Cage Tropical by Frankie Rose

Release date: August 11, 2017
Label: Slumberland/Grey Market

Brooklyn-based (formerly LA) artist Frankie Rose is well known for her work with Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls, as well as several wonderful solo albums (most notably, the excellent Interstellar). For a time preceding the creation of this record and through bouts of insomnia and listening to paranormal broadcaster Art Bell, Frankie began to feel that music was no longer for her. But she persevered, and thank goodness, because this new offering is really good and a bit removed stylistically from previous efforts. She worked with a number of people, ranging from Jorge Elbrecht (Tamaryn, Gang Gang Dance, Violens) to Dave Harrington (Darkside). With no budget and a random recording schedule, she got it done. The result of all this is her new fourth album, Cage Tropical. It’s a bouncy album of bright, retro sounding synth pop and new wave. It reflects Frankie’s interest in old sci-fi movies and soundtracks that use silly synths.

Witness the shimmering splendor of the opening track, ‘Love in Rockets’, a light, airy tune that could have debuted in the late 80s. In fact, the whole record is akin to finding a treasure box full of vintage items. How else to describe the feeling you get when hearing these songs? Frankie has a pleasant voice that lends itself well to these compositions. ‘Dyson Sphere’ has rubbery, thick bass lines married to an intoxicating melody, a prime example of uplifting post punk. ‘Trouble’ is the first single, and its interrupted start catches me up short, but it quickly morphs into a solid song with a peppy backbeat. ‘Art Bell’ is a slightly mysterious swatch of electro psych pop with a catchy chorus. ‘Dancing Down the Hall’ is birthed as a noirish slice of ambience and blooms into a breathy pop tune ripe with beautiful instrumental passages.

The title track is keyboard driven synth pop, bright and shiny around the edges, but somewhat somber at its core. ‘Game to Play’ is one of the best songs in this song suite, with chiming tones and a luminous melody. It’s my favorite so far. ‘Epic Slack’ needs to be a lot longer, its majestic sweep ends all too soon. ‘Decontrol’ ends the album in fine fashion, sounding faded around the edges like a well-loved postcard from long ago, dredging up memories of great wells of melodic synth pop from the era of Thomas Dolby and the like. I’d like to cap this review off by saying how much I enjoyed listening to this record, with its slightly unusual themes and random bursts of sound from three decades ago. Recommended for all Frankie Rose fans and anyone who followed the other bands she was in.

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