Album Review: Caroline Rose, Loner
By: Joseph Perry (@JosephWPerryJWP)
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Caroline Rose’s sophomore album Loner (New West Records) is a darkly comic effort, filled with catchy hooks and bright arrangements that often make the singer/songwriter’s sarcastic takes on serious subjects feel more jarring when the lyrics truly sink in. Although Rose’s debut album I Will Not Be Afraid had a distinct rockabilly/Americana vibe to it, this second longplayer is filled with a bevy of musical styles, from power pop to surf rock, to classic soul and much more.
Rose tackles personal challenges and societal issues with both irreverent, sharp wit and urgent, aching poignancy. For example, Cry! is a seething take on being held down or held back by both internal and external forces on the road to following dreams and seeking success — "Where are you climbing to, girl?/There’s nothing for you up there/Better come on back down to Earth/You silly thing, you’ll learn your place yet” — wrapped in a peppy power pop package driven by a 1980s-influenced bass synthesizer riff. Bikini is a surf-rocker that comments on sexism in the entertainment industry, with the narrator promising free-flowing cocktails, trips to Japan, and other perks, if the target of the conversation will only “put on this little bikini . . . and dance!”.
Rose finds a mischievous take on both serious matters and lighter ones, as well. Money is driven by a rockabilly riff and Rose’s fast-talking list of why the song’s subjects didn’t do things, until the chorus smashes in with siren-like synthesizers and the singer proclaiming strongly that “We did it for the money!” In “Soul No. 5,” she serves up a whimsical take on braggadocious pop star excess: “I got a credit card and I use it all the time/I got the Gucci Gucci gooey oozy icky oozy style/I do a hair flip, I strut my stuff/You whisper something, I can’t hear you, I say, ‘What?’”.
In a press release, Rose stated that Loner was “as much inspired by Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears as it was late ‘70s punk.” Personally, the first comparisons I found the album reminiscent of were Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello during their respective Nick the Knife/Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit and This Year’s Model/Armed Forces eras.
Rose played guitar, keyboards, bass, programmed synthesizers and drum machines on Loner, and performed mixing. She not only delivers an astounding, kaleidoscopic set of songs where optimism ultimately outshines heartbreak, she also shows that she is an outstanding artist full of talent and surprises. Loner is certain to fetch a high spot on my list of favorite albums of this year, and I give it my highest recommendation.
Caroline Rose, “Money”
Caroline Rose, “Soul No. 5”
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/).
He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Scream Magazine (screamhorrormag.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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