For Claud Mintz, better known by their first name only, the intersection between self-discovery is not just self-evident, it is so fascinating that they decided to write a whole album about it. After some well-deserved hype, Claud is releasing a strong debut album that should prove to any remaining doubters that they have more than just a catchy hit single or two in them. Part coming-of-age journey and part meditation on young love, Super Monster (★★★★☆) is full of clever, insightful songs all about the messy process of figuring yourself out.
On the surface, most of the songs are about the various stages of relationships, from longing to heartbreak, but it becomes apparent quickly that the objects of affection in the songs amount to side-pieces in Claud’s own journey of self-discovery. The album’s first single, “Gold,” released to acclaim late last year, reflects on that point where a relationship began to go south and the realization that it was the other person that was the problem, but Claud invariably returns to what the relationship and its breakdown said about them.
As fraught and complicated as growing into oneself can be, Claud is certainly having a lot of fun along the way, alternating between swagger and self-deprecating sass. Claud’s cheeky, defiant mood comes out strongly on tracks like “That’s Mr. Bitch to You,” an upbeat, infectiously joyful song full of glimmers of indietronica.
Even when Claud indulges their moody, emo side a bit more, there is an undeniable cleverness to their songs. “Pepsi” is full of the kind of wistful resentment familiar to anyone who’s found themselves in love with someone against their better judgment. It is easy to picture the bitter smirk on Claud’s face as they sing, “I don’t want to be rude but/this song is for you,” followed by a percussive pop of a soda can opening — another nice touch.
Claud’s knack for crafting songs that feel immediately intimate and familiar is apparent throughout the album. To great effect, they cop from the alt-pop and alt-rock scenes of the ’90s and mid-2000s, layering dreamy harmonies and soft instrumentals over lyrics dealing with near-universal feelings of yearning, heartbreak, and the desire to just have it all figured out already. The buzzing guitars and echoey vocals on tracks like “Cuff Your Jeans” and “This Town” could have come straight from the heyday of dreamy, soft-emo indie pop, deeply impacting on the mood of the album. Melding these influences together gives the album’s tracks a warm, comforting sheen of nostalgia and goes a long way towards making its sound one that, in Claud’s words, “goes well with a late-night snack.”
Dreamy, hyper-self-aware lyrics like Claud’s are often labeled as youthful or as adolescent depending on whether the observer feels approving or disapproving towards them, but the songwriting here has a maturity to it that defies this easy categorization. Instead, Super Monster makes the case that self-actualization is complicated, it takes time, and everyone comes by it differently. Along the way though, most of us will hit more or less the same stumbling blocks and get caught up in many of the same feelings, and we need only put on a track from this beautifully-crafted album to be reminded of that.
Super Monster is available for purchase and on streaming starting Friday, Feb. 12.
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