Forest Claudette Comes Into Himself With the Immaculate ‘The Year of February’
Photo: Jabari Jacobs
The strain and emotional drain of the pandemic have provided us with a bounty of great music as artists navigated a period where time was no longer elusive but, instead, confronting, defying any sense of progress. For Forest Claudette, a promising new talent out of Australia, driving past obstacles is second nature, especially in the form of agile athletes on the basketball court. It turns out that the catharsis of music compliments his former skillset, as draining jump-shots and quick crossovers to waylay defenders provided a tenacity that lends itself equally to songwriting. The crucible of success has many ingredients, and whether it is being raised by two classically trained musicians, challenged by an older brother to one on ones, or delivering a powerful live show, Claudette’s success is preening with healthy structure all very evident in his latest EP The Year of February.
The Year of February is a riveting junction of styles and depth, a happy collision of “essences of who I am.” Leading with the devilishly addictive single "Creaming Soda," Claudette brings a Kendrick Lamar-style staccato storytelling vibe, pitched between luscious choruses that demonstrate his vocal range, ending with a slipstream of fading horns and piano. Always lyrically driven in his compositions, Claudette says of the lead single, "I was in L.A. for the first time and part of me couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t deserve to be there… fell down rabbit holes trying to justify my artistic existence to myself.” Unfathomable as it is given his evident talent, much of the EP is weighty, waiting on answers from himself.
"Don’t Worry" is a slippery, bouncing track, a cuddly breath of optimism over a tangy baseline. Another single, "Gone Without a Trace," is a real mosaic of Claudette’s talents, as a large production backdrop looms, syncopated drums that give off Prince vibes one moment, Frank Ocean the next. "Goodbye" is a change of pace, a poetic crooning song with orchestral tones and a playful hit focus drum riff that leads into a proper big sing-along pop chorus. Sitting with the song and its contrasting elements is where you really begin to understand his emotive, genre-less style. "Congratulations" is a spot of kitschy humor and tongue-in-cheek about a liaison going right or wrong or both, an R&B jam for those as anxious as they are alluring. Wrapping up with "Hologram," Claudette delivers a B-side that again punctures a couple of genres but is grounded heavily in the range and breadth of his confident vocal talent.
While it is clear a lot of pain and hardship went into The Year of February, the result feels like a brilliant buzzer-beating shot, full of drama but connecting in its completion to resolve in collective animated delight.
Listen to The Year of February below: