claire rousay : Sentiment

claire rousay sentiment review

The music of claire rousay inhabits a very curious place in the contemporary ambient and experimental electronic milieu. It’s clear that she’s an artist of sizable talents, but she also seems to enjoy poking her finger in the eye of gatekeepers and trendsetters. In her relatively short career, she’s released a handful of full-length albums, myriad singles, and a grip of short-form collaborations with other curious creators. It’s to her everlasting credit that she cannot sit still in terms of her ideas, interests, and execution, but that same lack of focus can just as often become a hindrance. The expectant drama of “What will she do next?” could morph into a shrugged-off “I wonder what she’s doing now.”

That’s my biggest fear with Sentiment, her first album to be released via Thrill Jockey. This ten-track title finds rousay jumping headlong into a version of folky emo that feels disorienting. While that might be the point—such an off-kilter musical melange seems right within her wheelhouse—it could also prove to be the wrong kind of uncomfortable, even among long-time listeners. While it distills down the oddest parts of her oeuvre with artful authenticity, it contains a hearty dose of hodgepodge sound collage.

On the surface, it’s absolutely sad bedroom pop; rousay combines Midwestern emo guitar tunings, plucked arpeggios on an acoustic guitar, and heavily Auto-Tuned vocals atop hushed washes of sound. The ambition on display is astounding, as she seemingly grasps for elements of nearly every genre she’s touched in her previous recordings. I’d almost call it an aural charcuterie board where listeners can pick and choose their favorite versions of her music, but it’s a bit too haphazard for that. It’s as if she bought everything she wanted for dinner at the grocery store, but instead of preparing the sounds carefully, she left everything in her canvas tote bags and asked her visitors to prepare their own dinner.

That description might sound too aggressive or unfair, because the album is also rather good—or at least it gets there after a few spins. “Head” is akin to a creaky Julien Baker b-side with stark vocals and minimal accompaniment. On “It Could Be Anything,” the intensity increases a bit to evoke an early Pedro the Lion weeper. “III” is the standout track, mostly because it feels the closest to what rousay’s work has become in the last couple of years. And yes, “Lover’s Spit Plays in the Background” is a direct reference to “Lover’s Spit” by Broken Social Scene even as the song calls to mind a quieter selection from the back half of Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher

But what else should one expect when an artist who typically creates ambient recordings decides to filter a career’s worth of ideas through a singer-songwriter pastiche? Think of it as claire rousay’s attempt to craft Boygenius-styled confessional tunes while running those influences through a blender. Of course the results will be muddled and warped, whether you’re comparing it the genres she’s borrowing from or her own previous work.

Once again, we come back to dithering about the intent of Sentiment (or at least some lame attempts at decoding what rousay created). She enjoys being a merry musical prankster whose art can be twisted, misunderstood, and interpreted in any number of directions. The album features the sort of pensive, love-lorn lyrics emo bands have been singing into dingy basements for decades, but it also collects loosely aligned layers of sounds from nature, synth pads, and string sections. Yes, we should admire artists who revel in heady ambitions and seek to subvert expectations, but it doesn’t help when the art feels incomplete and lacking in connective tissue. 

Label: Thrill Jockey

Year: 2024

Similar Albums:

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top