Frankie Rose is a stalwart of Brooklyn’s jangle-pop scene, having notched up stints in three of its most successful acts – Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls and Crystal Stilts. Last year Rose issued her second solo album, Interstellar, a tuneful and accessible pop album influenced equally by The Cure and The Carpenters.
Herein Wild marks a further refinement of Rose’s sound. It retains Interstellar’s melodicism while adding flourishes of strings, brass and woodwind. And it’s about as far away from the lo-fi garage rock of her former bands as it’s possible to get without making a death metal record.
Pop acts have a tendency to get carried away with strings, using them to slather big major chords over songs that aren’t deserving of their grandeur. Fortunately, Rose has impeccable taste; these luxurious flourishes are used sparingly over Herein Wild’s 10 tracks.
It’s not just the production values that have had an upgrade on Herein Wild: Rose’s songwriting, too, is significantly sharper. The album opens with a trio of thrillingly intuitive pop songs. You For Me begins with a glam rock stomp that gives way to a beautiful melody blessed with the same awestruck quality as The Carpenters’ Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft. (The ’70s AOR act are again an influence on Herein Wild.) Sorrow contains a contender for 2013’s best middle eight, while Into Blue has an instantly memorable chorus. Minor Times is perhaps the best of the bunch: a delectable song that resembles Fleetwood Mac gone ambient.
As exciting as these songs are, a whole album of these musical sugar rushes might have proved a little cloying. Fortunately, Herein Wild is peppered with slower, darker, odder tracks. The Depths and Heaven are reminiscent of Seventeen Seconds-era The Cure. Street Of Dreams is a cover of a track by The Damned; unless one were already familiar with this 1985 deep cut, one would only know by checking the credits, so seamlessly does it fit with Herein Wild’s aesthetic.
Rose has admitted that in the past she’s paid little attention to her words, often in ad-libbing lyrics in the studio. She’s claimed to have upped her game on Herein Wild, which she describes as her most personal work to date. Yet Rose’s lyrics are at their most effective when they feel like they’re commentating on the surrounding music, such as Cliffs So High’s “weightless, light as a feather” – an apt description of a song that’s carried along by strings and piano and not a single drumbeat in earshot.
It is, however, unlikely that many listeners will be paying much attention to the words on Herein Wild, such is the gorgeousness of the music. This is a real treat from a rapidly evolving artist and one of the year’s most purely pleasurable albums.