An obsession with money, an unfaithful lover, a friend’s accidental pregnancy, misogyny, loneliness, death… This is just some of the lighthearted subject matter that make up LONER––the darkly comedic second album from songwriter/producer Caroline Rose. Armed with an arsenal of new instruments and equipment, an ever-growing sense of “ahhh fuck it,” two years of exploration, and a wicked sense of humor, Rose delivers a set of serious songs wrapped in a sprightly, angsty pop burrito. Because, as Rose puts it, “Sometimes sad songs just need a cocktail.”
LONER captures the cheeky satire, comical musings, and often jarring mood swings––sometimes goofy, sometimes emotional––that make up much of Rose’s personality. “I call it Schizodrift,” she says sipping on a martini with her pinky out. “I want to make music that sounds as manic as I feel.” Filled with catchy synth hooks, Ray Manzarek-esque Farfisa, surf guitar, depth of thought and a punk attitude, LONER captures the energy of bands like Le Tigre and The Cramps, and nods to the styles of Blondie and DEVO, the pop hooks of icons like Justin Timberlake, all the while being inspired by the artistry of Kate Bush. “I’d say this album was as much inspired by Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears as it was late 70s punk.” How did she get here? According to Rose, the transition was natural.
LONER began about three years ago. “I was 24, lonely, and realizing life might actually be as hard as people said it was. Gandalf had yet to raise his staff and part the seas for me,” she says with a straight face. “I felt a bit disillusioned with my music; it didn’t sound like my personality. I hadn’t dated in years, I was going to lose health care. I felt detached from the modern world.” So what did she do about it? “I joined Tinder. I turned 25 and rented my first real apartment and painted it bright colors. I started socializing more and little by little, weeded out all my clothes that weren’t red. I embraced my queerdom. I had a girlfriend, we traveled the country, we broke up. I discussed politics, capitalism and Rihanna. For better or worse, I became a member of the modern world. Turns out the modern world is terrifying,” she says attempting to pluck an olive out of her glass.
When it came to writing about all of it, what followed marked the beginning of a fully formed Caroline Rose. “I needed to get more personal, more aggressive. more humorous and more sonically diverse than my older material,” referring to 2014’s slinky indie-folk-rockabilly-tinged album I Will Not Be Afraid. The record was penned over four years ago while Rose was living in a van traveling the country, and received critical acclaim from national press outlets like NPR and Rolling Stone. LONER, however, marks a significant leap forward both sonically and emotionally, unleashing a burgeoning confidence teeming with character. Asked how she’d describe the transition, Rose responds, “It just felt like a bubble inside me that had been growing and was about to pop.” In a burst of creative energy, she penned and produced a slew of songs that began circulating among labels and press, resulting in a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music.
Over the next year and a half, Rose “got super into production and mixing––I was working 10-hour days creating new sounds, finessing EQ, blending tones, sampling basically everything. Having an apartment [rather than living in a van] gave me the space to have more instruments than just a guitar. I started collecting synths and recording equipment and tracking my material. I signed with a label that gave me a lot of creative control and resources.” After sessions and meetings with over a dozen producers, Rose chose to co-produce alongside Paul Butler (Devendra Banhart, Michael Kiwanuka, Hurray For The Riff Raff) at Panoramic Studio in Stinson Beach, California and the studios of Butler and Rose. A multi-instrumentalist and producer herself, Rose brought to the sessions pre-recorded work the two used as a foundation off which to build, having written and arranged strings, played and recorded keys, guitar and bass, sampled layers of found and recorded sounds, and programmed synths and drums. “The rest was a lot of experimentation in the studio, trying out different sounds and getting weird,” She adds. “Paul added a lot in that way. Neither of us are afraid to try things and throw a bunch of sounds at the wall.”
Another thing that drove Rose to pursue production more seriously was the blatant lack of gender diversity in the music industry. “I noticed over the course of all these meetings there was not a single female or nonbinary producer. Then the more I read up on why, the more I realized there actually are a lot of us, we just aren’t taken as seriously and either don’t receive or don’t demand the credit that we deserve.” In response, Rose stepped up across the board, having a hand in mixing as well as directing creative control over all aesthetics regarding the album. “I wanted to make sure everything was as me as it could possibly be.”
