Review: Caitlin Rose Returns with a Pop Sheen Reflecting on a Relationship Gone Wrong

Caitlin Rose
CAZIMI (Missing Piece)
3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

About that title.

According to the advance notes, cazimi is “the astrological term for when a planet is in such close, specific proximity to the sun, that it’s considered to be in the heart of it.” It’ll take scouring the lyrics from singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose’s new release, her first in nine years, to find the correlation of that term to these dozen songs.

Rose’s music always displayed a pop sheen, emphasized by her trilling, sweet voice and a grip on melodies that effortlessly complimented it. Through a process of recording basic tracks pre-pandemic (February 2020), to tweaking them over the next few years, she has created a glossy, handsomely produced set that reverberates with the late ’70s, California vibe.

Sometimes this attention to sonic detail (she co-produces with Jordan Lehning) works well. That’s the case when the layers of shimmering instrumentation, which make even the darkest concepts, such as those in “Modern Dancing” where Rose sizes up a potential romantic interest warning them I’ve had enough of these cosmic divorces/you know in the end that we only end up on our own, resonate like candy-coated pop.

The murkier slant of “Gemini Moon” finds a pulsating groove to match its throbbing Cali-pop ambiance. Courtney Marie Andrews gets writing credit on “Getting It Right,” another tune that has the singer looking in the mirror with  Someday I’ll find the answer somehow/but I’m just working on getting in right now as the music lifts and swells behind her. The melancholy reflection of a love gone wrong in “Blameless” resonates with remorse.

But too often these tracks are overcooked. The backing is tight and professionally played yet the music lacks the space to naturally breathe. It’s rigid and inflexible when there should be a give and take of the band with the singer. Perhaps that’s the result of how the final product was crafted. The songs often don’t feel organic or warm which, with lyrics that are self-reflective, makes some selections seem stiff, pushed too close for the radio play they are reaching for. 

Rose’s lovely voice is somewhat unemotional and detached. These tunes would also be improved if stripped down to a tougher, less polished approach. Basically how they might sound live.

There are enough moments when everything clicks to make this a pleasant, intermittently compelling listen. But it’s hard to shake the nagging feeling that it could have been much better with a starker instrumental edge and less processing.

Credit: Laura E. Partain / Missing Piece Group

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