It's been a while since the whole C86, indie/twee pop revivial hit critical mass, and those familiar with that scene's movers and shakers will doubtless have heard of Frankie Rose. Having flitted through Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, and Crystal Stilts she finally struck out on her own with 2010's Frankie Rose & The Outs which, whilst bouncy and fun on the outside, offered little deviation from the jangly guitars and 60's doo-wop pop so extensively mined by the aforementioned artists. Anyone expecting more of the same from her sophomore effort Interstellar will be sorely disappointed…in a very good way.
Gone is all the treble and tin-can production, and in its place comes a glorious soundscape of dreamy synths, ethereal harmonies, and music piped in from a parallel, candy-pop universe. That's not to say it's sickly sweet – there's a hard edged modernism at play throughout that stops anything from sounding like a retro pastiche, the wavering drone which opens 'Daylight Sky' being a case in point. Ditto the driving bass and kickdrum propulsion behind 'Had We Had It'. She may still be borrowing from her heroes, but this time around it's late 80's The Cure providing the road map, adding an interesting depth to the whole The Ronettes via Summer Camp vibe.
The wispy escapism extends to the lyrics, which never really extend past simple – yet beautiful – imagery. Rose variously invites us to "Come with me / Walking on the moon in my mind" ('Moon In My Mind'), describes how it's "So blue / Living in a dream" ('Gospel/Grace'), and how "All I want is a pair of wings to fly / Into the blue, a wide open sky" ('Pair Of Wings'), all delivered in breathy, echoed tones. The cumulative effect of all the harmonies and vocal layering makes you want to dive head first into this sonic twilight and swim around, a testament to the emotion she's able to wring out of simple, straightforward ideas.
Interstellar is a thoroughly beguiling record, a bold and brave departure that seduces you with its otherworldly charms. It's a remarkable effort from someone who started out seated behind a drum kit and thoroughly deserving of its place at the synth-pop top table. It seems that Rose is starting to hit her stride and has the chops to pull it off all on her own – and I can't wait to see where she wants to take us next.