Frankie Rose, “Cage Tropical”
As a solo artist—as well as a member of Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, and Dum Dum Girls—Frankie Rose has been responsible for exciting music for a long time. The music on Cage Tropical, her newest album, is no exception. It could soundtrack a twilight beach party—appropriate, given the events leading up to its creation. But the lyrics are where you get the full story, the darker side of what was simultaneously an end and a beginning. If you were to say that the whole package sounds like a sad time in Los Angeles, you’d be dead on.
When she wasn’t touring, Rose spent the last decade in Brooklyn. It was enough for her to live off of, in every way. Then she relocated to LA, and the tides turned. She found herself broke and alone, wondering why she was there and how she was going to get out. On the album’s title track, which couldn’t be more perfectly observed, she sings, “A special kind of hell on a sunny day / Cage Tropical, make it go away / On and on she tried, a cage, a door / You’re on your own again.” Sleep was out of the question, so at night, Rose delved into the radio archives of Art Bell, the broadcaster who specialized in the paranormal. In addition to Bell’s influence (Rose named a Cage Tropical song after him), the echoes of ’80s synth royalty grace the album. “Dyson Sphere” is what would’ve happened if 4AD had signed A Flock of Seagulls, and Avalon-era Roxy Music also looms large.
But to compare the album to anything else almost cheapens it, because it’s Rose’s own experience, expertly realized and translated. She’s now back in Brooklyn, but the time she spent in Cage Tropical, which was initially her loss, is also her gain—and ours.