Rosie Tucker
Photo: Terrorbird Media

Rosie Tucker Wants ‘Utopia Now!’

Rosie Tucker’s Utopia Now! effortlessly counterbalances its pop tendencies with broader cultural critique, wry intellectualism, and lots of melancholic humor.

Rosie Tucker
Sentimental Records
22 March 2024

I’ve had the lyric video for Rosie Tucker’s “Barbara Ann” saved in a YouTube playlist for a couple of years. It’s a brilliantly complicated song, both melodically and lyrically dense, while also impossibly catchy.

It turns out Rosie Tucker (they/them) have been chasing after that power dream thesis of a pop song ever since their 2015 debut LP, Lowlight. Tucker’s musical career has expanded along the now antiquated traditional route: Pitchfork coverage, signing a deal with Epitaph Records, and tours with folks like Indigo De Souza, Soccer Mommy, and the Beths. Then, Epitaph released them shortly after their 2021 LP, Sucker Supreme. On Tiny Songs Volume 1, released last September, they explored small songs recorded during the pandemic. (All songs were 76 seconds or less in length.) 

Enter Utopia Now!, Tucker’s fourth LP. Recorded at home and self-produced with their creative partner, Wolfy, the album is an alchemistic mix of post-pandemic mall punk and dream pop. Like “Barbara Ann”, it possesses a real, charming genre elusiveness.

From the start, “Lightbulb” displays Tucker’s incredible ability to render songs from thought experiments. Fiona Apple’s brand of melancholia is all over this one (“I get jealous when someone I know’s on TV”), and Tucker questions the worthiness of pursuing music and art making anymore. “How many songwriters does it take to screw a tune?” they ask. By the end, Tucker finds themselves alone with a piano, singing seemingly in the next room over. 

“All My Exes Live In Vortexes” has all the undeniable hooks of the best early 2000s emo, right down to the echoing tremolo on their electric guitar. In the chorus, Tucker goes full pop anthem. In “Everything, Everything”, they keep repeating, incanting. From a tight pop punk foundation on “Gil Scott Albatross”, Tucker sings this verse, arguably their best on the record:  

They’re going to turn the moon into a sweatshop
Like none of these fuckers ever even heard of Gil Scott 
Heron more like albatross

And if I turn my life into a treadmill
Write me in a spreadsheet, lay me in a landfill with all that 
Shit that I can’t stop

“Paperclip Maximizer” draws its name from that famous thought experiment about the morality of AI. There are notions of Built to Spill and Car Seat Headrest here, and yet it’s all entirely Rosie Tucker. The two ballads on Utopia Now!, “Maylene” and “Big Fish No Fun,” are paired together. Tucker embraces an acoustic guitar on the former, singing, “My neighbor Maylene loves the cops / Loves to yell at her grown son.” It quickly dissolves into an audio montage featuring what sounds like questions from voices on a TV. In “Big Fish/No Fun”, they sing, “Your metadata proves you’re the real thing”, and it’s delivered too ironically even for critique.

There’s a noticeable depth to “Unending Bliss”, a masterclass in composing musical texture. If “sonicscape” isn’t too pretentious a thought to have in 2024, you’ll find them in abundance here. “I want nothing but unending bliss for my enemies,” Tucker sings repeatedly, trying to believe it and encouraging us to as well.

At 54 seconds (and perhaps a leftover from last year’s Tiny Songs project), “White Savior Myth” is in its most concentrated form. As is Rosie Tucker’s form by now, their reality is experienced by metaphor first. In “Obscura” and “Me Minus One Atom”, they choose idiosyncrasy over brutal sentimentality. “Obscura” takes on human perception in its various forms: vision, through a camera lens, and even glimpsed through cellophane. It all sounds impossibly scholarly here, and yet, Tucker’s captivating vocals and ability to create fashionable hooks ground their lyrics throughout the album. 

The title track is about as pure of a piece of pop music that can be created this late in the Anthropocene. While Tucker and Wolfy default to DIY quirk throughout the album (mainly evidenced by that one ironic and trailing, even angsty, “No Fun” harmony on “Big Fish/No Fun”), “Utopia Now!” finds Tucker alone, strumming and singing what has all the initial joy of being a first demo. On an album swimming with noteworthy choruses, this song has the best. (Biasedly, I think the song also features the best single line on the entire album: “I buried the lede, but the bitch came back.”) Introduced with horns and a fitting auto-tune breakdown, the album ends fittingly with the glitchy “Eternal Life”. 

On Utopia Now!, Rosie Tucker turns ironic ennui and allegory into truly enchanting pop songs. These songs are musically economical and focused and feature lyrics that are always studied but never unapproachable. Utopia Now! effortlessly counterbalances its pop tendencies with broader cultural critique, wry intellectualism, and lots of melancholic humor. It’s a utopia they are demanding, and Rosie Tucker has filled theirs with some smart and truly incredible pop songs. 

RATING 8 / 10