I was only going to review one song from Brooklyn dream pop enigma Frankie Rose’s third LP Cage Tropical, but picking just one song wouldn’t do this album justice. This album is as diverse as it is immense. There are so many genres packed into it that it’s hard to pin exactly where Frankie fits in the spectrum. Everything comes together spectacularly, though, in an album that is not to be listened to in pieces.
The first three songs kick things off in an optimistic and upbeat way. “Love in Rockets” and “Trouble” strike a nostalgic and lo-fi chord, and are solid songs that hark back to 80s shoegaze pop. Right away you’ll hear the importance of the bass guitar. It adds a thunderous backing texture to otherwise bright melodies throughout. Around “Art Bell” and “Dancing Down the Hall,” you’ll start to notice that the tone turns spacey and incredibly dark. Speaking of spacey and incredibly dark, I’ve seen this mentioned in several other bios and reviews of this album, but the comparison to Cocteau Twins is unavoidable and deserved. Also of note is Rose’s use of piano, especially on the title track. It gave me chills almost every time as it breaks up the inky, pounding bass and hazy, reverb-soaked guitars.
Frankie has produced something truly remarkable in “Red Museum.” It’s an extremely depressing song; the piano drops a couple keys, the guitars turn sullen and the beat menacing, with Frankie exclaiming, “everything you know’s a lie, everything you have will die,” as if you were suddenly descending into a nightmare. The chorus swoops in with a dreamy backing guitar and sparkling vocals that took me by surprise on first listen. The chorus and the bridge seem to trade punches as Frankie beautifully navigates her vocals around the conflicting melodies. “Red Museum” is impossible to put a finger on and is one of the most fascinating songs I’ve heard this year.
The album ends with a return to that 80s shoegaze theme cranked up to 11 with the funny little instrumental track “Epic Slack” and “Decontrol,” a cheesy ode to classic synth-fueled epics like those produced by Flock of Seagulls.
This is such a fun album that’s as enjoyable as it is confounding (in the best way possible) from first track to last. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotion, unapologetically different from song to song. Cage Tropical is a new-age homage to the greats who first thought heavy bass, light piano, reverb guitar and spacey synths made for moody yet catchy pop music.