Like the heroine of a big-budget romantic comedy, Carly Rae Jepsen presents as an eminently likable everywoman, a casually self-deprecating dreamer whose composure is no match for a sudden explosion of emotional fireworks. What elevates Jepsen’s script beyond cliché is the degree of conviction she brings to the part: her fearless ability to scale the embarrassing edge of feeling and trust-fall into her music. Like Taylor Swift, Jepsen’s gift for summoning rapturous emotion is undercut only when canned sass and cringe humor take precedence over roiling passion or clear-eyed revelation. But where Swift’s every word deepens an already cultish personal mythology, Jepsen’s persona is more broadly sketched: less identifiable with a specific sound, look, or set of quirks than a sword-wielding mandate to honor the immediacy of your heart.

Her newest album, The Loveliest Time, is a companion to and loose thematic inversion of last year’s The Loneliest Time. The third in a series of B-side albums culled from Jepsen’s ultra-productive studio sessions, it is also a concentrated dose of Weird Carly, operating at the flamboyant edges of pop convention. Where The Loneliest Time was steeped in personal loss and pandemic malaise, The Loveliest is strutting and extroverted, drunk off new love and bracingly direct about desire. It is also one of the most musically diverse in her catalog, cycling through experiments that range from go-go to French touch to quasi-IDM. So long as she sings from the heart, The Loveliest Time suggests that Jepsen’s music can tolerate an enormous amount of artifice.

With a reliable set of returning collaborators including Rostam, Patrik Berger, John Hill, and Kyle Shearer, Jepsen dips into sounds that both stay the course and swerve wildly from anything else in her discography. “Kamikaze” and lead single “Shy Boy” are familiar offerings from Jepsen, slices of weapons-grade ’80s pop that roar to life off the back of muscular drum machines and spiraling Moroder synths. But The Loveliest Time also has fascinating detours. Opener “Anything to Be With You” rides a crisp go-go drumline shot through with electric guitar reminiscent of Amerie’s “1 Thing” and achieves a similar weightless groove. Buoyed by looping vocal samples and progressively massive French touch synths, standout track “Psychedelic Switch” is a glorious surrender to sensation. The strangest song by far is “After Last Night,” a glitchy piece of Rostam-produced baroque aughts pop in the vein of “Genie in a Bottle” that Jepsen transforms into a characteristic moment of starry-eyed romantic realization.

Actual loneliness on The Loneliest Time was more of a suggestion than a central conceit, and while The Loveliest Time mostly lives up to its promise of openhearted emotion, it isn’t entirely breezy. While it’s thrilling to hear the singer call the shots with a timid hottie on “Shy Boy” or lose her conscious faculties to sheer ecstasy on “Psychedelic Switch,” Jepsen’s giddy uplift is bookended by pockets of angst on mid-tempo tracks like “Aeroplanes” and “Put It to Rest.” And while they’re perfectly serviceable songs—with some incredible drumming on the latter—their inclusion affirms that this is indeed a collection of outtakes rather than a concept album. The dusky Tame Impala-style guitar on “Kollage” and car-commercial-sized synth of “Stadium Love” likewise feel out of place. Taken as a whole, though, The Loveliest Time is a solid counterpart to its sister album, trading quiet, introspective power for brassy, headlong joy.

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Carly Rae Jepsen: The Loveliest Time