New Music Review: Frankie Rose; ‘Interstellar’ (MUSIC VIDEO)
Frankie Rose released her full-length solo debut on Tuesday, although it has been streaming at Spin for weeks, and it’s an unexpected departure from her previous work, one that takes getting used to but rewards the effort.
Frankie Rose emerged in 2007 as a member of Vivian Girls, penning that group’s best song: “Where Do You Run To.” She left Vivian Girls the next year after their first album, briefly spending time in The Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls before forming her own band, Frankie Rose And The Outs. Her full-length solo debut is a radical departure from her work with any of these groups, or on “Thee Only One,” the single she released under her own name in 2009. Here Rose abandons the noise pop and girl group inspired sounds she’s mined in the past for the spacey kind of dream pop that was 4AD’s signature in the 80s, pushing the guitars to the background in favor of reverb drenched keyboards.
After a dreamy intro that foreshadows the radical departure of the rest of the album, “Interstellar” is a bit of a false start, sounding more like something on Frankie Rose + The Outs than anything else on the album, just with a prominent keyboard part and a lot more echo on the vocals.
“Know Me” is the album’s most immediately recognizable highlight. The clean guitars and 80s-inspired synthesizers are balanced perfectly and Rose’s songwriting is at its best. Upbeat and infectious, Rose’s melody and backing vocals are particularly well executed; it’s obvious why this was chosen as the single.
“Gospel/Grace” slows things down a bit, but keeps the hooks and melodic charm. A bit more sparse than the other songs, the synths are still present but not always the main attraction. The arrangement allows room to breath during the verses, often propelled by only bass and drums. It’s a nuanced, idiosyncratic song that unfolds in initially unpredictable ways that reveal their logic with subsequent listens.
“Daylight Sky” is another candidate for album highlight, with a gorgeous chorus and hooks delivered from almost every instrument. By this point there’s no mistaking the change in direction that Frankie Rose has taken from the fuzzy noise pop she made with Frankie Rose And The Outs to something more resembling bands on the 4AD label in the 80s. That being said: while her influences are obvious, she never comes across as derivative or lazy. These songs are all well written, intricately layered and thoughtfully produced.
“Pair of Wings” slows things down and pushes them even more in a direction previously untouched by Rose. Her self-harmonizing really makes the song. It develops slowly but still has a catchy, pretty melody. It contains some of the most memorable and easiest to discern lyrics on the album: “All that I want is a pair of wings to fly/Into the blue of a wide open sky/Show me your scars, I’ll show you mine/Perched up in the city on a pair of power lines.” If there’s a bone to pick with this song it’s that the chorus (as memorable as it is) is perhaps repeated one or two too many times at the end.
“Had We Had It” is the song on the album I find most consistently stuck in my head even if it isn’t my favorite. It doesn’t even register as catchy immediately; I was initially more drawn to the intricate keyboard textures, but with repeated plays it just burrowed its way into my skull.
“Night Swim” is the one of the most upbeat and noisy songs on the album, breaking up a string of subdued dream pop. The keyboards are used more to accentuate the noise of the rest of the song, rather than the dreamy flourishes accompanying most tracks on the album.
“Apples For The Sun” goes in the complete opposite direction, building off of a keyboard on an electric piano setting, drenched in reverb. It swirls out from there, as Rose’s vocals reverberate like they were recorded in a cathedral.
“Moon In My Mind” introduces a dose of post-punk moodiness to mix while retaining the kind of astral dreaminess of the rest of the album. Rose’s vocals seem to disperse in all directions, ripples in a cosmic puddle.
“The Fall” is a beautiful and almost mysterious end to the album. A repeated cello part acts as counterpoint to the guitar and synth washes. The echo on Rose’s vocals is really piled on, as numerous parts seem to drift in and out of focus. When the song ends it appears to dissipate into thin air.
More Music Reviews from Erik Oster:
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