Dent May — self-described hotel bar lounge singer and aspiring daytime TV talk show host — has been charming his way into the hearts of music fans since the release of his debut album The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label in 2009. The Mississippi-born, Los Angeles-based songwriter, performer, and Dolly Parton enthusiast has since released two more acclaimed records, Do Things (2012) and Warm Blanket (2013), dropped the holiday smash “I’ll Be Stoned For Christmas”, and played hundreds of shows from Shanghai to Chicago. His latest album, Across the Multiverse, is an interstellar voyage of mythic proportions.
“Don’t wanna move to Southern California / I wasn’t really meant for LA...” So sang Dent May once upon a time, now he’s eating those words with a side of avocado toast in his new Los Angeles bungalow. What made the lifelong Mississippi boy pull up stakes and head west? “No one looks at you funny if you wear a tuxedo to the supermarket.” What he means is he moved there to shake up his surroundings, clear his head, and write the most accomplished record of his young career, the magical mystery tour de force Across the Multiverse.
Following the lead of musical-polymaths-with-LA-ties before him like Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, and Harry Nilsson, Dent’s style on Across the Multiverse will be familiar to fans of his previous work. Yet there’s something more refined about this collection… Stately strings mingle with boogie piano like old friends. Synths weave a celestial backdrop throughout. Every verse, bridge and chorus in its right place, giving it the unmistakable feel of a true songwriting craftsman at work. Lyrically Dent has never been sharper, musing on themes like modern romance (“Picture on a Screen”, “Face Down in the Gutter of Your Love”), existential dread (“Dream 4 Me”, “I’m Gonna Live Forever Until I’m Dead”), and the distance to the moon (“Distance to the Moon”) as he searches for meaning among the infinite scrolling feeds of our 21st century augmented reality. The title track, a duet with Frankie Cosmos, is a deep space love song about finding love beyond impossible boundaries.
Across the Multiverse was written and recorded in a sunny bedroom in LA’s Highland Park neighborhood, with Dent producing and playing nearly every instrument himself. The tracks were selected from dozens of songs written after the LA move, a gold rush of productivity inspired by late nights DJing rare disco funk cuts at local watering holes. It’s his first album for Carpark Records and will be released August 18th.
After spending years as a major presence in Brooklyn’s thriving music scene, Frankie Rose relocated to her familial home of Los Angeles for 18 months. Frankie’s intent was to establish yet another moment in her storied indie rock métier. Gradually, she found herself short on sleep, funds and optimism. “I moved to L.A., drama ensued and I ended up on a catering truck. I was like, how can this be my life after being a touring musician and living off of music. I had really lost my way and I thought I was totally done.”
Through sleepless nights of listening to broadcaster Art Bell’s paranormal-themed archives, Frankie’s thoughts had turned to “who am I, I’m not cut out for this business, it’s not for me.” She continues, “I was literally in my room in L.A., not knowing how I was going to get out. But out of it all, I just decided to keep making music, because it is what I love and what I do – regardless of the outcome.”
Towards the end of her time spent in Los Angeles, Frankie reached out to Jorge Elbrecht (Tamaryn, Gang Gang Dance, Violens) and began sketching what became the basic outline of what felt like a new album. Then, rather fortuitously, Frankie ended up back in Brooklyn with the realization that “in the end, I’m on my own. I have to do these things on my own.”
The months that ensued meant basically working with no budget and finding ways to record in-between days. This time enabled Frankie to experiment musically with a variety of people that ultimately changed the way she worked. “I got a lot of input from people like Dave Harrington (Darkside), who was helpful reconstructing the songs, adding dynamics and changing up the rhythms.”
The result of this existential odyssey is Cage Tropical, Frankie’s 4th album. It is awash with vintage synths, painterly effects pedals, upside down atmosphere and reverberating vocals. It evokes a new wave paranormality of sorts that drifts beyond the songs themselves. “My references aren’t just music,” says Frankie, “I love old sci-fi. They Live is one of my favorite movies ever, same with Suspiria. 80’s sci-fi movies with a John Carpenter soundtrack, with silly synths – that makes it into my file, to the point that I’ll write lyrics incorporating that kind of stuff. It’s in there.”
Beginning with the shimmery, cinematic and percussive sparkling of the album’s opening track “Love in Rockets,” the song’s refrain of “a wheel, a wheel of wasting my life; a wheel, a wheel of wasting my time” immediately alludes to those darker circumstances that led to the creative origins of Cage Tropical. “It’s all essentially based on what happened to me in Los Angeles and then a return to Brooklyn,” says Frankie. “Misery turned into something good. The whole record to me is a redemption record and it is the most positive one I’ve made”
“I feel like I am finally free from worrying about an outcome. I don’t care. I already lost everything. I already had the worst-case scenario. When that happens, you do become free. In the end, it’s about me rescuing myself via having this record.”