One of the most enduring showbiz clichés is that of comic actors who are desperate to play serious roles and prove they have real talent. In a very real way, Caroline Rose's third album, 2018's Loner, finds her following this path in reverse. After first establishing herself as a thoughtful folkie (2010's Caroline Rose) and then as an eclectic roots rock artist (2014's I Will Not Be Afraid), Loner is a creative 180 where she embraces dance beats, lo-fi electronics, and bent but effective pop hooks and sounds freer, wilder, and more engaged than she did when she was supposedly being a "serious" artist. Loner is the sound of Caroline Rose having fun and saying just as much as (if not more than) when she wasn't playing for laughs, and her home-brewed version of contemporary dance-pop is both witty and satisfying, playful without drowning in irony. And this music has clearly energized Rose; her vocals are strong and effective whether she's aiming for moody seduction on "To Die Today" or for full-on mania as in "Money." As a songwriter, she's opened up, able to shift gears from the bratty teenage vibe of "Soul No. 5" and the Farfisa-driven pop of "Bikini" to the busted ambitions of "Jeannie Becomes a Mom" and the shadowy eroticism of "Animal." And the production by Rose and Paul Butler walks a fine line between polish and inspired trashiness, hitting the sweet spot throughout. Some of the folks who loved Caroline Rose's first two albums are going to have a hard time with Loner, but she doesn't sound the least bit worried about it, and she shouldn't be -- she's made the most interesting album of her career to date.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming