Album Review: Claud – ‘Super Monster’

After taking a semester’s leave from uni, indie-pop maven Claud went on to tour with Girlpool, Girl in Red, and The Neighbourhood, and never made it back. Now signed to the new imprint label from Phoebe Bridgers, the young singer has carved tales of queer flings and unrequited love into a rapturous debut album, Super Monster. Charlie Farrer shares his thoughts.

Claud’s new record Super Monster takes us on a gentle exploration of queer love and post-teen relationships. This collection of thirteen songs delivers us vibrant pop tunes with a distinct passion and tenderness that makes them deeply personal and relatable for the listener. Finding your identity and traversing the loneliness and isolation of being a young queer person is something that many of Claud’s listeners may likely relate to, and the young star composes these songs about their ventures with vigor and skill. The product of this is a compilation of heartful bops that paint images of summer’s days with friends and a past romance with a girl you loved deeply, outside of society’s harsh expectations.

The twenty-one-year-old states that these songs “detailed the phases of only two or three relationships, simply written during them or at various points after they were over.” They explain: “I’d write about how I felt in the moment, then two months later, a year later. My perspective evolved during one relationship with the same person. I changed so much that it feels like a different person writing some of these songs – but it’s just me.” We feel this journey through the emotions of current and past relationships as we enjoy this album. This follows on from the honest and uplifting sound of 2019’s Sideline Star; both releases a testament to what it’s like to be young and in and out of love. However, Super Monster is enriched with a new musical maturity from Claud with every song perfectly crafted for a purpose. The Super Monster in question is an ode to Daniel Johnston’s unpublished painting titled ‘Claud & the Supermonster’ which Lee Foster shared with Claud whilst they were recording at Electric Lady Studios in New York.

‘Claud’s shimmering harmonies are best appreciated on Jordan, a track about yearning and difficult negotiations in relationships.’

Every song is captivating and special in its own way and sees set to provide hope and certainty to trans youth the world over. Cuff Your Jeans features a catchy guitar riff and bassline encased in a song about California summer, reminiscent of summer indie-pop anthems from Circa Waves and The Drums. Following this is Ana, a stirring track about ending a relationship with someone very special to you. Claud’s enchanting tender vocals make this such a charming tune as they sing, “It’s been a pleasure to be your man and I could hold you for every dance / But if I don’t ever take this chance then I should never have been your man.” It’s about making difficult decisions with love and desire in your heart and is laced with emotional vulnerability and confession.

Joshua Mehling, Claud’s best friend and the other half of duo ‘Toast’, who released their first EP in 2018, co-produced several of Super Monster’s tracks. The last song on the record – Falling With the Rain – is also performed by the band Shelly (Claud, Joshua Mehling, Claire Cottrill (Clairo), and Noa Getzug). The essence of these friendships really shapes the record and the importance of such close bonds can be felt throughout the lyrics. They tell a story of LGBTQ+ love in all its joyous forms, including those with friends and family, and how they help us to discover ourselves.

Claud stayed in their father’s house near Chicago in early 2020, and whilst there, sorted through many songs, eventually selecting those that came to appear on Super Monster. This is the same place that Toast finished their debut in 2018 and the accompanying nostalgia with which Claud looks back on past relationships, is reflected in the record. Claud has progressed greatly as an artist since leaving Syracuse University several years ago to focus on making music, but we see much of the sentimentality of the earlier Toast tracks in this new album. “Leaving school gave me space and time to become a better writer”, they stated, “and I knew no one could explain me better than I could.” This declaration of self is evident in Claud’s music as they express themselves through lyricism, style, and image.

Claud’s shimmering harmonies can be best appreciated on Jordan, a track about yearning and difficult negotiations in new relationships. The acoustic guitar and lyricism on Rocks At Your Window make for a similar heart-aching lullaby and although only lasting just over a minute-and-a-half, it’s rich in emotion and affection. Such tracks allow the listener to appreciate the full scope of romantic endeavors explored on Super Monster and gain a shy glimpse into Claud’s warm green and blue world. The beats on each track are immaculate and fully sculpt the record into an ensemble of sparkling pop hits. We witness the evolution of Claud from a kid skipping class to write beats for new Toast songs to one of the brightest young pop artists on Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory Records.

‘An exceptional album that champions queer love, identity, gender, fun, and truth.’

This record is about liberation and taking ownership of unique individual identity, and Claud manages, as always, to fit these topics into a relentlessly catchy pop album. Claud has the emotional intelligence and awareness as well as musical talent to make an exceptional album that champions queer love, identity, gender, fun, and truth. I think it’s safe to say that I have a soft spot for this record.

Written by: Charlie Farrer

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured and article images courtesy of Claud via Facebook.