Caroline Rose is not someone who was ever on my radar. She’s not mainstream and her songs don’t appear on many Spotify playlists. It was, therefore, complete chance that I came across her music. Every week, I check iTunes for new music. On this particular week, this album had just dropped. I gave it a listen and was pleasantly surprised. Caroline Rose’s sound— at least on this record— is alternative in its purest form. This album simply doesn’t belong in any one genre— it’s indefinable as a whole. Her voice is mid-range, her tone listless and bored. When it’s not, it’s forcibly upbeat. Her cheer is almost ironic, a frantic commentary on a society that clings to clichés and notoriety for happiness. As biting as it is monotonous, this album is a mixed bag of points with an excellent sound. And now, here is my track-by-track review of LONER by Caroline Rose:
- More of the Same: If any song on this album reflects the monotony of life with perfect excruciating detail, it’s the opening track. The stylized keyboard opening hits the same notes over and over, highlighting this theme. She covers all walks of life, from a teacher who couldn’t make it as a writer to hipsters who all think they’re unique but all look the same. It’s incredibly descriptive, painting vivid pictures in your mind. Caroline’s voice is bored and nearly monotone on the verses, and despairing and emotive on the chorus. It’s a favorite of mine.
- Cry!: This song, one of the poppiest on the album, is highlighted by the steady thrum of guitar. It’s a mid-tempo track filed with biting commentary on how girls are taught that crying is weakness. Instead, Caroline advocates for it— if you need to cry, let those tears out! The bridge is haunting, like an old Halloween cartoon. It has echoes of Pat Benatar and The Bangles throughout, making it another favorite.
- Money: This song combines an earworm-y bass and screeching synth to create a freeing admittance. Caroline sing-talks the entire track, declaring a truth most of us can we relate to: we all did it for the money. It would be obnoxious, if it wasn’t so frank and tongue-in-cheek. It’s easily a favorite.
- Jeannie Becomes a Mom: According to Caroline, the character in this song is an amalgamation of two of her friends (one of whom is a young mom) and herself. It paints a stark comparison between our dreams (however big or small) and reality. Oftentimes, reality has its own plans and you have to adapt to them. This mid-tempo song is filled with dreamy synths and the repeated phrase “now you’re in real life.” It’s anxious and haunting, a dark reminder of the lives we’re leading ourselves.
- Getting to Me: This song digs into Caroline’s folksy roots the most— at least, lyrically. She paints a vivid picture of a late-night diner, at which she is a frequenter. Caroline hits some gloriously serene notes, putting you into a bittersweet reverie. It’s the desperate counterpart to “More of the Same” and easily another favorite.
- To Die Today: The closest to a ballad this album gets, it mimics the feeling of a near-death experience. It’s both dark and dreamy, but never quite makes it into nightmare territory. It’s curious, not morbid. There’s a very haunting build that never drops, instead easing back into the easy, soft tones. Rather than feeling unsatisfying, however, it feels like that warmth people who’ve had near-death experiences report having. If this song is channeling anyone, it’s Lorde. I didn’t love it at first, but now it’s another favorite.
- Soul No. 5: Originally written as a reaction to being catcalled, this bouncy track grapples with the mixed emotion one feels when they’re hit on. It’s equal parts flattery and disgust and disgust at being flattered. But it’s also a euphoric celebration of who Caroline is. The verses are performed in a cheerful sing-talk, while the chorus is belted with a smile. A favorite from the first listen, this one will be added to a lot of playlists.
- Smile! AKA Schizodrift Jam 1 AKA Bikini Intro: This interlude is disorienting and fear-inducing. Whether a commentary on male/female relations or red carpets, it’s effective. The entire song is made up of people yelling “smile!” in increasingly faux-excited ways. It’s nerve-wracking, simulating the way it feels when a stranger tells you to smile or when the paparazzi yell “smile!” at a starlet. It’s so unnerving, I can hardly listen to it… which means it’s done its job well.
- Bikini: Thematically, this one almost picks up right where the previous track left off. Instead, however, it crosses more into sexism territory. The song is told from the point-of-view of the industry, as they promise a girl she’ll be successful and “all you have to do is put on this little bikini and dance.” It speaks both to the objectification of women and the dubious consent given. It also poses the question of how much is a woman owning her own sexuality and how much is compulsory. The track has the frenzied energy of a B-52’s song, a sensible “Rock Lobster.” Due to this, it’s become a fast favorite.
- Talk: Another song that is both dreamy and disruptive, this song does exactly what it promises it’s going to and gets inside your head. Caroline’s voice is almost sensual, but she’s not trying to seduce you— she wants you to seduce her. The best way I can describe it is “interesting”— it’s just so inexplicable. I don’t know that I’d call it a favorite yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to hit me one day and become my number one.
- Animal: The album closer, this song combines electropop and ‘70s rock the most expertly. It’s a vulnerable tale of jealousy with a twist— you don’t know whether she’s jealous of the man or woman. And this is completely intentional, as Caroline is openly queer. The song keeps you at a distance, while letting you in. It’s complex and sexy, another song I know I’m going to fall more and more in love with as time goes on.
The older I get, the more alternative music and its themes resonate with me. This album in particular hit a sweet spot. Though it does get repetitive and a couple points are dubious at best, it’s still a great album and the start of a new music love affair for me.