This Ain’t the Way You Go Out

After giving birth to her first child, Otis, in 2021, UK songwriter Lucy Rose developed excruciating back pain. After an unpleasant encounter at the doctor’s office and months of Rose’s own research, she finally figured out that she had a rare, severe form of pregnancy-induced osteoporosis and eight fractured vertebrae. Already reeling from the depression and burnout that inspired her 2019 record, No Words Left, Rose endured months of recovery before she could again sit at the piano and write, now with Otis in her lap. Unlike the emotional intensity of No Words Left, her new music was surprisingly energetic and joyful. She would record these songs over two days with her longtime band, recruiting producer Kwes. to help her further embellish her sound. On This Ain’t the Way You Go Out, Rose expands her capabilities as a songwriter and musician while maintaining the warmth that’s made her a British folk staple for over a decade.

Listen past the smooth production of her previous work and you’ll hear sneaky time signature changes and sophisticated piano voicings. On the new album’s opener “Light as Grass” and the soaring jam session “Interlude I,” Rose displays her command of the piano, an instrument she’d increasingly adopted in her music and fully embraces here. Kwes., known for working with Solange as well as UK rapper Loyle Carner, applies his background in alternative hip-hop and R&B to pack every song with psychedelic vocal delays, disintegrating keyboards, and aggressive treatment of David Dyson’s drum kit. On “Dusty Frames,” a tribute to the late Egyptian queer activist Sarah Hegazi, Kwes. doubles Rose’s piano with a warbly synth and looming synth bass; something devastating lurks beneath, even if the words don’t fully capture Hegazi’s impact.

Rose’s voice is as pure and light as ever, but the most inspired part of This Ain’t the Way is how the album repositions that quiet register as silent rage. “Could You Help Me” describes Rose’s search for medical professionals who would listen instead of dismissing her concerns as “hysterical” (really!): “Could I ever really feel it for you?” she asks, unable to communicate her experiences to dismissive GPs. Rose glides lightly across the track, but a distorted violin solo crashes in to express the frustration her voice disguises. The deceptively chipper “Life’s Too Short” and the sparse “No More” each touch on the loneliness of illness, the friends whose patience eventually wears thin. On “Whatever You Want,” Rose’s willingness to be awkwardly direct (“a miracle, a disaster, all in one foul swoop”) powers the song’s central question: What do idealistic phrases like “You can be whatever you want” mean to someone struggling to move? Beneath the instrumental experimentation, there’s both grief and a sense of hope inspired by raising Otis and by Rose’s own recovery. As she sings on the title track: “I blame myself for being so weak/But this brave body is still carrying me.”

After “No More” comes the biggest swing on the record, and one of Rose’s wildest songs to date. “The Racket” starts out with an oscillating chord loop, but with every chorus, the band piles on until the final minute becomes genuinely anarchic. Rose stands at the eye of the storm, sharing in plainspoken language what she’s learned: “Took it for granted/Life ain’t always what you were handed,” the chorus opines. Out of context, that might come across like the kind of unhelpful platitude Rose struggles with elsewhere on the record, but it’s clear she means every word.