On first listen, Herein Wild presents itself as more of the same from Frankie Rose, a resident player of the dream pop game for the past decade (though she's changed teams on several occasions—including stints with Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, and Vivian Girls—before deciding to fly solo). With each successive listen, however, it becomes clearer and clearer that Rose has honed her consistency to a pinpoint edge. While her sound and style remain all-in-all the same, lying beyond the reverb drone is something more technically proficient and significantly better produced than any of her prior releases, even if it lacks some of the ambition of its predecessor.
Though her solo career started with 2010's Frankie Rose and the Outs, Rose really stepped into the limelight and established her latest musical journey with last year's Interstellar, an album full of somberly haunting takes on synth pop and shoegaze that showed a knack for hooky songwriting, without all the sugar-coated razzmatazz and kitschy modern pop nonsense. A year and a half later, it still takes a concerted effort to eject "Know Me," the album's infectious first single, from one's subconscious rotation. Her latest transition is, in a way, yet another shift in personnel, upgrading from Slumberland Records over to Fat Possum (Dinosaur Jr., Fiery Furnaces, Youth Lagoon), which carries with it a drastic increase in production value. For Interstellar, it was often difficult to pierce the gloom and hear one's way through the fog of echoes. On Herein Wild, one can clearly identify the minute intricacies in Rose's songwriting that shine beyond the average, cyclical hum-work trappings of dream pop and shoegaze.
Stylistically, Herein Wild is very much the same as Interstellar, and there are several sonic parallels that both albums keep in tow. For instance, "Question/Reason" is nearly a formulaic reproduction of "Know Me," walking the tightrope-divide between a new composition and an attempted rehashing of a song that served as a key driving force behind Interstellar. She utilizes not only similarly leading guitar riffs and the same on/off-switch enthusiasm behind her chanted prose, but also similar structural dividers in build placement for its already simplistic verse/chorus/bridge/chorus song layout. It's as though the new production value was the heart behind "Question/Reason," and in a "same play on two" strategy, Rose attempted to re-imagine what her first hit with the aid of her new technology.
Rose's two most interesting and thought-provoking inclusions come at the tail-end of Herein Wild, namely her cover of The Damned's "Street of Dreams" and her most personal composition to date, "Requiem." Rose's take on "Street Of Dreams" is a fairly straight-laced cover-as-homage only, of course, with Rose's ethereal whispers in place of Dave Vanian's traditionally Brit-punk yelps. The cover gives a brief glimpse at Rose's history. It's easy to imagine Frankie Rose drawing influence and inspiration from shoegaze founders, or even trailing further back to acts like The Cure—one of many bands that clearly inspired the genre as a whole long before its inception. Yet to hear Rose pay respects to The Damned in a manner that sounds altogether natural provides a far more rewarding insight into her musical development.
All things original about Frankie Rose's music past and present come to critical light with closing track "Requiem," on which Rose ditches her usual rock band instrumental arrangement for a brief (2:10) acoustic number with some light cello and trumpet accompaniment. "I'm afraid hell and heaven are the same—it's the usual sorry song," she muses on her track about the clandestine frailty of morals and merit. The new age folk lullaby is like nothing we've heard of Rose before across any of the dream pop projects she's played a role in, yet she shows a tremendous firsthand aptitude towards survival without the soothing blanket of effects and reverb regularly imposed by the genre.
At times, Herein Wild is a tad too much of a treatise to Rose's past works, and it can play out as a cautiously optimistic gratuity, a gracious thank you to the powers that brought her this far. After nearly a decade of nomadic shifts from band-to-band, Rose is finally in her comfort zone, yet she faces the very real danger of resting too comfortably therein. Herein Wild's heightened precision and technicality are worthy of praise, but its lack of outward ambition could yet serve as a preemptive misstep.
1. You For Me
3. Into Blue
4. The Depths
5. Cliffs As High
6. Minor Times
7. Question Reason
9. Street Of Dreams