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Album Review: Claire – The Great Escape

2 min read

The Great Escape is the first full-length release by up-and-coming German quintet Claire. Claiming to be “somewhere between synthpop, electronic-pop, half-time beats, hip-hop and indie” on their official website, the group definitely focuses their music around electronic instrumentation. Though their initial EPs have built them quite a following, it remains to be seen if they can maintain that kind of momentum across an entire album.

Claire - The Great EscapeThe record starts off promisingly with Broken Promise Land, one of the strongest songs on the album that sets the tone for what’s to come. The pace is slow yet graceful and vocalist Josie-Claire Bückle makes an impression with her derivative but solid English-language delivery. The synth-heavy music is much like the singing in that it feels very familiar but not boring. Unfortunately, the freshness of the sound doesn’t last long as the group reuses this track’s formula multiple times with little in the way of interesting variations. I first got this impression when I heard Neon Love, the fifth track on the album and another down-tempo synth-driven ballad much like Broken Promise Land. Even upbeat tracks such as Games or You Walk in Beauty have problems that can’t be solved by an increase in tempo.

Bückle’s competence as a vocalist is definitely enhanced by the fact that the male backup vocals that appear sporadically throughout the album sound incredibly lacklustre. Ranging from heavily filtered lyrical performances through to very basic “ooh-ooh” sounds, the male vocals are a weakness that threaten to derail otherwise decent tracks such as Overdrive, Games or the title track. Ironically, when Bückle provides her own backup vocals on Roll Down Run South it actually sounds pretty good.

Aside from vocal issues, some flaws can be put down to the music and production instead, such as the squeaky synths and minimal bass that plague You Walk in Beauty or the annoyingly high-pitched hook that is the only remarkable aspect of My Audacity. On the other hand, Roll Down Run South has a neat loop based on clapping hands while Resurrection’s pounding electro hook mixes well with piano melodies.

The Great Escape is weighed down by repetition and other poor production choices, but it does have its moments. At best, the songs here are pleasant enough synth-pop tunes with a single notable flaw – at worst, having such a flaw is the only notable thing about them. I can’t blame Claire for wanting to stick with a winning formula, but the group’s attempts to introduce some variety are just as likely to weaken a track as strengthen it. The lesser songs don’t necessarily need to be cut out, but they could definitely use some remixes. I’d argue most of these songs could use a good remix; such a statement should say a lot about the quality of this album.