[30 June 2014]
With so many contemporary groups employing a throwback approach to their songwriting and recording process, it can occasionally be more than a bit overwhelming and easier to simply dismiss the majority of these albums, lumping them into the “noise pop” or similarly-monikered subgenre with little second thought. Having made the rounds in a number of bands that would fall into this classification (Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, et. al.), the name Frankie Rose brings to mind a very specific sonic aesthetic and, without having to listen to any project with which she’s been associated, one could have a fairly solid idea of what it might sound like: loud, distorted guitars; obscured, sugary vocals; girl-group rhythms and pounding drums.
With Beverly, Rose’s new project with touring band mate Drew Citron, this is all certainly true and to be expected. What raises Beverly and their debut, Careers, above the crop of like-minded groups, however, is their melodic approach and unparalleled harmonies. While the lyrics themselves are as simplistic as one would expect given the genre, their execution is what draws the listener in and raises the bar to a level that will most likely not be surpassed by their current crop of peers exploring similar territory.
From the outset, Careers plays more like a collection of singles than a debut album, each track possessing an immediacy and vitality that makes this one of the more memorable installments in Rose’s increasingly vast catalog. Following several years of solo albums under her own name, Rose comfortably steps back into a collaborative role, having found an ideal foil in Citron’s pop compositional skills. With a catchy, highly melodic framework upon which to work, Rose here finds herself free to explore an array of compelling vocal melodies and gorgeous harmonies that far surpass her contemporaries in both skill and ability to accurately evoke the core vocal sound of the girl groups of the early 1960s. Add to this impeccably executed guitar lines, pounding drums and appropriately lo fi production and you’ve got one of the best releases in the genre, one that certainly makes a case for Rose as the reigning queen of throwback indie pop.
With nearly all songs here barely managing to break the three minute pop standard, Careers plays as an ideal primer in indie pop perfection. Quickly establishing a basic framework built around gorgeously simplistic melodies, complimented by wickedly complex, Beatles-esque harmonies that eschew the typical reliance on the third and fifth in favor of more exhilarating harmonic combinations, Rose and Citron deliver each in a concise, perfectly executed package.
Opener “Madora” features lovely vocals in a Sarah Records / C86 tradition, ethereally harmonizing through a shroud of reverb over slightly scuzzy guitars. This helps set the tone of what is to follow without charging out of the gate or setting an impossibly high bar the remainder of the album could never hope to surpass. Instead, Careers, like the best mixtapes, starts off strong and builds from there, fully hooking the listener by fourth track “All The Things”.
With its crisscrossing harmonies and chromatically descending vocal lines, “All The Things” is an absolute stunner and an earworm that sticks with the listener long after the final strains have faded and “Yale’s Life” has started. In the classic pop tradition, the charging chorus melody features lyrics delivered with an appropriately sighed cadence that conveys the song’s sentiments perfectly and taps into the best examples of the girl group tradition, updated for a modern listening audience in a way that could please both camps.
On the album’s back side, standout track “You Can’t Get It Right” explores a pleasant major/minor vocal melody on the verse with atypical chord changes and a slightly dissonant single note guitar line that evolves into an exceptional chorus melody, featuring a recitation of the song title delivered by dissonant close harmonies. Again and again, it’s the harmonies that make Careers a compelling listen and, through their atypical approach to a fairly staid genre, elevate these songs from good to great and, in the process, create one of the better albums to come out this year and one of the best examples the genre has offered thus far. Here’s to hoping Beverly is more than a one-off collaboration between these two newly-crowned indie pop titans.