2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette
All hail Caroline Rose, queen clown of indie rock in a red track suit and a mouthful of cigarettes, gleefully proclaiming, “I did it for the money/ La la la la la” over spy movie surf guitar on 2018’s fun-loving LONER. For their next act, Rose fashioned themselves a fame-crazed automaton with empty eyes and plastic skin on an absurdist Day of the Locust journey to total failure on 2020’s ill-fated conceptual pop record Superstar. (Ill-fated because, you know, 2020; the record itself was quite good.) Yet Superstar shone brightest when Rose went from superficial to super-real, dropping themselves into the terrifying moment when the main-character-of-their-own-life becomes cognizant of how much has been lost in the quest to follow their heart—and how desperately they wish to hit reset on it all. Alas! No do overs in this world. What now?
The “now” is what Rose grapples with on The Art of Forgetting, an unflinching chronicle of a dark night of the soul with all the swelling violas and Spanish guitars and flickering harps such high drama deserves, crammed through a purview so small and personal it could fit neatly inside a jewelry box. The record has something of a storyline the way life sometimes has a storyline—a terrible break up, a season passed in the swamp of self-doubt—but Rose is not playing a character, for once. This is them, these are their feelings and this is what they are: rejection, regret, desperation, and sadness.
Far from being a drag, The Art of Forgetting is revelatory. As a songwriter, Rose has never been better; as an arranger, doubly so. In contrast to Superstar’s slick synthetic textures, The Art of Forgetting splits the difference between experimental, modular sounds and manipulated analog flourishes that convey the unreliable qualities of memory, alternately mutating, degrading, or coming into heartbreakingly sharp focus, looping back and forth on itself in an endless cycle in search of an exit. The result is a record that feels constructed to mimic the uncomfortable feelings of rumination that accompany periods of deep personal growth.
Rose is fearless in their expression. On “Miami,” they wrestle with the pain of rejection over frantic instrumentation that escalates like a panic attack until Rose is nearly wailing the chorus. “This is the hard part/ The part that they don’t tell you about,” they sing, their voice growing hoarser with each word. “There is the art of loving/ This is the art of forgetting how.” On the shimmery, slinky “The Kiss,” Rose attempts to soothe their shattered heart with the kiss from someone new and plasticine ’80s pop—“I would do most anything,” they whimper, their tone as downcast as it is desperate. Throughout The Art of Forgetting Rose mines their own memories for bits of comfort both cold and common sense—their mother tells them to stop victimizing themself; there’s a song about their therapist (“Jill Says”). In an inspired artistic choice, interspersed between the songs are clips of voicemails left for Rose by their grandmother, Mee Maw, who showers them with message after message of unconditional adoration: I miss you, I love you, I am always thinking about you—a potent reminder that there are kinds of love that remain constant even if the mind itself deteriorates.
Do things improve for our intrepid Rose? Sort of. Not really. No. Well? Maybe. By the time Rose arrives at the closing track “Where Do I Go From Here?” they’re still at war with their conscience over the inability to let go of things they cannot change. “Take all this pain and learn to love yourself again,” sings the angel of Rose’s better nature. “Shut up,” is the reply to this pointless platitude. Some things are too painful to ever be forgotten, but they can be transmuted. “The memories live on in this song,” concludes Rose. Amen to that.