We were all knocked out by the Frankie Rose and the Outs album from 2010, the effortlessness of its gorgeous girl-pop mantras, the intimate immensity of its Spector-esque walls of reverb, the beauty of a song sung sweetly over the most graceful two-chord vamps. But are you ready for the new Frankie Rose? – her transformation into a wholly other kind of pop, the reverie and revelation of Interstellar, an album that floats free of its maker's history – time spent with Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts, and creator of one of the most breathlessly compelling girl-pop albums of the past few years – and offers the listener something strangely other, as alien as it is familiar, as compelling as it is enchanting.
Talking with Frankie about the record, it's clear she was itching for a new start. The first big indication – production by Le Chev, remixer supreme (for Lemonade, Narcisse, Passion Pit, and Frankie's own "Candy"), an ensemble member of Fischerspooner, etc. "We recorded the record in a private studio dubbed The Thermometer Factory in Park Slope. I wanted this record to be totally different and in so doing I knew I had to work with someone who would lend fresh ideas and know how to make sounds that I wouldn't know how to make. I wanted to make a particular record and I knew Le Chev would be the one who could help me do it."
So, out with the reverb of the Frankie Rose and the Outs, and in with something altogether more glam, glittering, shivering. On Interstellar Frankie takes the lessons learned with her debut album – like reverb as the holy route to pop-grandeur, scaling a wall of teenage tears – fully digests, and transfers those skills into the brave new world mapped out by ten new songs. In its place is the confident swagger of a singer and auteur fully aware of how to build the simplest of pop moves into aching, full-blown melodramas, how to grab hold of an emotion and ride its darker waves. "I always have a big picture in mind," Frankie reflects. "I knew I wanted a HUGE sounding record. Big highs, big lows, and clean. There is no fuzz on this record. I knew I wanted to make a streamlined, spacious record with big choruses that sometimes referenced 80s pop." But that referencing never swamps the melodies: this record isn't a retro trip. If anything, it liberates sounds familiar from that decade and gives them new context, breathes life into clay golems of sound that too often become basic, pre-set triggers.
On Interstellar, Frankie Rose goes epic, goes widescreen. "Had We Had It" spins the sweetest sugar from chords that ascend into the firmament, a heavenly, palatial blur. "Gospel/Grace" rumbles with passion, a New Order-esque one-finger guitar figure leading the listener into the choral depths mapped by the chorus. "Apples For The Sun" is breathtaking, with Frankie singing out across a lone piano, before a glorious web of voice and organ pirouettes into the air, an arbor of pleasure connecting the verse with its instrumental shadow, a coda that slowly slips from your view, before making the briefest, most tantalizing of returns. A lot of Interstellar seems to be about disappearing into, or finding and reveling in, this kind of imaginary zone, something Rose confirms: "The whole record is about dreaming of some 'other' place."
And as you drift into the heartbreaking "The Fall," which floats out to sea on a lunar-aquatic cello riff that's pure Arthur Russell, you're ready to conquer those other places, too, to let Frankie Rose guide you out of the album's spell and land you back in the sensual world, slightly altered, adrift and in awe. How does it feel to feel? With Interstellar, your emotions come out so alive, your only escape is to dive right back in.