Claire - The Great Escape

Neon Pop has been declared a new genre in manifesto by indie-synth pop group.

Additional Info

7.5

ALBUM: The Great Escape

ARTIST: Claire

2014

Pop

Their album’s title is reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape,” which was released in December 2006, but the band Claire’s inaugural album got its name from a specific mission that they’ve outlined on almost every track. The group released a biography under their band name alongside the album to explain where their sound and message come from. “Music is always about escape…” it begins. The ten paragraphs which follow detail how the adversities of life are inevitable, but fortunately, there are escapes “from the everyday madness of life itself, whose challenging nature we often only feel strong enough to face when we have a considerate, musical companion of sound and lyrics at our side,” (“Claire”). A musical security blanket is exactly what Claire has devised, as the group seeks to provide their listeners with a soundtrack to life to help face, accept, and move away from the hardships we encounter every day. Full of real-life and highly relatable instances made into metaphor, (“feisty sparks from extinct blaze,” for instance) their lyrical content both connects them to their fans and opens the minds of their listeners to brighter perspectives.

They send a message that is seemingly natural and without angle, but the group didn’t exactly emerge organically. A duo of synthetic production, Messel (Matthais) Hauck and Nepomuk Heller originally worked together in a studio in Munich just a few years ago. Guitarist, Florian (Flo) Kiermaier, connected with the DJ’ing duo and their instantaneous chemistry fueled their desire to make music together. Although they were inspired to begin creating music together, one missing element halted their music making; They knew they needed a vocalist to complete the “Claire-fecta,” so their search began. Kiermaier, the newest member, called to mind the talents of a young Josie Claire Burke who was “an old party acquaintance.”

“I contacted her over Facebook and asked if she wanted to come by,” Kiermaier explains, “When she started to sing, we all just looked at each other and thought: Awesome! This is it!”

Claire's first project was a low-key musical production for a film, “a favor to a friend”, but the group felt the potential they had together, and they harnessed it; “We knew we wanted to do more in this constellation". This self-recognition of worthiness accelerated Claire’s career, and gave the group a creed by which to make their music. Easily relatable stories and their ability to level with the everyman emotionally opens The Great Escape up to an endless sea of followers. Though the videos accompanying their music are mostly sepia colored and full of frolicking in the sun, there are moments of “meaningful stares into the middle distance that interrupt the frolics and hint at the sadness beneath the surface,” layering their tunes with a respectable amount of contemplative and intellectual depth.

As was aforementioned, their album’s content is largely dominated by the need to escape, but the advice given is a bit more wholesome than surface concepts. Claire seeks to pull from their listeners an untapped potential which lies dormant in everyone. Their album title acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy in such a way that its publication granted the band members their “great escape” from the confines of the recording studio. “We spent six months sitting around without seeing any daylight” Hauck laughed. That hard work paid off, and now Claire has made a place for themselves in history.

They’ve created a new genre for their sound which is referred to as “neon pop.” The expression has quickly caught on and it is characterized by “the neon contradiction of their cold musical aesthetic and singer Josie’s warming words,” which makes for an addicting combination. Neon pop elicits images of Electric Daisy Carnival, or a mess of broken glow sticks, but Claire steers clear of that neon party stereotype. The depth in their lyrics gives them an edge and allows them to a leg up against the competition. “…Occasionally, a dark, sultry quality alongside the sunnier disco moments… allows them to stand out from the current tidal wave of synth-pop bands”. The group lays aside the pretense and stigma that is associated the pop genre for a better and more clear understanding that no longer views a ‘pop music’ label as an insult.

The Great Escape is a worthy debut piece for Claire, as it lays the groundwork for their passions as artists. Their main encouragement throughout the creation and release of their album is drawn directly from their fans and listeners. They condemn complacency, yet sympathize with anxiety. Overall, Claire is highly motivational and the album remains focused on the path of individuality we all embark upon in our lives. The Great Escape is a healthy reminder of personal initiative, and hopes to light a fire within a few souls that have let their dreams go dark. Whether we lead life as a supersonic bullet, or “with muted voice aloud inside,” Claire welcomes you to their mission.

“Claire’s debut album is a musical exclamation mark signifying the end of pop music arbitrariness, and setting an escape route which will become the new starting point. For music. For Pop. For Claire.”

