Caroline Rose radiates energy, and from it emerges a creative genius matched by very few. Her debut album, I Will Not Be Afraid, was filled with razor-sharp observations about life and being a young woman in America. While the LP revolved largely around rockabilly, country-folk, and Americana, she’s changed her tone for sophomore output, Loner.
Like everything she’s done in her life, which includes spending months living out of her van to share her art, Rose dives headfirst into the sounds of contemporary music. Power pop, surf-rock, even synth-pop, and even a touch of spaghetti Western are showered on this splendid record. Although Rose’s sound has evolved, her sharp, witty tongue has not. The album’s title gives clues about Loner is about, but it’s not solely Rose sharing her thoughts and feelings. She also succinctly captures the many ills that befell our society, which cause walls to be erected between us and everyone else.
Rose gradually brings us into her new sonic world with the melodic pop dazzler, “More Of The Same”, which is shot out of the canons of ’70s disco-pop. Like that era, Rose focuses on the excess of our world and how people desire to fit a certain image and way of life.
“Everyone is well dressed with a perfect body,
And they all have alternative haircuts and straight-white teeth.
But all I see is more of the same thing.”
Her wit gets sharper on the wild “Money”. A spaghetti Western vibe intertwines with angst-pop to give the track a gritty but catchy madhouse sound. Her lyrics, too, are whimsical but hard-hitting in a Tarantino way. Rose admits she, too, is susceptible to being corrupted by greed. She hollers to herself and us, “We all did for the money!” Continuing the theme is the outrageous “Bikini”, which is preceded by the even wackier, 49-second ball of noise, “Smile! AKA Schizodrift Jam 1 AKA Bikini Intro“. The latter is Madness filtered through an accordion while the former throws out the bendable instrument to create a bizarre new wave / synth-pop number that would make Devo proud. Her lyrics, however, are timely, as she focuses on the objectification of women throughout mainstream media.
“You’re going to travel all over the world.
We’re going to put you in the movies and on TV.
All you have to do is put on this little bikini…
There are moments of unexpected candor on Loner. The toe-tapping “Cry”, one of the album’s standouts, is Rose simultaneously revealing revealing that while she comes across as an ongoing and spontaneous woman, she, too, has bouts of weakness. She’s not, however, pouring out her emotions, but rather saying she and everyone else are mere mortals. The surprisingly dark and eerie “Talk”, which sounds like Kate Bush teaming up with Frankie Rose, is the New York City-based artist tackling the paranoia in her head. Then there is the stunning “Getting To Me”. Rose’s voice approaches Chrissy Amphlett levels, as she sings about endless lonely nights and the deep desire for companionship.
Rose, though, hasn’t gone all diva on the album. She revs up the fireball energy on “Soul No. 5”, which exemplifies the Rose pictured on the album’s cover and how we envision her. It is fun, energetic, and humorous with oft-kilter and bombastic arrangements and Rose’s soaring vocals. There is, however, something extremely personal about the track, as if Rose, by repeating the words, “I have soul“, is reminding herself that everything is just fine.
At the same time, the song – and the entire album – is the soundtrack to everyone looking to unveil their true selves. While we fear that our weirdness will lead to isolation, there will always be someone like Caroline Rose to be our friend. Someone who will see us for who we are, and Rose reminds us on Loner that it is worth fighting for our individuality and interests, like doing the Macarena on the beach in the middle of winter (see the video below).
Loner is out now via New West Records. Get it at the label’s store or Bandcamp.
Rose commences her tour on Friday in fittingly Woodstock, New York. She will also be at Hangout Music Festival in mid-May. Dates and information are available here.
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