Frankie Rose

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Interstellar Review

by Tim Sendra

After playing in a succession of noise pop bands and making her own very good noise pop record (2010's Frankie Rose and the Outs) Frankie Rose decided to make a change. She chucked out the echoing drums, the surf guitars, and the wall of reverb-soaked vocals, and with the help of producer Le Chev (a onetime member of Fischerspooner), set about giving her sound an overhaul. On 2012's Interstellar, there is barely any noise to be found; instead it's got a cleaned up sound with plenty of space between instruments, lots of shiny synths, and an overall sonic power that her debut only hinted at. There is less of a '60s pop and girl group influence to the songs this time out, too. Instead, she dips heavily into the classic synth pop of the '80s and there are heavy strands of New Order and the Human League running through the record. This kind of process of stepping away from the noisy sound she began with has sunk many of Rose's contemporaries as the newly slicked-up sound exposes the weaknesses of their songs or the underlying flaws in their approach. Quite the opposite occurs on Interstellar, the songs are more emotionally powerful and melodically pleasing than those on her debut, alternating between gently rocking midtempo tracks and angelic ballads that show a strong Arthur Russell influence in their looping, heavenly beauty (especially the cello-heavy "The Fall.") Rose's sweet and clear vocals are a perfect fit with the former tracks; she has enough of a tender bite in her voice to keep excitement levels high, and songs like "Know Me" and "Night Swim" are perfect examples of how to clean up your sound without sacrificing an ounce of quality. She really shows something special on the ballads, though, investing songs like "Pair of Wings" and "Apples for the Sun" with an open-hearted grace and power that lots of "real" singers wish they had. On these tracks and the rest of the album, Rose doesn't hide behind noise or production tricks. It's an honest record, stripped of artifice, and it will hit you hard if you give it a chance. Much respect to Rose for taking a chance that could have alienated her fan base, even more respect for making a record that builds on the strengths of her debut and spins it out to the heavens, a place where few of her fellow bands will ever find themselves.

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