by Grant Foskett
Clarence Clarity is one of the most unconventional producers of modern pop. He loves to incorporate elements of noise, electronic, plunderphonics and more into his polished pop and R&B tunes. While that could certainly come off as jarring, Clarence stays well within the boundaries of what is traditionally catchy. Ever since Clarence announced he was working on something, Think: Peace has been one of my most anticipated records of this year. His last album, No Now, has quickly cemented itself as one of glitch pop’s genre-defining albums. Clarence also only continued to show off his production skills and pop sensibilities on the singles leading up to Think: Peace. Luckily, the album does not disappoint, bringing a completely new take on Clarence’s signature sound that will likely appeal to a much larger audience as it trades in much of the ambient boiler plate of No Now for punchy, direct pop tunes. Songs like ‘Vapid Feels Ain’t Vapid’ and ‘Next Best Thing’ are such earworms that they alone could stand to make Think: Peace the pop album of the year.
The production of Think: Peace is immaculate. Every instrumental is incredibly bright and intricate, often reminiscent of the wonky, glitch-pop production style of fellow Londoner Iglooghost. At the same time, Clarence manages to create something that sounds completely natural out of entirely synthetic sounds. This is due to Clarence’s vocals sliding around like ‘SexyBack’ Justin Timberlake, slicing through layers of synths with ease. There are also noticeably fewer effects altering Clarence’s voice than on No Now, again pushing towards a more accessible sound clearly influenced by late 1990s/early 2000s pop and R&B. Clarence hinted at this style in his production on Rina Sawayama’s debut EP Rina last year, and songs like ‘Tr(u)e Love’ are clearly inspired by the boyband era. But even though deep down Think: Peace may be Backstreet Boys and NSYNC inspired, Clarence’s music is still a bit too odd to have much of a crossover audience.
Clarence does bring something back from No Now, though — the appearance of similar instrumental motifs and lyrical refrains over multiple songs. This is seemingly small, but the repetition over the course of multiple songs makes what could have been an album of unconnected singles flow together as one cohesive piece of music. One of the catchiest hooks throughout the record, “Girl you make me feel like you been fucking everyone/ So make me feel like I make you feel good,” ties together ‘Naysayer Magick Obeyer’ and ‘SAME?’ Both tracks were previously released as ‘Naysayer Godslayer’ and ‘Same’ respectively, sounding completely different from one another, but as they were reworked with this repetition and slotted into the context of the album, each took on an electrifying, new energy.
Think: Peace is far from a perfect record though. It trades off the sprawling majesty of No Now for a sense of immediacy that fails to push all the way through the tracklist. Even though it sits at only 39 minutes, the album is lengthened by disjointed interludes that don’t explain a narrative. ‘Tru(e) Love’s’ long outro further slows the pace going into the final leg of the album, where weaker cuts ‘SAME?,’ ‘Law of Fives,’ and ‘2016’ barely crawl along. But weak is a relative term to the rest of the tracks, as each is certainly well-produced, interesting, and catchy.
Overall, Think: Peace is an excellent follow-up record. It shows off Clarence’s versatility to go from one of the weirdest pop albums of 2015 to a record that is still weird, but measuredly so, and not at the loss of earworm hooks and catchy chord progressions. Look out for more new music from Clarence Clarity as he updates his Leave Earth playlist throughout the rest of the year.