Arts, Features

REVIEW: Caroline Rose’s ‘LONER’ captures the unapologetic singer’s hard edges

The new album “Loner” by Caroline Rose comes out Friday. PHOTO COURTESY MATT HOGAN

Caroline Rose’s sophomore album, “LONER,” is peppy, punky and poppy. The New York-based musician brings a unique and sometimes darkly comedic, fresh-faced perspective to the female experience. A funny, lonely and above all corrupted girl-next-door, Rose is truly captivating.

Before “LONER,” she had been described as everything from roots-rock to Americana, but on this album, she explodes with passion and plays with sound in a way that sends her directly into the pop camp. Even the album cover — a picture of Rose lighting a bundle of cigarettes that stretches her mouth wide — is a picture of the brand-new Caroline Rose, a girl on fire who, incidentally, did it to herself.

The first track, “More of the Same,” is a bit misleading, because this is anything but the same old Caroline Rose. On this track, Rose truly catapults herself into a whole new world of music, but with the same rough riffs she started with. Now armed with a synthesizer and punchier drums, Rose’s lyrics might be just as thoughtful and provocative as they’ve always been, but her music has evolved into a different sound.

It’s not hard to see how much Rose has grown into herself as an artist on this album. Her voice, lyrics and sound are full of playfulness and confidence, even on the heavier tracks like “Talk,” which are more sultry and provocative than anything else.

Her greatest strength lies in her voice and its ability to take her from genre to genre. She floats effortlessly between pop, rock, soul, electronica and more. From rougher tracks like “Money” to poppy beats like “Cry!” Rose’s distinctly heavy voice conveys a range of emotions: happiness, despair and even anger.

But it can also be her downfall — a waver here and there brings a satirical yet startling track like “Jeannie Becomes a Mom” from exceptional to filler quality.

Nonetheless, the lyrics and subject matter make up for it. The album touches on a variety of subjects that have become taboo in pop: single motherhood, conformity, misogyny, loneliness and greed. Rose certainly isn’t afraid to make a statement.

“Bikini,” a raunchy, bubbly track, addresses the objectification of women and commodification of their bodies for entertainment, all while making you want to dance to the way she implores the women from the song’s chorus to: “Put on this bikini and dance, dance, dance!”

But Rose can be tender, too. “To Die Today,” a slow, electronica-and funk-influenced track that rides on her voice over a trip-worthy beat, is soft and melancholy, lonely in a way that makes the listener feel exactly the type of emptiness she conveys with her airy sounds and light harmonies. “Getting To Me” is a plucky track that relies on her amazing high notes and shows the vulnerability and insecurity hiding under her confidence-filled exterior.

And while she is all of these things — vulnerable and confident, punk-rock and ultra-pop —
more than anything, Rose is careful. She exudes a passion for her art, a certain type of deliberative crafting of sound and voice and subject matter indicative of an artist who wants nothing more than to do good.

On “Soul No. 5,” one of the singles off the album, Rose playfully sings, “I got soul”  over punchy drums and sunshine-filled guitar riffs, and it’s anything but a joke. Rose, truly, does got nothing but soul — and this is almost effortlessly conveyed in her talent as a songwriter as well as a musician.

At the end of the day, “LONER” is a pop album, but on the inside it is so much more.

It’s the passion project of an artist dedicated to having fun while being nothing but absolutely herself, an extremely underestimated act when it is so hard for female artists to be unapologetic. It’s a statement on what it means to be vulnerable and tough at the same time, to be funny with black-tinted shades on, to mix comedy with a searing and dark take on society at large.

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