We’re going to talk about Caroline Rose, and her new album, Loner. But first, let’s lay down some important thoughts on sartorial grace.
Throughout pop culture history few people have worn a tracksuit well. Yes, many artists have worn a tracksuit jacket, and yes, many others have simply worn the pants. (We’re all allowed an off-day every now and again) However, few artists or are brave enough to go ‘all in’ and wear a full tracksuit. Fewer still look good in the complete ensemble of sports-casual.
Sure, we can all talk about how the Beastie Boys looked sharp as fuck back in the Licensed to Ill tour top and sweats – but that’s an unfair measure. That Beasties Boys shit was the Beethoven’s 9th Symphony of tracksuits – it’s a point of reference for the highest human aspiration. The number of people appearing in the pop culture landscape wearing the full tracksuit in red… well, you can probably count them on one hand. You should let that sink in. For all of the freedoms afforded by art, an entire world of artists have failed to work the red tracksuit.
“But wait,” you say, “You’re forgetting Chas Tenenbaum, and his wonderful sons, Ari and Uzi. Those guys made the full red tracksuit their own!” I concede, yes – it’s hard to imagine a world where anyone could better fill, and utilize, the sheer force of a full red tracksuit. However, it’s 2018, and the universe is in transition. There’s a lot of black milk in the world at the moment. Things aren’t quite right, strange voodoo is unfolding. Shit is serious.
Hey, y’know who wears a red tracksuit? Caroline Rose. Caroline Rose wears a red tracksuit and she does it better than anyone in the history of pop culture. I’ll fight you on this, because it’s an unassailable fact. In a world where artists are pulled in by publicists and stylists, and they’re convinced that black leather is still dangerous, bikinis are requisite for girls who aim to make it ‘big’, or that bomber jackets from H&M are the street’s sharpest edge, Caroline Rose simply says ‘nah’. She occupies a red tracksuit, and she sings hard.
Oh, we get it – we’re being postmodern. For the sake of this review, the ‘red tracksuit’ is the unique identifier for Caroline Rose. She adapts the traditional stylings of others, and she makes them her own. She ignores what she’s told is cool, and she delivers her own style. She plays with expectation, and she repurposes a flimsy commodity to build a powerful totem. On her album, Loner, Caroline Rose puts on the literal and the metaphorical red tracksuit and she achieves something unique.
Humor is used as a device across the collection, and accompanying videos to the album’s singles “Soul No. 5” and “Money” can be watched as comedic vignettes, as much as they can be considered pop videos. Lyrically, Rose leans toward the light. She acts as a trusted guide through a gamut of emotions. Oftentimes Loner travels through some truly bleak situations. We know the world is a mess, so Rose documents the confusion, but she delivers creative solutions; she offers respite from suffering.
“Jeannie Becomes A Mom” has a heart mixed of sugar and self-deprecating sarcasm. The highpoint of the album also acts as a key to everything else around it. Understand Rose’s perspective here and you’ll understand her vision across the entire collection. (We can only imagine that Caroline Rose would blush at being called a poet, but this track is pure poetry) The story of an unplanned pregnancy has something to do with a woman’s control over her own body, and it has something to do with anxiety, and indecision. However, the real accomplishment of this song is in it’s appraisal of a dream life – the things that we imagine we’ll lose if we face reality. If we take THIS path, our career at NASA may never happen. Well, in reality… NASA would have called by now, if they were ever going to call. Rose is a realist with an enormous heart. What she does with this song is to show that a feminist issue should actually just be an issue of having common sense. Deal with it.
Musically, Rose ties these tunes together with a smart cohesion. Less traditional-sounding than I Will Not Be Afraid, her 2014 debut, instrumentation here feels like Rose was pushing herself through an enquiry. She asks what more can she achieve beyond delivering on expectation. Old synths, contrasting percussive elements, and an angular approach to hooks bring the noise well – so yeah, you can sit and reflect on the lyrical cleverness, or you can get good and sweaty.
Loner is a hard album to tag. It takes a particular kind of artist to come at these subjects with wit; to shine a light through darkness without demeaning the potential of harm, or seriousness of circumstance. Yet Caroline Rose pours humanity and heart into every aspect. When she jokes, you’re in on the joke. When she cries she accepts the tears and addresses the cause with compassion. For all the joking, for all the sweat that’s bound to be soaked up by that red tracksuit, there’s a very real solemnity to this album. Caroline Rose has played a blinder.
HURRY – LISTEN – CAROLINE ROSE