Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Caroline Rose’s Loner, which is out on February 23.
The year is 2018 and we’ve all collectively pushed our car to the top of a mountain, cut the brake line, and hopped in. Like it or not, we’re moving at the speed of light and there’s no turning back, so we might as well enjoy the ride and maybe even make it a productive one. At least that’s what it feels like Caroline Rose’s motto is on her new album Loner.
There’s something inherently unhinged about Rose’s persona. She’s always seen in her signature red, which spills beyond her garments and into her album covers and music videos. In her press photo, she stares into the camera, holding a color swatch of red with “CR was here” scrawled at the bottom. Her sound’s equally vibrant—a rockabilly core with a synth-pop-y exterior glossed with a sheen of honey-thick soul—and well, just a good fucking time through and through. That doesn’t mean Loner’s core doesn’t run the gamut of humanity’s trials and tribulations: misogyny, capitalism, death, depression, loneliness. But there’s a lightness to it all—a third-party amusement from the deeply personal perspective of Rose that’s fast and loose and, honestly, just a relief to listen to in an age of doom and gloom.
On “Jeannie Becomes A Mom,” a laid-back, funky, synth-heavy jam, Rose reflects on a friend’s entrance into motherhood. “The world don’t stop / Time is only gonna pass you by / Now you’re in real life,” she sings. At the beginning of “To Die Today,” a vibrating, head-spinning ballad, she imagines drowning, death and a burning body. “Money,” a manic rock tune (featuring a literal panic attack building into a scream) delves into the evils of capitalism and the lengths to which we’ll go for wealth. “Getting to Me”—gorgeous and subtly orchestral—narrates the devastating tiptoe between complete freedom and serial loneliness that the fiercely independent among us face.
There was a self-seriousness to Rose’s last album I Will Not Be Afraid. It’s the work of a talented songwriter with meaningful things to say, but it doesn’t have the same wild pulse as Loner. The conventional notions surrounding the correlation of “maturity” and solemnity don’t seem to apply to Rose’s artistic arch, but rather, the inverse. While juggling some heavier topics on Loner, in the four years since her last, she’s let go.
In an interview with Vinyl Me, Please running later this week, she told me, “I think something amazing happens at like 25 when you just stop caring so much about these incredibly lofty aspirations you have for yourself in your early 20s—all this pressure you put on yourself and caring what other people think… Then, after that, it was really just no fucks given at all.” Rose proves that sometimes, the best way to get to the serious stuff is to go the other direction. I smashed the repeat button on the charged, raw and raving track “Bikini,” in which she sings “Put on this Bikini and dance! Dance! Dance!” Like a lot of moments on her album, this song’s the definition of fun, but upon further listen, it’s a brilliant commentary of the view, worth, control and place of women’s bodies in our society at large. Ultimately, with all its narrative and social commentary, Loner’s appeal is its gushing flood of personality so genuine and charming, it’s impossible not to turn on over and over and dance your way through the whole thing.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, editor and creative producer and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.