It’s been a long, strange journey for Caroline Rose, but she is finally making the music she’s been longing to make for years. A proven natural when it comes to that rootsy, Americana sound, her back-to-back debuts America Religious and I Will Not Be Afraid showed her ability to master a genre that ultimately was not where her passion lied and wasn’t where she belonged. And though the songs she created during that time are beautiful and honest, Rose is living her truth on her new record, LONER.
Switching labels from Mom & Pop to New West, Rose has revamped her aesthetic, starting fresh and reinventing herself the way a young artist should. She is fearless in her choices, and LONER is a reflection of that. It is a rollicking rock-and-roll record, and every minute of it feels adventurous and spontaneous. But it’s not as if Rose is just seeing what sticks – this album is incredibly detailed and thought-out, smartly written and artfully arranged. Not to mention, it’s just fun as hell to listen to and even better when you’re seeing her perform it live. Rose’s charisma and sense of humor come across through the songs on LONER, and when we listen to them, we feel like we’re hanging out with our zaniest best friend.
On “More of the Same” we get Rose’s signature smoky vocals set against a synthy backdrop before she launches into a wild, uninhibited howl on the chorus. We get a glimpse through Rose’s rose-colored glasses as she tries to navigate a homogenous world in which she’s disenchanted with every little damn thing. On “Money” we get a taste of Rose’s manic side and on “Soul No. 5” we’re treated to Rose at her cheekiest, and maybe LONER’s catchiest, as the keyboard notes soar.
That sharply observant songwriter is still alive and well in Rose, just as it was when she perfectly executed quiet folk songs. We hear it all across LONER – we just have to listen a little more closely because of the never ending exuberant, joyful party that’s happening all around us throughout. Her wry commentary on gender and self-image come with the sinister but boisterous pairing of “Smile!” and “Bikini.” The former serves as an intro to what’s coming in the latter, but nothing can prepare us for the wild ride that is “Bikini.”
These little swimsuits have come up before in Rose’s songwriting, but this track is perhaps the cleverest iteration. Utilizing an electro version of a surf rock riff, Rose plays the role of the one wielding the power: “We’re gonna give you everything you’ve ever wanted/Hang a banner with your name upon it/Pour three shots in a glass/Call it a martini/All you’ve got to do is put on this little bikini/AND DANCE!” There’s no way in hell Rose is falling into this patriarchal trap, using T&A to get what she wants out of life. But that won’t stop her from hilariously skewering it.
LONER is the pop record that has been surging inside Rose and the urgency and electricity that vibrate from it are enough to confirm: She’s arrived and she’s not going anywhere. “Running through my veins like a real livewire” she sings on “Animal.” We’ll have what she’s having.