When we saw Caroline Smith here in Rock Island a week ago, she looked extremely chill. She had on a plain, white T-shirt that was cinched up a little on its side, right along the left hip and she looked to be wearing something akin to pajama pants. She looked the way she sounds on one of the year's best records, "Half About Being A Woman." It's an album that finds Smith shifting her sound in a way that sounds a lot more like a Stax artist who might impossibly had premonitions about Polica, CHVRCHES, Lorde and Banks, decades before they would be here. She's now singing and writing more like Aretha Franklin than she ever has, finding a voice that's exceptionally strong, showing us a woman who is certain about who she is.
The women that she sings into this new collection of songs are galvanized. They have their tender spots - the places where they can always be hurt - but they are much more comfortable in the skin that they're wrapped in. They can deal with the peaks and the valleys of their relationships in more of a tossed off sort of way. They're still going to get decimated from time to time, but they've developed a resolve that one cannot be born with. It takes gobs of disappointments and getting the pointy end of naïvete before you can get to the place that these women, or this one woman finds herself in on this album. She's slipped into her pajama pants and knows that she's in control of this ship. She needs nothing more than her own comfort, unless she decides otherwise.
It's a tricky balancing act there - making yourself available and creating that air of not needing to get involved with anything less than ideal - but Smith does it superbly in these songs, two of which, "Bloodstyle" and "Magazine" should be radio smashes if there is justice in this world. It's a potential breakthrough album that should be required listening for any great ladies who have been walked out on or cheated on by some undeserving jackass.