Making good satire is hard. If you’ve been anywhere online in the last 10+ years, you know this. We’ve all seen some dude on Twitter post a horrifically terrible, offensive joke or take, and then say “it was satire!” when the backlash hits. That dude is bad at satire. Satire should not only evict an emotional response, it should make you think. It might make you laugh or cry or get angry, but satire then makes you consider why you had that reaction and what it says about the bigger issue its addressing. I also don’t need to tell you this, but making good music is hard. Countless hours of writing and tracking and everything go into an album or even just one track. In much the same way as satire, music is at its best when it creates an emotion and a thought in a listener. Being good at only one of satire or music is hard enough. It takes a supremely talented person to be good at both. Caroline Rose is one of those people. On her new album Loner, Rose delivers scathing and effective satire with music you’ll want on repeat all year.
Look no further than one of the album’s first singles, “Money.” Take out the music and just read the lyrics and it’s satire of the highest order about the priority placed on money in our deeply capitalist society that often places the bottom line above art, meaning or basic decency. That on its own is worthy of applause, but Rose delivers it as a breakneck surf rock song that speeds along with head-banging abandon. “He didn’t do it for the girl, didn’t do it for the boy, didn’t do it for the mother-father-sister-daughter” Rose spits out during the song with a wildly escalating sense of urgency. Her delivery fits not only the genre of “Money,” but also the desperation of those who pursue dollars with a reckless abandon. The entire album operates on this same level, with Rose’s delivery, word choice, instrument choice and everything else fitting not only the music she wants to make but the satire about issues Rose cares about. It will make you examine how you see the world, and it sounds damn good too.
There’s no one genre that Rose occupies on Loner, either. “Bikini,” besides being a fantastic critique of men viewing women as objects to be used in the industry, is also a wonderfully danceable pop number. It’s a good time as you hum along, and then lines like “we’re going to put you in the movies and on TV/ all you’ve got to do’s put on this little bikini and dance” and you’re incredibly grossed out. Which of course is the point, because that mentality is gross as hell and also still how large swaths of the men with hiring power think. Its intro is incredible as well, a cacophony of men telling women to smile, which any woman can tell you is equal parts obnoxious, demeaning and all too prevalent. “Cry!” combines a warning about how the music industry treats most people as disposable with a melancholy rock tune. Looking through the album credits you’ll see that Rose played a vast majority of the instruments herself. You can tell, as each piece of each track fits snuggly together, all working towards bridging the gap between Rose’s thoughts and ideas with the listener.
Caroline Rose aims at the big picture a lot on Loner, but is also adept at using smaller scale stories to great effect. “Jeannie Become A Mom” is the story of a single mother trying to make her way in the world and hold onto her dreams, underscored by Rose’s excellent use of the OP-1. “Getting to Me” takes place entirely in a diner, but any listener can relate to Rose’s tale of a few events piling up until you’re buried under an avalanche of misery with how the world operates. On a small or large scale, Rose knows how to speak to her listeners.
By the time you get to the end of Loner, Caroline Rose will have made you feel a lot of things. She’ll have made you dance, cry and laugh. She’ll also have made you think about the countless ways that the music industry and the world at large still mistreat and underrepresent women and the LGBT community. Rose does both with her smart writing, production, and musical prowess, and in the process makes Loner an album that thrives, evolves, and gets better on each listen.