Claude Delivers Existentially Anxious Art Pop on a lot’s gonna change

Claudia Ferme’s early 20s inspire artfully crafted pop on the Chicago artist’s debut LP

Music Reviews Claude
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Claude Delivers Existentially Anxious Art Pop on <i>a lot&#8217;s gonna change</i>

Claudia Ferme, the pilot of the dream-pop project Claude, speaks candidly when locating her early-to-mid 20s as “formative, sometimes confusing years.” As arbitrary as the entrance to adulthood can be, the years Claude calls forth often serve as a foundation-constructing period whose aftereffects reverberate throughout one’s entire adult life, seemingly without fail. In the face of such turbulence, Claude responds with her first LP and American Dreams Records debut, a lot’s gonna change, a collection of wise, meticulous art pop that depicts 20-something existentialism with gravitas but without melodrama. The end result is sympathetic and riveting, on top of simply being a promising debut for the pop upstart.

The album’s lead single and opener, “twenty something,” is the jazzy thesis statement that showcases Claude’s grasp on art pop. Its instrumentation delicately unfolds around Claude’s announcement and interrogation: “So tired of being too nervous / to say what’s on my mind / I’m a twenty something / Don’t you think it’s about time?” Complete with a gentle, jazzy saxophone line acting as a sonic foundation, “twenty something” is liable to get stuck in one’s head. As abstruse as art pop can get, Claude proves she has both artistic prowess and pop sensibilities by crafting an intricate, catchy intro. Lush second track “roses” calmly begins with familiar concerns of 20-somethings: “I’ve been trying / to figure out / how to live like I should.” Determining an objectively correct way to live often leads to self-flagellation, which Claude depicts as eating roses even as they injure her. It’s a potent image that is relatable without ostentation.

Throughout a lot’s gonna change, Claude gently weaves existential dialogue into her pop formulations, elevating big questions to the forefront of the listener’s consciousness without necessitating clean answers. New wave banger “what’re you on tonight” chronicles the mundane planning of social outings, with a healthy dose of dread thrown in. On “what’re you on tonight,” that casual anxiety manifests on the chorus: “As long as you don’t think too much about it / and who’s to say what’s a good way or bad way / to spend the time you’re allotted / to figure this mess out.” Somewhere between the physicality and emotionality of casual social navigation, Claude wrings her hands on “turn,” sending her voice into its upper register with honey-thick reverberance over straightforward instrumental layers. “turn” is devastating but familiar in affect. So is “claustrophobia,” a syncopated, intimate recounting of Claude’s weariness with the search for love amidst high-stakes, emotionally charged parties. That apprehension is far too real at an age when it feels as if the only way to meet a suitable partner is via chance encounter at an alcoholically lubricated house party.

Claude deploys the piano to inject a little hope into “meet me,” a brilliant ballad promising stability in a subject whom she can meet with regularity and around whom she can unburden herself. There is nothing quite like having a reliable, even if infrequent, home base in a counterpart as you carve a path forward. Emotionally, the coin flips on “i think i’ll pass today,” a fairly straightforward depression anthem with an ironically lush orchestral backing. The track has an oddly romantic aura for such a downer, which ultimately keeps the song on brand, if a little more unsettling than typical. That said, Claude does shake up the sound quite intensely on closer “oh, to be.” Her existential depression transforms into a more pissed-off outlook, closing abruptly on the line, “I guess it doesn’t really matter.” After seven lush, art-laden dream-pop tracks, adjusting to fuzzy alt-rock is a far-from-simple task. “oh, to be” thematically fits on the record, but its placement in sequence is suspect. On one level, it is abrupt enough to be a comical statement, and on another, it breeds dissatisfaction to end a record laden with smooth profundity on a curt note amidst a stylistic change—a vibe shift.

Prior to the closer, the record’s consistency is a strength, particularly as Claude expands her dream-pop sensibilities to include smooth jazz and coldwave elements to bolster that hazy altered-state sensation. The existential quandaries that are central to these songs never grow too heavy-handed, either. “oh, to be” is a great rock song that may have translated better in the record’s center, jolting the listener out of a lulled state for a brief eruption that returns to the dream-pop fundamentals. a lot’s gonna change is about to enter the canon of records chronicling the inherent weirdness of one’s 20s, but with a novel approach that shows Claude’s broad command of both art and pop.

Devon Chodzin is a critic and urban planner with bylines at Slumber Mag, Merry-Go-Round and Post-Trash. He is currently a student in Philadelphia. He lives on Twitter @bigugly