According to Rose, the visuals and aesthetics of LONER are an important vehicle in bringing out her personality, as well as a lot of the more sarcastic elements within the music. “I’ve gotten really interested in the visuals over the years, from producing videos and creatively crafting the images to how I express myself via what I wear.” The video for “Money,” for example, written and directed by Rose and Horatio Baltz, depicts Rose playing all of the parts––a sort of maniacal, Coen Brothers-meets-David Lynch two-minute story involving three people (perhaps the same person?) that leaves viewers asking…What just happened? Not too different a feeling after listening to LONER, in fact. And this, is precisely how Caroline Rose wants you to feel.
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Video & Press
Caroline Rose’s ‘Jeannie Becomes a Mom’ is #15 in NPR 100 Best Songs of 2018!
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Paste’s 50 Best Songs of 2018 Features Sunflower Bean, Mitski and a Slew of Other High Road Artists
[Paste Magazine] There were times in 2018 when everything just felt like too much. We saw a divided nation grow even further apart. We witnessed mass shootings, the #MeToo movement’s successes and heartbreaking downfalls, a slew of devastating natural disasters and a chaotic administration try to patch it all up. But in the two years […]
Caroline Rose Gets Lost in Suburbia in ‘Jeannie Becomes a Mom’ Video
[Rolling Stone] NYC singer-songwriter co-stars in music video for the latest single from her 2018 LP, ‘Loner’ By Simon Vozick-Levinson New York City’s Caroline Rose took her songwriting to a new level of wit and heart with Loner, the album she released in February. It’s full of deftly drawn characters, like the numbingly normal partygoers […]
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[Rolling Stone] The sharp-eyed satirist behind this spring’s ‘Loner’ is waiting for you at the zoo By Maggie Lange Caroline Rose is looking for optimal fun. This is why, on a visit to the Toledo, Ohio, zoo, she steers us to an elevated wooden walkway where we can feed giraffes. “I know their tongues are, […]
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[NPR] By Stephen Kallao Caroline Rose has arrived. I know this sounds a little unusual to say considering her new record LONER is her third studio album. But for a point of reference, if you listen to a moment of “Red Bikini Waltz” from her 2014 album, I Will Not Be Afraid, to her new […]
WXPN Features Caroline Rose as the XPN Artist to Watch for May
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PHILADELPHIA, PA – May 1, 2018 – WXPN, the nationally-recognized leader in Triple A music and non-commercial radio service of the University of Pennsylvania, named Caroline Rose as its May Artist To Watch. WXPN Music Director and Host Dan Reed presented the first of the month’s on-air segments today, May 1, in […]
Pitchfork Review: Caroline Rose ‘Loner’ – This Singer-Songwriter Uses Mordant Wit to Confront Serious Subjects
[Pitchfork] On her self-assured second album, this singer-songwriter uses her mordant wit to confront serious subjects, exorcising trauma with hooks and humor. “Sarcasm is hard to get through in music,” Caroline Rose lamented in a recent interview with Rookie. “Especially if you’re making pop songs, and you’re singing about something that’s pretty serious.” Rose, a […]
NPR First Listen: Caroline Rose ‘Loner’
[NPR] By Ewly Hight Self-consciousness sometimes leads artists to reevaluate their approaches to music-making. They’ll shift in directions they hope will cause their work to be taken more seriously and try to encourage the perception that they’re saying things of importance. It’s a familiar enough trajectory that Caroline Rose’s inversion of it has mischievous appeal. […]
Stereogum Artist to Watch: Caroline Rose!
[Stereogum] By Chris DeVille It’s slightly ironic that Caroline Rose’s new album LONER begins with a song called “More Of The Same.” If you’re familiar with her last album, 2014’s I Will Not Be Afraid, what will instantly register is how much has changed. Back then New York-based Rose was a full-fledged roots-rocker whose music […]
Caroline Rose: Soul No. 5, Video Premiere & Interview
[Rookie] A video premiere, plus a chat with the singer-songwriter about creativity and friendship. By Rachel Davies On her second album LONER, Caroline Rose presents an iteration of lonerism that is perhaps a less obvious one–the experience not of being totally friendless, but of being someone who spends plenty of time with friends, but follows […]
Caroline Rose Calls Out Catcallers In Video For “Soul No. 5”
[American Songwriter] A bright, little starburst of New Wave-style pop sure to cure you of the winter doldrums. By Caine O’Rear On February 23, Caroline Rose will release her sophomore effort LONER on New West Records. The new record marks a stylistic shift from Rose’s folkier debut, 2013’s I Will Not Be Afraid. According to […]