Album Reviews

Frankie Rose – Love As Projection

(Slumberland) UK release date: 10 March 2023

Smart, literate pop music that can tug at the heart as well as make you dance

Frankie Rose - Love As Projection As a stalwart of the New York indie scene over the last 10 years, there aren’t many more experienced names than Frankie Rose. She’s been a member of various bands, such as Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls, while also releasing a couple of solo records, including an entire cover album of The Cure‘s Seventeen Seconds.

That Cure reference is an important one when listening to Love As Projection – while this isn’t full on goth, it certainly has that ’80s synth aesthetic draped all over it. Opening track Sixteen Ways is a good indication of the delights to come: waves of synths wash over you, aided by Rose’s multi-tracked harmonies on a naggingly catchy melody.

It’s a decent introduction, but what comes next is even better. Recent single Anywhere is already one of the tracks of the year, a big, glistening pop anthem, with lyrics like “it takes a lot of nerve to come and ask for sugar, you’ve never been too sweet, not like your brother”. Just one listen will see it hook its way into your brain and take up permanent residency.

There’s reverb drenched over pretty much every track on Love Is Projection – sometimes it works beautifully, as on the short ballad Feel Light, which pretty much sees Rose duetting with herself, but it does mean that there’s a tendency for each track to start to sound the same after a while. Towards the end of the record, it’s possible to start hankering after something a bit grittier.

That’s not to say Love As Projection doesn’t have any magical moments though. DOA is a majestically stately ballad, while Come Back is a beautiful synth anthem that recalls the epic qualities of M83 at times. There are moments through the album that bring to mind Cliff Martinez, in particular his work on the Drive soundtrack, but Rose never sounds self-consciously retro, as Martinez has a tendency to.

Only occasionally does the album threaten to go awry. The closing track Song For A Horse has the inevitable if unintentional side-effect of bringing to mind My Lovely Horse from the sitcom Father Ted, and tracks like Molotov In Stereo can feel a bit plodding sometimes, especially compared to a sparkling disco-pop gem like Sleeping Night And Day which precedes it.

Some synth-pop can often be accused of being style over substance, a cool, aloof exterior stopping the music from displaying any real heart. That’s not the case with Frankie Rose, this is smart, literate pop music that can tug at the heart as well as make you dance.

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