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Album Review: Frankie Rose, “Interstellar”

George Lang Published: February 28, 2012

Rating: 91

Since emerging as drummer for the Vivian Girls in 2007, Frankie Rose proved to be so peripatetic that just maintaining her official bio could be a fulltime job. After leaving the Vivian Girls, Rose moved on to similarly minded garage-rock bands such as Crystal Stilts and the Dum Dum Girls before launching her solo career. While her 2010 album credited to Frankie Rose and the Outs still retained the noise-pop aesthetic of her previous bands, her new album sans Outs, “Interstellar,” embraces the cleaner, chiming atmospherics of The Cure circa “Disintegration,” or in the most transcendent moments, the great guitar-based countermelodies of Johnny Marr.

That Cure influence is only blatantly referenced on the utterly gorgeous “Know Me,” which is powered by the bouncy percussion line from “Close to Me,” but “Interstellar” is free of Robert Smith’s sorrow, dominated by a kind of artful stargazing romanticism characterized by Rose’s precise, crystalline and nearly affectless vocal delivery. At times, that precision can result something close to Laurie Anderson’s perfect phrasing, most obviously in the first half of the opening title track and on the bright centerpiece “Daylight Sky,” giving her songs uncommon directness and clarity. The use of synthesizers differentiates “Interstellar” from all of Rose’s previous music, but she does not indelicately impose the keyboards where they do not belong — it’s hard to image the breathtaking, nearly percussion-free “Pair of Wings” and “Apples for the Sun” without them.

“Interstellar” shares a no-nonsense economy with Rose’s earlier work — even with more sophisticated arrangements, these songs cast their spells quickly and the two longest tracks clock in at just over four minutes. But that tightness and concision just makes the many memorable songs on “Interstellar” more special: rather than lingering too long, nearly every one begs to be replayed. After much casting about as a supporting player, Rose proves she is most valuable on her own, and while this foray into the sounds of pre-grunge British alternative music is probably not her final destination, it is by far her best.

George Lang