When you lose it all, you’ve got to learn to let go. For musician Frankie Rose, the recent past has been filled with turbulence. In spite of her rather impressive CV, contributing to bands like Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls, Frankie Rose was brought down by LA. A move out West sent her packing back East. Rose’s latest album, Cage Tropical, is the freaky byproduct of this catastrophe –Frankie Rose’s shot at redemption. Now, I say freaky, because the onslaught of effects, on top of wispy vocals and synth-laden melodies, makes for this sort of Twilight Zone indie pop. In some ways it’s a little predictable, in others it’s well executed. Regardless, it’s some of the most powerful music of its kind –maybe the only of it’s kind.
Cage Tropical begins serene, with some clean guitars working their way along percussion and synths that give off an 80’s vibe. The opening track, “Love In Rockets,” sets the mood with vocals disguised in reverb. As the album segues to, “Dyson Sphere,” Frankie Rose picks up a very Depeche Mode vibe. In many ways, Cage Tropical is a throwback with two parts integrity, one part experimentation.
Alas, much of the album seems to be a bit of rinse and repeat as well. The album progresses through “Trouble” and “Art Bell” which both pair shimmering synthesizers alongside more reverbed vocals. While the former is more rhythmic and almost shoegazey, the latter is a more involved pop listen. Despite this, Frankie Rose carries a good deal of diversity in composition. Each track is distinctive enough to keep you hooked. If you can get past the formula, Cage Tropical is a solid listen.
That said, what makes Frankie Rose’s album particularly fantastic is how skillfully she balances each instrumental voice. The album’s title track captures this perfectly. “Cage Tropical” begins with a thick bass line, quickly countered by a set of keys. Vocals flood in naturally, but the bass line manages to say prominent alongside a simple percussion. Each part seems to weave around the other perfectly. As the track gains more momentum, vocals are used more cleverly as a cascading sample. Frankie Rose transcends her 80’s atmosphere and really embraces that more experimental side.
As the album comes to its end with, “Decontrol,” Frankie Rose manages to pull out another gem. The song leads with Frankie’s vocals up front. Arguably, the instrumental-vocal combination takes on a more freaky kind of cool and the chorus leads with a heavy dose of sound that demands to be a pop hit. The song sounds massive, it’s absolutely overwhelming.
Cage Tropical is a genuine throwback while still being fresh and interesting. Diversity and balance make the album truly special. Sometimes there’s a hint of Bjork there, normally it’s an 80’s homage laden with synth and vocal reverb. Arguably, enjoying Cage Tropical is the easy part, deciphering it is more difficult. If you’re looking for pop that makes you think, or maybe the most clever overuse of synthesizer, or a disgusting amount of reverbed vocals that makes sense although it shouldn’t, don’t look any further. Frankie Rose’s Cage Tropical is some of the most unique and interesting new music.