1. Broken Promise Land
The album arises from a place of cacophonous synth and echo but within seconds of the track, we emerge from a metaphorical tunnel of sound confusion into a more clearly formed beat. The story of “Broken Promise Land” begins vaguely, “We build this city with our hands/ and call it broken promise land/ I heard the whispers on the wind/ He told me how or this would end.” Reminiscent of the Old Testament with references to the promise land, “he” knowing how “this” would end, their first track introduces Claire’s fond association with the “everyman.” Their songs circle around subject matter that is overtly relatable because their mission is to ignite fire in the inevitable banality and adversity in the average daily life. Their sharp advice is in your face and to the point, delivered on the smooth indie vocals of Claire that cushions the blow of their powerful encouragement, “Keep your eye on the horizon/ don’t stop until it's gone.” They directly address their fan base, calling them to action in the first two minutes of their album.8.5
2. Games
The story told within the lyrics of “Game” aptly justify the track’s title. A lover spills “sweet words” under the ruse of “fingers crossed,” a lie which comes so easily to them. She knows that beneath the façade of attention and affection, “… we’re so whatever.” This ballad of relationship gone wrong takes a sick turn, giving it an artistic spin on other “I’m So Over You” tracks. Lost in the games, our singer is enveloped in confusion. But, “It's alright, and it's alright / As long as I can be with you /And it's alright, and it's alright / As long as I can stay.” With a girl confused by mixed messages, real or imagined, this situation is easily relatable for those tossed empty, temping looks. “Did they mean a thing to you?/ But even if I'd fall for them/ We’re still wherever.” Her practicality is a reassuring break from the delusions of the hopeless romantic and the lyric, “with muted voice aloud inside,” has poetic poignancy that sticks.8.3
3. Pioneers
80’s pop makes a triumphant comeback backed by a revolutionary message to pioneer new history. “Shadows be gone/ Let us be young some more,” resonates as a plea for childhood innocence. The shadow cast by past history causes anxiety, fear, and immobility, but in young, childlike innocence, the past can be ignored. And what happens when these fears of the past are stifled from lack of attention? We are mobilized to design a new future that is much more positive and optimistic, where the fear of failure doesn’t contaminate achievement. “You cast a lie on something we knew before,” may reference the misconstruction of history in textbooks and online. “Old habits heavy on our hearts/ You better leave them behind,” urges listeners to accept a bit of naivety and not allow old habits, old memories, or stories in history to cramp their progression towards the stars. So listen, go “Gather the stars, gather the stars now,” there’s no use in worrying about how “They’ll be gone sooner or later."7.9
4. The Next One’s to Come
The initial sound and energy on this track is curious, reminding of a piddling ragtime piano. Claire’s synth pop undertones rear their heads seconds into this unique introduction. Again, Burke’s airy, lulling voice creates a pleasant balance to the heavy drum step influences that weave throughout. As if an overly caffeinated answer to “Pioneers,” this track sets up apocalyptic imagery where fighting for the self is priority number one. “We are crawling along/ At the edge of the world” reinforces the doomsday setting from which this call arises. Claire’s desire for awakening passion leaves no room for uncertainty; “Lets move measured and slow/ walk until the crimson shows,” highlights the serious tone of the mission, which involves careful, measured, intelligent calculation coupled with the unremitting motivation to ignite change, “until the crimson shows.” The encouraging nature within the preceding track has now become a demand as the group cries out “WE ARE THE NEXT ONES TO COME/ YOU WON’T TAKE US DOWN.” A tongue-in-cheek reference to hip-hop extraordinaire Grandmaster Flash levels the seriously revolutionary tension as Burke warns, “Don’t push me, ‘cause I’m close to the edge/ I’m tryin’ not to lose my head.”7.8
5. Neon Love
Though the album specifically encourages the dismissal of historiography and relying on the past, it’s essential that the title of this track be tied to Claire’s invention of “Neon Pop.” Though the 80’s synth-pop sound earning this designation is not entirely novel, Claire are the first group to own up to this new and different musical contribution by giving the genre a name. A strategic move on the part of the band, it solidifies their impact on the music industry with a stamp of validity. The lyrics are less metaphorical on this track, detailing an escape to the roof to get lost amongst the city’s neon lights. Claire creates vulnerability on the rooftops, “all my fears were on display,” but the neon lights prove to be absolution from the daylight hours and worries.8.3
6. Overdrive
The pop-song vibe disappears as a stronger techno trance beat propels “Overdrive.” The content is much less complex than the tracks’ previous calls to action, but the title “Overdrive” captures the build up of chaotic energy that beings to bubble over. It’s as if the motivation generated up until this point on the album has reached its climax, throttling Claire into an overdrive of its own. The rhyme scheme is clear in the lyrics, but a consistent storyline is not. “You release your shape/ Upon the floor I tread/ Before you put your weight/ Behind the words I said,” exemplifies how the content initially sounds deep and contemplative, but falls flat as bombastic nonsense. This use of nonsensical, flowery language presents itself with intention, as if Claire wants to test their listeners by pushing them past reason and hoping they’ll call bullshit.7.8
7. Invincible
