your Jeans” is able to cover a lot: from Claud’s consistent thought of moving away (to California, in this case), uncomfortability with growing up or choosing a path, and just small talk, this song has one of the biggest diversity of ideas on the project. The instrumental brings it home as well, being one of the only hard Rock/Punk influenced songs. The leading guitars and drums become very reminiscent of California’s music scene when that topic comes up. Following this is “Ana,” the first guest song featuring Nick Hakim. Besides some very echo-y and reverberated guitars in the chorus, the rest is just textbook folk-Rock, no drums or bass. It sings about leaving home once again, this time driving away suddenly with no destination in mind. Claud’s persona only promises to write back occasionally to those they left behind, but the commitment-anxiety and insecurities trip can’t stop now.
Next: “Guard Down.” This song analyzes the complexities of romance and love; Claud’s persona takes a trip to a place they used to know, meeting an old lover who’s now in a relationship. While the two are still friendly, and some sparks begin to fly again between them, Claud gives both of them one warning: ‘don’t let your guard down.’ They don’t want to interfere in any relationship and replace it with theirs, one that most likely would long-distance by season. The instrumental is upbeat with powerful drums, and, between that and the chorus, I definitely find this the most catchy or radio-friendly song of the album. The song fades out with the instruments stripped — all except for Claud and their acoustic guitar, singing into one mic on the nostalgia of summers in New York, giving a hint on the depth of this story.
Afterwards, we have “This Town,” arguably the emotional climax of the project. Singing about their current town — its slow-paced, boring atmosphere with no opportunities for young people — Claud finally makes the decision that they’ve been mulling over to move away and not look back. With lyrics about refusing to get wasted every night and finding clarity, they finally have the strength to make the plans that are best for them — to search for better, less depression-inducing pastures.
Following this revelation is “Jordan,” a half-love letter and half-apology letter for a former partner as they begin to plan to leave. It’s a song contradicted with emotion and using oxymorons every other line. Claud simultaneously admits they will apologize for everything in their relationship, even things that were solely their partner’s fault. There is a constant battle of wanting them back and wanting them gone, and, throughout this, we get one of the clearest images of Claud’s psyche, or, as some English majors insist on calling it, their fatal flaw. We can clearly see here that Claud’s a people-pleaser above all else. They will apologize for everything they didn’t do, avoid drama if it means sacrificing themselves, and will give more than undeserving people a second chance. While it can’t be said it’s the root of all their problems, it’s the first one admitted, which gives listeners hope that they will grow by the end of the album, and beyond.
Now here’s the post-Punk anthem everyone’s been waiting for! “That’s Mr. Bitch To You,” guest starring Melenie Faye, is the antithesis to “Jordan,” with incredibly high energy and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that are more than willing to dish back what their exes have been doing for years. Featuring a rad guitar solo, this song is the growth everyone wanted from the last track, and, oh, did it come through. The only downside here is that this is one of the shortest tracks on the album, clocking in at a measly 2:20. Following the much-needed tone shift is “Pepsi,” a song all about zen forgiveness and indifference while keeping their newfound confidence — just without all the aggression. Even admitting “I don’t wanna be rude / I wanted to be cool,” Claud goes in with a cynical yet superior attitude, while they put their past lovers in place while they still have the time in this old town. All of this is followed by an upbeat, beachy alt-Rock tune that makes for a song anyone could enjoy.
As the album comes to a close, we reach the penultimate: “Rocks At Your Window.” This song apparently addresses one more ex they still feel for, possibly their “Soft Spot?” This is the shortest track, at only 1:35, and gives us a brief tune of wishing this person would change and put in more effort, while given the backdrop of soft folk Rock. They ask one more time for a reconciliation, and they half-jokingly sang that they would pettily throw rocks at their window.
Finally, the closer — none other than “Falling With the Rain.” A gorgeous mesh of Punk, Folk, and alt-Bedroom Pop, this is the most satisfying song I could imagine Super Monster ending with. Still singing about depression, but this time with more of an upbeat, zen attitude, this song gives a bittersweet finale to imagine Claud’s journey beyond this. Their issues with mental health and other people seem to have disappeared, a la the difference between saying ‘I’m depressed’ and saying ‘I have depression.’ Claud simply asks for patience to ground themselves while backing vocals and a synth solo close out the album, much like a rainbow after a storm.
To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in this album to begin with. One of the only genres I despise is Pop, but, after reading over Claud’s collaborations with Clairo and them being the first signee of Phoebe Bridgers’ new record label, I gained a bit more interest, knowing they were surrounded by extremely talented Rock, Folk, and Bedroom Pop musicians. You can really pick up on this influence, too, listening through the album; there are pure sections of Bedroom Pop, Rock, and Folk sounds throughout, which made it a lot more hard to categorize as Pop, but rather in the catch-all genre of Alternative.
This project was well above average, and I have to commend Claud for putting together such a diversified debut album without bastardizing any of its roots. All-in-all, I’ll give Super Monster a 7.3/10, and, if you want the hits, you should absolutely listen to “Overnight,” “Soft Spot,” “In-Or-In between,” and “Guard Down.” If you have a little more time, I’d also recommend “This Town” for a better understanding of their music.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of Claud / Bandcamp