Heartbreak is a feeling associated with emotional pain, a depression mixed with the destabilizing grief of losing someone you knew, or thought you knew, deeply. Heartbreak can also be beautiful, or at the very least, it can sound beautiful. Claud’s debut album, Super Monster, is able to find that beauty in love’s most tragic moments, opening their heart to our ears as a healing gesture.
There’s an easy tendency to clump Claud’s soft-sung music in with other predominant bedroom-pop artists of the streaming era, and their earlier material more so fits in that regard: sweet yet lackadaisical, tunes simple enough to hum along to. But what has made Claud stand on their own over their past few releases has been their frankness in how loving affects them, and in turn, affects all of us. It also helps that Super Monster is more cohesive than Claud’s previous work, possibly due to the wide range of friends and collaborators they enlisted to enhance it: friends like Claire Cottrill (Clairo), Nick Hakim, and Joshua Mehling, the other half of Claud’s first music project, Toast. What results is a more polished record that still sounds personable and intimate.
On Super Monster, Claud’s lyrics are deceptively simple. The opening track, “Overnight,” is a straightforward look at what it’s like to fall quickly in love, Claud singing in daydreaming daze: “I fell in love like a fool overnight / I fell but I can’t keep up with real life.” Yet it’s within this simplicity that Claud’s messages shine most clearly though: a marked difference from the wandering metaphors of someone like Phoebe Bridgers, whose label, Saddest Factory Records, Claud is signed to.
Nowhere is this more evident than on “Soft Spot,” a song I personally have thought about sending to my ex on more than one occasion. Claud sings as if rambling out a long text message to someone that they’ll ruminate on for days before deleting in a burst of sadness: “This sounds kinda strange / I thought I saw you at a party / But I finally got close it wasn’t you.” It’s a confession that is at once eerily personal while also intensely relatable. Right before the chorus hits with a blast of guitar strums, Claud sighs out the crux of what they -- and many of us listening -- truly want to say, “I’ve got a soft spot for you.”
Elsewhere on the record, Claud takes an unadorned approach to storytelling, allowing humour and childish metaphors to coexist with themes of rejection and lust, friendship and betrayal. On “Pepsi,” they quietly simmer in anger at a crush’s cruel suggestion to “masturbate instead of coming over;” on “In Or In Between,” they eagerly wait for a moment to confess their feelings to someone, casually suggesting different places to take their potential lover to (“I hate this bar / Let’s go somewhere else / Where we’re in the dark”). Super Monster’s most hilarious track, however, is the standout “That’s Mr. Bitch to You,” where Claud celebrates their nonbinary identity in the face of a transphobic stranger. It’s a joyful response to a gross statement, and reinforces Claud’s overarching desire to help LGBTQ+ listeners find their own voice.
Claud makes good use of their voice throughout the record as well, conveying different shifts in the way they feel and accept love from others. On the record highlight, “Guard Down,” they switch from airy falsetto to pitched down distortion, lamenting how an ex has moved on and not knowing how to cope. “Don’t let your guard down,” its chorus mutters entrancingly, sometimes backed up with a breezy, three-note “Yeah, yeah.” The song’s bridge is where Claud’s voice shifts down, sounding as trying to get a self pep talk in a time where it’s extremely difficult to give pep talks of any sort: “I heard that life gets easier / Hope that shit gets breezier.” Another line that could be interpreted as in regards to Claud’s personal life or to our own struggles and losses, given how the year has been.
Super Monster’s songs are each a self-contained story, but it’s unclear whether each song relates to a different person in Claud’s life or if they all revolve around the same person. Regardless, the unique identity in each one of the 13 tracks is what makes it such a terrific and arresting listen. Claud’s dreamlike quality of writing makes breakups sound nostalgic, unrequited love enchanting, and rejection a worthwhile pursuit. There’s a snippet of every sort of relationship that listeners can relate to, and possibly even view in a different light. On Super Monster, Claud guides us through those relationships, and gives hope that there is still more beauty yet to be found.