Premiere: CAROLINE NO – ‘ALEX’

Caroline Kennedy of The Plums and Deadstar fame is gearing up to bless the masses with a second collection of songs penned as Caroline No. Swimmers is set to release in early March, but before we all have the opportunity to bask in its dreamy textures, Caroline is gifting us ‘Alex’ – a beautiful and heartbreaking ode to the idea of the perfect partner and the search for that flawless being that can cater to all our desires.

The best advice one can receive when talking about love is to never put somebody else on a pedestal. Essentially, this means you shouldn’t assign to them characteristics or qualities that they might not posses, and subsequently place them in a position where they will inevitably fail to meet the expectations you’ve placed on them – whether they know they’ve been placed or not. It boils down to accepting someone for who they are, and diverting some of that love and adoration on to your own self. It’s easier said then done, and when confronted with a strong bout of loneliness, we sometimes are guilty of conjuring up an image of the lover we wish we had, or think we deserve. The concept of this ideal human and their inherent immateriality forms the basis of Caroline Nos new EP Swimmers, which will released to the public through Remote Control Records in March.

The accomplished singer and songwriter has linked up with Mick Turner (Dirty Three) and Ian Wadley (Mad Nanna, Bird Blobs, Minimum Chips), to compose and record an assuredly lush and engrossing record, exemplified in the album’s opener ‘Alex’. Written amidst the haze of a bushfire summer roughly two years back, this song takes the languid wistfulness of that time and imbues it with earnest romance. ‘Alex’ features fluttering pianos and pitter-patter drums, which underscore long hymnal notes – held at length as if to savour the moment as one would a kiss, or an intimate moment of stillness. The beauty of this song is undeniable and arresting, though with knowledge of the album’s intent in the forefront of my mind I couldn’t help notice sadness within the song itself.

Real or imagined, Alex is clearly the personification of everything Caroline seeks in an other. As the opening verse indicates, Caroline is already in the depths of serious affection, acknowledging that no one else will compare. It’s earnest and heartfelt, pure and warm. Despite this, she is unable to comprehend that perfect Alex might not exist – at least, Caroline’s version of Alex – and that flawless love will never be Caroline’s to posses.

Hey Alex, I think I know / no one can do what you can do / though I can search forever / and never know anything better

She’s stuck in this daydream, and what’s more, she doesn’t want to become unstuck.

I’m gonna stick like glue / because I’m still stuck on you

Gradually the song shifts, and Caroline acknowledges that she sees parts of Alex in everyone. Perhaps Alex proved to be flawed after all, revealing their inherent humanity and the imperfections that come with it (perhaps that turned out okay in the end). Whether or not Alex stuck around in the end is unclear (maybe that question will be answered in the EP), but ‘Alex’ is a nice reminder of the double-edged sword that we wield when our hearts are on the line – how sharp that sword is and how deep it cuts. There’s no shame in wanting something pure and true, and sometimes we can’t help manifesting love as we want it to be. When it fails, it leaves an aching legacy that reemerges in times of loneliness as a reminder of what was obtained, lost, and what could have been. When it succeeds – it if ever does – we still tend to lose sight of ourselves, letting the other fill the gaps in hearts and souls without putting the work in to be ‘perfect’ in our own right.

Whether or not Alex ended up being what Caroline hoped they’d be, the little things that made them seem perfect could potentially be found in others, and that’s something worth holding on to. Although my heart might not be able to take it, I’m very much looking forward to hearing the rest of Swimmers. I anticipate that it’ll continue to pull on my heartstrings and stir me up inside, but at the end of the day that’s what I seek.

Caroline No will be launching the record on Saturday March 11 at the Northcote Social Club, with help from some special guests. You can pre-order Swimmers here.