Caroline Rose: The Art of Forgetting

Caroline Rose has a penchant for reinvention. They turned from their Americana origins to nervy indie pop on 2018’s LONER, then slipped into hyper-stylized digital pop on 2020’s Superstar. Released just days before COVID-19 sent America into lockdown, that album went largely unnoticed. For Rose, the professional bad luck was compounded by a sudden, painful breakup. The New York singer-songwriter processes those events on the moody, tumultuous The Art of Forgetting.

The move toward emotional exorcism on The Art of Forgetting is nearly as startling as Rose’s previous stylistic pivots. Each of these tonal shifts suggested that Rose preferred to operate at a distance, reluctant to reveal too much of themselves in their art. On LONER, they repeatedly relied on humor—the album cover featured a deadpan Rose cramming a whole pack of cigarettes in their mouth—and they immersed themselves in an entirely different musical persona on Superstar, a concept album about fame.

The Art of Forgetting, wit and artistic self-awareness are not the driving force of the music; they’re accents that color Rose’s descent into their psyche. “Miami,” the lead single—and the source of the album’s title—crystallizes the emotional shift within their art, building to a cathartic release. Rose returns to such vulnerability throughout the album, sometimes pushing their weathered voice to the brink, occasionally murmuring in a whisper that commands attention. These changes aren’t so much reversals as points on a spectrum, capturing the peaks and valleys of a particularly challenging bout of reflection. 

As a song called “The Doldrums” suggests, Rose spends much of The Art of Forgetting testing the limits of sadness, boredom, and isolation. With its slow, dramatic crescendo, “Love/Lover/Friend” provides a keynote for the rest of the record, setting the stage for a song like “The Kiss,” which stretches out so long that its yearning feels almost meditative. It’s a trick Rose replicates on the introspective “Where Do I Go From Here?,” which ends the album on an uncertain, questioning note. Rose occasionally departs from mid-tempo melancholy. There’s an appealing slipperiness to the new-wave gauze covering “Everywhere I Go Bring the Rain,” while “Stockholm Syndrome” simmers over a subdued, lounge-y rhythm that neatly contrasts with the insistent “Tell Me What You Want,” which boasts the cleanest, clearest hooks here.

But individual songs, as carefully articulated as they are, tend to get swallowed up by the overarching psychological thrust of The Art of Forgetting: This is a mood piece capturing a specific frame of mind, even a particular era. Rose approached the album as a kind of audio documentary, threading in voicemails from their ailing grandmother. They describe these found sounds as “little grounding moments that capture the time.” Perhaps they do carry great personal import for Rose, yet these scattered voicemails backfire; the jarring bits of audio vérité unravel the songs’ dreamy, dramatic spell. 

Those voicemails and other spoken-word fragments reveal a confessional side that Rose hasn’t previously shown. Once reluctant to spill their feelings onto the page, Rose now writes an ode to their therapist in “Jill Says,” a song that demonstrates admirable personal growth yet makes for awkward art. Rose's forthright lyrics aren't as bracing as their painterly music, where emotions are conveyed through shifting textures and circular melodies. For all of the soul-baring on The Art of Forgetting, what lingers are the unanswered questions and ambiguities—the places where Rose is still searching for their truth. 

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Caroline Rose: The Art of Forgetting