A Bold New Direction
For a recording artist who is still in her twenties, Caroline Rose is one of the most standout newcomers to the indie scene of the past few years. The singer-songwriter, who hails from Vermont, established her musical style with an emphatic debut album in 2014s I Will Not Be Afraid. The record explored a pronounced rockabilly and garage blues aesthetic, a fresh reimagining of well-played out genres for which Rose gained national recognition (in 2015, she was featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert). For her sophomore release, LONER, Caroline Rose had to turn inward—do away with the ego and fanfare of her debut, and venture onward into new territory.
The music of LONER eclipses the softer side of Southern rock and Americana that was so prominent on Afraid, and instead covers more of the dance and electro-punk angle of the pop music spectrum. Her music draws on so many influences, yet withholds its own sense of originality—Rose describes her style of music as “schizodrift,” but one could use the term “eclectic dream pop” and describe it fairly accurately.
LONER covers classic garage jams such as “Soul No. 5” and “Money,” but also achieves something unique in songs like the disco-infused “Jeannie Becomes A Mom,” which, in its fascinating lyrical storytelling, conjures up images of a new mother who faces child-rearing for the first time. The instrumentation on this record feels more refined than on her debut, the songwriting more chiseled—it’s as if Rose spent the time between releases really exploring different approaches to crafting an album. Even within her own array of talents (songwriting, singing, producing, video directing), Caroline Rose demonstrates a newfound fluency: she manipulates vocal sounds and uses her voice to texture tracks, such as on the brilliant closing track “Animal.” Outside of music production, Rose has directed several music videos for her songs, the coolest of which is for “Blood On Your Bootheels,” from her debut album.
The opening track, “More of the Same”—a laidback groove over jaunty synths—is all about worn out expectations and represents a stark departure for Rose, who hadn’t featured many synths or electronic effects before LONER. On the next track, “Cry!,” Rose incorporates a string section and some eerie midi effects to bring out quite a rich sonic tapestry. “Money” is a tongue-in-cheek, albeit extremely engaging, punk ode to our combined desire for wealth. “We did it for the money,” sings Rose on this track, before descending into a series of gasps, pants, and squeals—a sharp-edged reminder to take her music seriously, but not too seriously so as to not have some fun.
The next song, “Jeannie Becomes A Mom,” combines new elements of Rose’s palette with her incredible storytelling ability. “Now you’re in real life,” Rose sings on repeat, yet the Avalanches-esque breakbeat feels like a subtle juxtaposition. “Jeannie” is perhaps the most “different” of Rose’s new material, partially because it isn’t a very guitar-driven track, perhaps because the song’s lyrics still withhold this Rose-penned charm with this very fresh sound to back it up.
As LONER plays out, one begins to realize that Caroline Rose doesn’t seem to have a notion of slowing down anytime soon. An eleven-track LP, which clocks in at 34 minutes, the songs are snappy, economic and most of all, catchy. For a sophomore record, LONER is the mark of a talented artist bursting with possibilities.