Reviews

Claud Finds Their Footing with Confidence and Expressive Simplicity on Debut Super Monster

All at once, Claud Mintz (aka just Claud) is reflective of an entire generation of new artists while still managing to carve a lane of their own. I say lane of their own because, sporting a split blue-green mullet with just a trace of hair on their upper lip, Claud is unabashedly, wholly themself – making music that delights. (Claud is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns).

On the other hand, Claud is part of a wider class of young artists, defined by a growing, grassroots approach to making music. I am continuously amazed with younger artists’ drive, creativity, and ability to make good music with minimal resources outside of a makeshift studio space, a microphone, and a guitar. Whole songs are finished in a matter of hours; it’s as simple as recording, passing it off to a friend to master the track, then uploading to Spotify.

This DIY approach, it seems, is where Claud shines. Claud’s music is expressive, casual, and uncomplicated, and their overall sound is fluid, shapeshifting from one song to the next (although it firmly finds itself in the indie realm). To be sure, most of Claud’s songs are some combination of drums, guitar, and piano, yet they manage to sound so fresh and exuberant. This is exactly the case on Claud’s debut album, Super Monster, out today.

By all accounts, Claud has already made a name for themself. Last year, they joined an impressive lineup of up-and-coming artists for Cautious Clay’s “Cheesin’,” featuring vocals from Remi Wolf, Still Woozy, Clay, and Sophie Meiers. The song was made shortly after the initial quarantine brought by COVID-19, with proceeds from the song going toward MusiCare’s coronavirus relief fund, which has been supporting artists affected by the pandemic.

In October, it was announced that Claud was the first signee to Saddest Factory Records, Phoebe Bridgers’ new label, announced after she herself experienced a stellar year with the release of the exceptional Punisher. Phoebe stated that “the vision of the label is simple: good songs, regardless of genre.” Claud certainly checks that box, evidenced by certified bops like “Gold,” “Cuff Your Jeans,” and “Guard Down,” the latter of which was released earlier this week. Later that month, Claud and close friends and collaborators (Clairo, Josh Mehling, and Noa Getzug) formed a band called Shelly, dropping two surprise songs out of nowhere. Despite a tumultuous year, Claud emerged as an artist worth watching.

On Super Monster, Claud is poking and prodding at intersecting themes of youth and LGBTQ+ identity. It’s an album about navigating relationships, growing in confidence, and slow-moving self-discovery. Taken as a whole, the songs are delicate and dreamy, jumping from topics like unrequited love to authentic expression.

Super Monster opens with “Overnight,” a slow, floating song about interest quickly turning into infatuation. Like many of Claud’s songs, “Overnight” is simple, relatable, and comfortable: it opens with a scene of Claud and a potential love interest enjoying pizza after a party, transitioning to the wordless joy of pouring black coffee in the morning. The song gives off a low, radiating warmth, carried by the strength of Claud’s vocals and monotonous drums.

“Overnight” is followed by “Gold” and “Soft Spot,” both great songs previously released as singles, but then comes “In Or In Between.” “In Or In Between” is one of the best songs off Super Monster, with instrumentals that are just a little groovy and mild distortion from Claud on the bridge and hook. The song hits its crescendo with Claud pleading to a loved one to “tell me, tell me what you mean,” with Claud trying to figure out the other’s masked feelings. The song is characterized by this feeling of insecurity and longing, and a vague sense that something is faltering.

“Keep our hands to ourselves but we’re far apart, and I don’t know how to tell you, tell you, how I want you.”

“Cuff Your Jeans” is next: a catchy, industrial song about escaping into a different reality with someone else. The phrase “cuff your jeans” feels like Claud’s take on “brush yourself off” – where we’re going, no one else need follow. The short guitar jam at the end is wonderful. “Guard Down,” released with an accompanying music video earlier this week, features a second verse from Claud with slowed, warped vocals, so much so that it sounds like a new person altogether. The song is about being head over heels in love with another, but they’re currently seeing someone else. Claud echoes a reminder to themself to not “let your guard down,” because who knows if something will materialize (although Claud would very much like it to).

In response to being called a bitch, Claud counters with “That’s Mr. Bitch To You,” one of the few songs where Claud’s understanding and comfort with themself is on full display. On other songs, Claud approaches love or life with a careful, curious demeanor, but this song finds Claud owning this insult with a badge of honor. They accuse the offender of having things handed to him/her without having to work for it, whereas Claud has “worked my ass off every day,” trying their best to get to where they are today – comfortable in Claud’s own body.

Rounding out a rather short album is “Falling With The Rain,” a garage-rock sounding anthem that invites you to sing along. The thing with this song (and others, like “Rock At Your Window”) is that it evokes such a youthful feeling of wonder. It’s reminiscent of simpler times with good people, with no one knowing exactly what’s in store – but that’s OK, because where we are today feels right.

What makes Super Monster all the more fulfilling is the degree of control that Claud exerted over every aspect of the project. The album cover – a cartoon caricature of Claud themself – was designed by Claud, and they had a heavy hand in the creative direction of the album’s music videos. Take, for example, the music video for “Cuff Your Jeans” – it’s juvenile, carefree, and comedic, especially when Claud flails their arms as they fall down the elongated legs of their own supersized body. You get a sense that this is the most transparent, honest representation of who Claud is as an individual and an artist, and is consistent with the organic sound of Claud’s album as a whole.

Super Monster is a joyous project from Claud, who is bolstered by a unique sound and emboldened by a slowly solidifying identity. On Super Monster, you can literally feel Claud pulling in disparate pieces, experiences, and feelings together to complete the puzzle that is a higher, fully realized version of themself. The album is invitingly open and easygoing, and I’m excited to see what’s in store from Claud in the future.

Super Monster is out now. 

1 comment on “Claud Finds Their Footing with Confidence and Expressive Simplicity on Debut Super Monster

  1. Pingback: 15 Artists to See at Austin City Limits 2021

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