Defining Rosie Carney’s sound on sophomore album I Wanna Feel Happy is maybe not as easy as it first appears. On the surface, and from the singles so far, it would seem like Rosie fits quite neatly into the bursting arena of singer-songwriters writing emotional indie anthems, riding along in the waves of success and interest created by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and the more folky releases from Taylor Swift in the last couple of years. You can certainly hear influence of those artists in Rosie’s songs. But, if you spend time with I Wanna Feel Happy, it also has a different, more ethereal and otherworldly feel to a lot of the artists in this genre, similar to the cover album of Radiohead’s The Bends that Rosie put out in 2020. Her work has a traditional, familiar feel – but the production, and her vocal performance, adds an element of the unfamiliar at the same time.
That said, it would be easy for a casual listener to run through the album once or twice and not notice the nuances. These are slow-burning, quietly emphatic songs that take a while to dig it your bones. ‘sugar’ is one of the highlights here and is also, perhaps, the perfect example of the point I’m making. On the surface this sounds like a typical indie pop track, it’s chorus of ‘it’s something to do/when there’s nothing to do/when there’s nothing to lose anymore/you’re fixing your hair/pretending to care/but it doesn’t work anymore/love, I’m closing the door’ pointing to so many of the typical touchpoints of this kind of music. But over time this song morphs a little, the pain in Rosie’s vocal making you feel something different, the contrast between the crunchy percussion and the sweet sound of the keys having a disconcerting affect. It’s a track that demands a lot of attention.
And so are many of the other songs on offer here. Rosie’s voice is gorgeous, so the auto-tune on opening track ‘i hate sundays’ might seem unnecessary, but it’s a vital tool in setting up the atmosphere of this slightly off-kilter album. Lead single ‘dad’ has a laid back and nonchalant tone in the verses, but as the layered vocal builds and the lyrics unfold, we are treated to a gripping story of a person looking back at simpler times before they realised some of the truths of the world. And ‘chiriro’, which starts as pretty much the most straightforward acoustic song on the piece (but with a great opening line of ‘on the wrong side of my bed/in a pool of pretty sweat’), soon grows into both the most anthemic but also most haunting song on the album. The piano loop on the chorus is simple but devastating.
If you’re someone who is willing to give music like this the time to grow on you, there are so many layers to unpack all the way through the album. Rosie is an artist who does a lot with her lyrics and vocals. But the music is endlessly fascinating too, offering comfort and calm on first glance, but revealing a more unsettling nature the longer you spend with it. Between the first and second album, Rosie does feel like a different, more accomplished and exciting artist – pushing her boundaries further and imbuing some of the sound she used on that Radiohead cover album into her own songs. There’s something here for indie-pop fans but, for those who sometimes see that genre as throwaway, there is depth and intrigue to keep you coming back for more. This is one I’ll still be listening to for years to come.
Words by Fran Slater