dammit, caroline. only you could have put out an r&b record like this. after two folk-centered albums and years of relentless touring with the goodnight sleeps, minneapolis singer-songwriter caroline smith trimmed the excess of her stage name (but kept her bandmates) and began work on her newest album, half about being a woman. it’s her best yet.
in all honesty, i should have seen this coming. in a 2012 interview that i did with smith for playground misnomer, she confessed that she was listening to “a ton of beyoncé, out the fucking door,” and cited soul icons like carole king and aretha franklin as current influences. i postulated that these influences would surface most noticeably in smith’s vocals, but she evidently had more cohesive plan in the early stages of formation. half about being a woman is a slow-burning affair, incorporating a wide palate of organs, keyboards, delayed-backbeat drumming, and backing vocals that never graced a goodnight sleeps record.
i think that’s the point. smith’s voice is definitely recognizable, but it’s also easy to tell just how much its timbre has shifted to accommodate this new singing style. more confidence is exuded, more risks are taken, and smith cashes in every time, captivating with hooks absent from her previous output. what remains is her lyrical wit; smith proves she can still be perfectly tongue-in-cheek with lines like “i ain’t a gold digger, but a girl got needs / so buy me something please” on the brief and galloping “buy me something.”
smith has always excelled at singing about the emotive aspects of life, and her shift in focus towards r&b only makes that more apparent. the instrumentals throughout half about being a woman are phenomenal and succeed in complementing smith’s vocal aesthetic; the title track is a slow-burning conglomerate of motown sounds, with swirling organs and fat drum hits providing a foundation for guitar lines to sneak into and vocal harmonies to sit on top of. “half about being a woman” kicks off a four-song suite of downtempo r&b goodness that features some of the best music you’ll probably hear this year. other people will back me up on that.
although only nine tracks, half about being a woman seems to be the perfect snapshot of caroline smith at this moment in her young career; it’s her first album with a true sense of identity attached to it, and that confidence suits her well. the songs groove and smith’s vocals soar, providing the perfect soundtrack to relaxing autumn afternoons. this record hasn’t really stopped playing since i got it, and i don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.