Claire switches sound gears, pumping up their indie influences and toning down the electronica. Images of the sun’s rays streaming through clouds of dust are conjured in the first few lines as light escapes through darkness. The band makes an interesting proclamation that “We are bullets cursed with hearts,” as if our desire to progress and excel is hindered by our desire for a companion. Yet, as the title says, “We are invincible,” and the lyrics are able to defend why this is so. “Shattered dreams and broken promises/ They bear no meaning/ If we stick to our pacts, stick to our rhymes.” The tears and heartache of the past, no matter how painful, can be overcome and forever used to your advantage. Art is made from the wasted “innocent in glorious fights,” fueled with emotion and memory. The catch? “We will make it alone, make it alone,” solemnly reminds that these bullets we have for lives propel us individually, possibly away from the “pacts” they recommend we hold close.8.0
8. Hallowed Ground
The nighttime city streets shake resolve as Claire’s anxious inner-monologue is voiced again. Their passionate cry for revolution seems to have climaxed in “Overdrive,” and “Hallowed Ground” is the come-down from a heated adrenaline rush. Contemplation and lost ambition circle the song as the necessity for change is quieted and “the next to come” lose steam. “The hopes I hold/ becomes my past/ trembling hands/ on solemn eyes/ revolving doors/ keep me inside,” proves a darker, less confident persona that lies within the band. The hopes and dreams that fueled their fire fall victim to insecurity. The emotional fluctuation in the album quietly mirrors the battle within the self between the Ego and the Id. Claire details a familiar moment, when “Wasted lines/ fill the air,” because silence is too hard to bear, yet there are no words to communicate the feelings within.8.5
9. A Million Drums
Happy go-lucky pop vibes resurrect the upbeat energy of Claire. References to a blood red moon and tales of the sun create Indie-folks accents, as “a million drums shake the ground.” The moon and the sun mentioned in the lyrics, like two beings in a relationship, exist together but revolve separately. The lover in the song pleads “I will never leave, unless you’re leaving too,” which draws parallels to moon-sun orbits. Each line of the track seems disparate from the one before it, instilling some discontinuity in the story line. “Aimless Nights and restless days/ Feisty Sparks from extinct blaze” stir up memories from the listener, whom no doubt has had their fair share of sleepless nights and doused flames.7.8
10. The Great Escape
As it promises, this track is a breath of fresh of air which whisks away the anxieties of the earlier tracks. Burke’s breathy voice recites the mantra, “This is a place, this is a place,/ This is a place, where we're on our own/ Nobody gonna find us here,” which is a comforting reminder that the album The Great Escape is a refuge from every day struggle and fears. It encourages sleep “far beyond the road,” as an insightful comparison reassuring that it’s ok to rest even if you don’t know where you’re going to end up. Through the simplest analysis, this lyric soothes the insomniac, putting their racing mind to rest. This song transports the listener to the end of the rainbow “where the sunset fades/ Endless days and salty taste,” where they are free to indulge upon their restful desires.8.6
11. In Two Minds
The Great Escape never comes closer to the sound and rhythms of The XX, a genre favorite, than on this track. The lyrics are specific and personalized, detailing the memory of a childhood playground where “Cowboys, pistols, and a Little Princess” carry with them the “Vain Hope to snatch a Piece of the pie.” Today’s children are raised with the belief that they are capable of doing anything and that they are special. Magical dreams of becoming the President or a fireman are concocted in young minds that lack the practicality that comes with disappointment.. “Just snatch a piece” infers that success and power can be taken from another, and mentions the flipping of a coin and switching a line which confuses their message.8.0
12. Roll Down Run South
Claire’s optimistic encouragement pushes for action once again. Leaving inhibitions behind, the listener is told to “Ride the Seven seas,” which is a worthy mission in itself. “Run up your flag/ Don’t care about fees/ Can’t stop the Heaven from Falling” is a particularly worthy piece of advice. In a Capitalist society, there is a desire to constantly improve and acquire and fear can arise from the anxiety in failing to do so. The Great Escape reaffirms its worth as a motivational album, reminding the listener that you should stand up tall and be entirely whomever you want to be because the Heavens could fall either way. No matter how much you try to control what is out of your grasp, it always remains subject to the universe and not to your worries. So paint the sky blue, or in other words, follow your heart. When this ability is harnessed, you’re “Free like Pirates on the Open sea/ Free to go where ever our minds will Carry us.”8.6
13. Resurrection
Claire’s final call to action lies in the last track of their plan for a “great escape”. The electronica influences are heavy and appreciated, as their subject matter returns to consistent encouragement. This track is entertaining but could easily fall in with other techno beats sharing similar airy feminine vocals. Claire’s instructions for resurrecting individuality are far from ingenious. The stanzas, as there are only two, sounds overdone as they chant, “Wake up and follow me this time/ Don’t stop and we won't be the same/ I know we are ready to cross the line/ Everything will seize when we strike again.” Lacking originality, this track weighs down the conclusion of the album with it’s lack of hook or interesting conceptual meaning. Choosing “Resurrection” to close out The Great Escape doesn’t leave the listener with new insight or tapping feet. The conclusion is a fading moment echoing “Again, again, again,” which leaves nothing to ponder after the track, and album as a whole, comes to a close.7.0
Written by Shelby Tatomir
Reading and writing are my roots, making music, design, and photography sprouting branches of special interests that I am always striving to cultivate.

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