As New York musician Caroline Rose settled into the loping cowpunk sound of her first indie efforts, 2012’s “America Religious” and 2014’s “I Will Not Be Afraid,” something was eating away at her inside as she sensed a gap surfacing between her artistic vision and its twangy execution.
“Even as my first record was being released, I already had one leg out the door, because I realized that this music wasn’t making me happy, and I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I was trapped in a small box,” says the 28-year-old, in town this week with a new attitude and album.
After reflection and recalibration — and giving herself a personal manifesto which stipulated that she should always wear the color red — she took a clever sonic U-turn in 2018’s “Loner. ” The album is awash in Cars-cheeky synths and the pop power-chording of early Cheap Trick.
“I needed something that sounded more like me. And it took some time to hone in on my humor, because I really wanted to get that side of myself across. If you’re too funny, people won’t take you seriously, or you’ll trap yourself in a real niche market, like Devo,” she says.
Rose managed to strike the perfect bratty balance. The single “Soul No. 5,” for instance, finds her sneering aloof New Wave lines “I got a credit card I use it all the time/ I got the Gucci Gucci gooey ooi oozy style,” while its video features her red-hoodied bad self on a banana-seat Huffy bike from the 1960s, then doing beach-front calisthenics in red Crocs.
Stylistically, it’s miles away from the forlorn yodeling on her 2014 single “Blood on Your Bootheels.”
The transformation is remarkable. But it’s not as if she’d never undergone radical changes before. Rose quietly earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Wellesley College when she decided that a folk-country stage suited her better than an office cubicle.
“Then I had my five-year eureka moment,” says the rocker, who just kept writing until she saw a common thread that tied all the diverse new material together.
“I felt like I was firing on all cylinders, so I just embraced that,” she says. “Now I’m already working on my next album, which is inspired by famous people whose ego engorges itself to death until they end up in some public breakdown.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Diversadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 28
Tickets: $16 to $19
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.comAmerica ReligiousCaroline RoseI Will Not Be AfraidLonernew wavePop MusicSoul No. 5