Album Review: Caitlin Rose – CAZIMI

“Ten years! Ten Years! Where’ve you been for ten years?” asks John Cusack’s buddy in great 90s hitman comedy Grosse Pointe Blank. Music fans across the globe have been asking the same question upon hearing of Caitlin Rose’s return to making music. “I freaked out, joined the Army, worked for the government, and went into business for myself… I’m a professional killer” is Cusack’s reply. Whilst Caitlin Rose’s response may not be as radical, her withdrawal from the scene appears to be an amalgamation of reasons prompted by the undue pressures of releasing two of the best records of the early 2010s.

Truth be told, Rose is at odds to share any of the gory details of her absence. Importantly, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the music that she’s creating now. What new record CAZIMI does demonstrate is that Caitlin Rose has returned looking forward, confident, mature, and still in possession of one of the most celebrated voices in Nashville.

She may have become a darling of the alt-country scene a decade ago, but CAZIMI no longer falls neatly into this category. Opener ‘Carried Away’ is a gentle reminder of the liquid gold of her vocals but there’s a gentle shimmer to the music, a mellower more self-reflective version of Caitlin Rose on display. Don’t let this fool you though; the record’s musical vitality emerges on ‘Modern Dancer’ complete with animated synths, sprightly guitars and ambiguous movie samples. This may disguise an astute lyrical approach which reveals some personal insight perhaps when she sings “I’ve got a romance with ruin…I’ve been a whore and a soldier of fortune”.

‘Getting it Right’ is perhaps more orthodox, but benefits from Courtney Marie Andrews’ harmonies and wonderfully tousled percussion and guitars and this continues on ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’ which further demonstrates that CAZIMI does not seem restricted by genre limitations. The record is a platform for Rose to push in any direction she pleases. ‘Lil’ Vesta’ pursues the cosmic course that the album title draws from and the record continues to deliver these remarkably assured slices of country-tinged pop in these earlier stages.

The album does sag slightly in the middle. Caitlin could always spin a tune and craft a hook out of nowhere and her vocals were the secret ingredient to this process. The record lacks these more immediate moments, but if the album requires more patience so be it. I think we can all offer her that considering her journey to get here.

With that in mind, we’re rewarded by a cracking final stretch. Empyrean themes are further explored amidst the the cut and thrust of the jangly magnificence of ‘Gemini Moon’ but it’s the album closer which perhaps presents us with the real Caitlin Rose circa 2022; ‘Only Lies’ has been mooching about for a while, but not this version and it’s a revelation. Eschewing the melancholic, reserved approach presented on the re-release of Own Side Now, the song also abstains from the country tones that she was perhaps expected to repeat throughout. Instead, the track layers up on the acoustic intro with craggy electric guitars, kaleidoscopic keys, ethereal harmonies and even chiming bells to generate the most spine-tingling moment on the record. It confirms how good it is to have Caitlin Rose back again. She’s back and she’s killing it!

Iain Fox