Frankie Rose is a luminary of the Brooklyn indie pop scene, with stints as a drummer in the Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and the Dum Dum Girls behind her – not to mention her own group The Outs, with whom she released an album in 2010. Despite this impressive indie pop pedigree, Rose has not truly marked out an identity for herself until now with her debut album as a solo artist Interstellar. Interstellar is something of a volte face for Rose, eschewing the lo-fi garage fuzz of her previous output in favour of something far more musically developed and infinitely more interesting.
Frankie Rose was previously known for squalling guitars and straight-ahead, slightly retro indie pop but, with Interstellar, Rose has blown those preconceptions entirely out the park with an album that eschews guitar fuzz and lo-fi production in favour of a sharp and glistening crystalline pop sound brimming with blissful dreamy charms. Interstellar is a pop record lovingly crafted and filled with subtly immersive and insidious hooks. The main sound is a combination of reverb heavy guitars and soaring synthesisers with Rose’s perfectly poised sparkling voice pushed to the fore right at the heart of its swirling sound. The album gives the impression of Harriet Wheeler from The Sundays fronting The Cure and it is a perfect mix of ethereal ambience and whip-smart new wave pop.
The opening title track introduces this dreamy pop vibe as its lush ambient textures swirl around before exploding into a bouncy synthesiser pop rush. It is a feeling of exuberance never before heard on a record featuring Frankie Rose and it is striking in its effectiveness. There is a distinct ’80s vibe throughout the album and in that respect it shares a lot with Chairlift‘s second album Something, also released this year, that is another record that channels ’80s pop sounds while harnessing them to something slighter, stranger and deeper – and Interstellar certainly shares those same attributes. One area where Interstellar differs is that it often drifts off into more glacial dreamier pastures.
Pair Of Wings and the stunning Had We Had It are both subtly pared back and their sparse arrangements bring home the quality of Rose’s excellent voice. The former is a strange kind of ambient gospel while the latter is brimming with a wide eyes childlike wonder.
Guitars are still a strong presence here but they are shimmering rather than bludgeoning and Daylight Sky’s lovely slide guitar is particularly effective while there are echoes of The Cure throughout in Interstellar’s reverb heavy guitars.
Coupled with the more direct, overtly pop sound Interstellar has a rhythmic pulse that was never previously apparent with Rose’s work. The driving new wave rock of Nightswim and Moon In My Mind’s Joy Division-esque bass are both prime examples of Frankie Rose’s new found dynamism. While the album is more polished and pristine than anything we have heard from Rose before there is still a connection to her earlier more lo-fi garage guitar sound, nothing is overblown or over-egged and there is still a naïve charm to her work; an engaging and important quality. The album’s final suite of songs see it drifting off in an ambient haze with the hypnotic Apples For The Sun And The Fall is slightly reminiscent of The xx with its minimal but compelling guitar coupled with some hushed vocals.
Interstellar appears to be Frankie Rose establishing her true identity as a real pop star, and there are moments of pop perfection here that suggest she may be successful. It is no doubt a big risk leaving behind many aspects of the sound that made her name but, on Interstellar, she advances her sound so expertly and compellingly that it is a risk that was well worth taking.