Frankie Rose proved herself to be the restless type during the second half of the aughts. Upon her arrival in New York City, Rose embarked on a stint in Vivian Girls here, a jaunt with Crystal Stilts there, and an interlude with Dum Dum Girls tucked somewhere in that timeline. But each time she left a band scrambling to find a drummer to take her place, it never seemed like an issue of incompatibility. Rose always seemed to be chasing different sounds, while still looking for someone to bounce ideas off of. Interstellar represents the conclusion of Rose’s experiment, as she jettisons collaboration altogether (including backing band The Outs, who joined her on her 2010 album, Frankie Rose and The Outs), straps her career prospects to a rocket and blasts into space, leaving her previous lo-fi oriented sound preferences in a pile of burning scraps behind.
Yes, Interstellar is a proud pop album, but it stands out in its artful dodging of modern pop’s glassy-eyed maximalism. The album consists of a compact ten tracks, with only two types of songs within that: irresistibly bubbly jams that hit on all of the best moments of bands like New Order, the Cure, and other post-punk luminaries, and slower, more atmospheric work where Rose indulges some of her more heady ideas. Producer Le Chev, no stranger to maximalism due to his work with Fischerspooner, gives all of the songs here a beautiful sheen while still retaining a great deal of warmth and human detail. Songs contain gobs of atmosphere and puff-cloud dream-pop moments while remaining tethered to the ground by heavy bass parts. Rose never elevates her voice above mid-level singing, but it still possesses a certain power and confidence to it. Interstellar is an album that succeeds greatly due to its strict adherence to these balances.
The only place Interstellar isn’t balanced is in its ratio of good tracks to bad, as there isn’t really a clunker to be found here. “Know Me” is the obvious choice for the highlight- its highly syncopated bass part in the chorus and “Close To Me”-jacking drum machine pattern cause it to possess a giddy joy. “Daylight Sky” sports an entire team of woozy synths punctuated by sunburst choruses. “Pair Of Wings” begins solemnly with warm keys, Rose’s isolated voice, and in a brilliant reality check, the clicking of a metronome in the background. The track follows an almost post-rock structure, building bit by bit, slathering multi-tracked choruses of Roses and other keyboards before finally dropping thunderclap drums and M83-ish background moans. Then, there’s the title track, a prog-pop monster that ebbs and flows between rolling verses and a wordless chorus almost regal in nature. For as great a track as “Know Me” is, it sure does seem small when sequenced next to the opening title track.
And really, Rose’s occasional over-reliance on sounds already familiar to listeners is just about the only reason why the number you see above isn’t higher. While the unabashed pop moments on Interstellar are truly great and welcome, Rose easily proves she’s capable of more daring things, as illustrated by closer “The Fall,” which is built entirely on a cello loop, vocals coming from every direction, and absolutely glowing guitar work. By entirely abandoning just about every sound that brought her to this point, Frankie Rose already established herself as brave. That the large ideas all work as well as they do establishes her as ahead of the curve.