Best tunes of 2012: #12 Frankie Rose “Pair of wings”

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I’m pretty near positive that I first came to listen to Frankie Rose’s second solo album, “Interstellar”, because of her impressive resume that included working with bands like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. I was likely expecting to hear some 60s girls group wall of sound, given this pedigree*, but this is not what I got. Instead, I voyaged off to space with her, a retro outer space, minimalist and analogue synth heavy, reverb drenched and vacuous. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud.

My favourite song on this record wasn’t either of the two singles that were proudly advertised on the hype label. Don’t get me wrong, “Know me” and “Night swim” are also both excellent. However, there is just something about “Pair of wings” that flirts heavily with near perfection.

The liner notes credit the song to a ‘Wu Li Leung’ who originally wrote the song as “Wings to fly” but initial (and lazy, and perhaps slightly drunken) attempts to track this original down while writing these words came up empty. I will trust our musical artist, though, and appreciate her honesty in giving credit where it is due. “Pair of wings” is a delicate and sweet notion, universal and easily comprehensible, repetition into simplicity.

“All that I want is
A pair of wings to fly
Into the blue of
The wide open sky”

These four minutes of magnificence starts and ends with the ticking of an alien clock. From there, the minimalist synth chords change slowly yet assured, washes upon washes, bells ringing into infinity, rocketing percussion, steam and exhaust, layers of everything and eternity. Rose’s vocals are amplified by the vacuum, her ringing vocals bouncing off planets and moons.

This is space rock that is only such because it is dreamy pop rocked by synths and empty space. It envelops you and assimilates you. If you scream in space, does anybody hear it? And with beauty this palpable, does it matter?

*Apparently, her first solo album, recorded under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, did follow this line of questioning, but I have yet to listen to this one. So I am unable to confirm or deny.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.


Vinyl love: Andy Bell “The view from halfway down”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Andy Bell
Album Title: The view from halfway down
Year released: 2020
Details: Blue vinyl

The skinny: If you follow me on Instagram as well, you’ll know that I try to post a picture of what’s spinning on my turntable every Sunday. You’ll also know that this very record was my #sundayspin last week and that I admitted there that I didn’t actually listen to Andy Bell’s solo album, “The view from halfway down”, when it was first released back in October of last year. Even now, I couldn’t tell you why, given how much of a fan I am of all the bands with which he has worked (Beady Eye notwithstanding). By the time I got around to it in December, I had already drafted my list, was deep into counting down my favourite albums of the year on these pages, and found myself kicking my own ass for my tardiness and for not being able to include it. I wasn’t too late, however, to snag a copy of it in blue coloured vinyl, a chance I would not let pass me by. The album only vaguely sounds of his work in Oasis and Ride but the sentiments are there. It is pop music that dances across a shoegaze and psychedelic canvas, a breath of fog on a grimy window, a cloudy sky with just a hint of the light blue beyond. If you haven’t listened to it, do so now.

Standout track: “Love comes in waves”


Best tunes of 1993: #27 Frank Black “Hang onto your ego”

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By the time I started listening to the Pixies, they had already released their fourth and ‘final’ album*, “Trompe le monde”. That album’s second single, “Alec Eiffel”, became my gateway and my friend Tim did the rest, sharing with me the best of their back catalogue. So though I was somewhat saddened by the news of their breakup in 1993, it was short-lived, because almost immediately afterwards, I started hearing bits of new solo work by the band’s ex-frontman, Black Francis, heretofore renamed as Frank Black. Indeed, the first single off his self-titled debut, “Los Angeles”, got a lot of attention right off the bat, plenty of radio air play, and its video hit the regular rotation on MuchMusic.

That a new release from Black came so quickly after the demise of his band was hardly a surprise to anyone. In fact, some critics had facetiously called “Trompe le monde” his first solo album, pointing out the reduced creative input by bassist Kim Deal. The tensions in the band at that time was palpable to all and sundry. Indeed, even while recording that album, he had discussions with the album’s producer about a possible solo album. He didn’t have a lot of new material at the ready to record so Frank Black had originally planned to record an album of covers. By the time he entered the recording studio in 1992, though, he had plenty of material, much of it a continuation of what he had begun with “Trompe le monde”.

“Hang on to your ego” is the only holdover from Black’s original concept, though when I first heard it on a mixed tape a university friend made for me, I had no idea it was a cover. It’s a great one, too, and by all rights should also appear on my 100 best covers series**.

The original was recorded by The Beach Boys for their “Pet sounds” album in 1966. It sounds of a carnival, slightly off-kilter with a janky piano, a tambourine, and a harmonium and very inventive and cool but you can’t forget that it’s the Beach Boys, all harmonies and wholesome, blonde hair and a tan. The original lyrics were re-written before the album’s release to cover up the drug references and it was renamed “I know there’s an answer”. The original recording with the original lyrics later surfaced on the 1990 reissue of “Pet sounds” and this is the version upon which Frank Black’s version is based.

And his cover betrays no hint that it was such, sounding nothing at all like a Beach Boys track, all driving guitars and drums and synths, a screaming guitar solo and instead of the telltale harmonies, Black’s ultra cool vocals are backed up by robots. Pure awesomeness.

*I am using the proverbial air quotes here because as we all know, the Pixies re-formed a decade after their dissolution to much success and further albums became a reality.

**Spoiler alert: I somehow missed including it on that list when creating it but that’s okay it’s here now.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.