As is the case with past years on this blog, I’ll be using the last month of the year to write short reviews of albums I enjoyed over the year, but never got around to reviewing. However, in 2022 I stayed pretty on top of talking about albums I liked with my monthly and seasonal recaps of my recent listening trends. So for the most part, the albums I’ll be writing about this December will be ones that came out during the past few months.
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but CAZIMI by Caitlin Rose was undoubtedly my most anticipated album of 2022. Or at least, it would have been if I’d had any preconceived notion that Caitlin Rose would be releasing an album this year, as I’d more or less resigned to the fact that she’d never release another album again. After all, she’s not an artist with the highest profile and the fact of the matter is, making a living as a musician these days wasn’t easy before COVID hit, and now it’s even worse. So I really couldn’t fault Rose if she chose to pack it in.
Getting a little more specific as to why I was so excited to hear CAZIMI, Caitlin Rose’s 2013 album The Stand-In was an album I loved, so much so that it snuck into my top 10 that year despite being an album I only got into after other websites’ Top 10 lists started dropping that year. It was an album that blended country yearnin’ with indie cool, and whose whistful quality made it a great soundtrack to my final weeks living in L.A., often spent driving around the Valley wondering what the hell I was doing there.
Cut to almost a decade later, and Caitlin Rose has finally released a follow-up to The Stand-In. It was not an album I had any expectation of seeing the light of day, since I stopped googling “Caitlin Rose new album” a couple years ago when it seemed like waiting around for such a thing was futile. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see CAZIMI on a new album release calendar a few weeks before it came out in November along with a pair of promising singles that I didn’t even know were already out.
As for why it took Caitlin Rose so long to release another album, some of it seems to be writer’s block, some of it the pandemic, and some of it seems to be due to more personal matters that Rose hasn’t divulged, which is pretty refreshing considering how much musicians’ private lives have become part of the narrative of any new music they release. It’s hard not to compare this restraint to the all-encompassing Taylor Swift, who Rose has a not-so-loose connection to, since Caitlin’s mom Liz Rose co-wrote many of Swift’s early songs, including the immortal “All Too Well”.
Though despite this long gap between albums, CAZIMI more or less picks up where The Stand-In left off. And because Rose’s blend of classic country and upbeat indie rock has a timeless quality to it, the change in styles and tastes that have happened since 2013 have little effect on CAZIMI. Also, this is further sidestepped by the fact that Rose enlisted some of Nashville’s finest low-key tastemakers to help shape the album, including Kacey Musgraves collaborator Daniel Tashian and one of my favorite modern guitarists, William Tyler.
Yet despite Rose staying true to her Nashville roots, the album sees her delving even deeper into indie-pop territory. Her melodies still have an indelibly catchy quality to them, while a slight sadness underpins every lyric about being nobody’s sweetheart or nobody’s fool. Meanwhile, a few of the songs have this great propulsive quality to them, best personified by the way the titanic “Black Obsidian” leads into the highway-hopping longing of “How Far Away”. Then on top of everything is Rose’s voice, with its inherent sweetness that has a great way of delivering an earnest lyric tinged with regret and self-doubt. It’s a voice I’ve missed these past nine years and one I’d like to not have to wait nearly as long to hear again, since apparently I was a fool not to hold out hope.