Earlier this year Frost Children released ‘SPEED RUN’, a hard-hitting dose of glitchy electro-pop and bratty pop-punk that cast the sibling duo of Angel and Lulu Prost as New York club kids at the forefront of the much-discussed indie-sleaze revival.
‘SPEED RUN’ felt like a creative breakthrough in how it reigned in some of the band’s zanier tendencies, such as the pounding hardstyle and screamo breakdowns of their earlier albums. Their latest, ‘Hearth Room’, strips back their sound even further. It was recorded in the Pocono Mountains two hours outside of New York and spotlights the duo’s song writing, which has previously been secondary to their impressively chaotic production.
The influences of ‘Hearth Room’ are a grab-bag of early 2000s indie rock and emo, closer to the folky sound of Bright Eyes than the All-American Rejects. The single, ‘Stare At The Sun’, is by far the heaviest track and is awkwardly perched high in the track list – it’s an outlier on an album that is all strummed acoustic guitars, scraped güiros and marimbas. Far from indie-sleaze, this is indie-twee revival.
Throughout ‘Hearth Room’, Angel and Lulu’s abilities to write delicate, sticky melodies are undeniable and pairs well with their softer upper register, like on the warped ‘Marigold’. It feels refreshing to hear them drop their cool-kid snarl for something more sincere. Another highlight is the gently pulsating ‘Bernadette’, a sweet love song which incorporates a fiddle and barnyard stomp without sounding like Mumford and Sons.
You connect with these songs because of their familiarity. Although the nagging question of “wait, what does this sound like?” only grows. Soon enough you are distracted trying to figure out exactly what Death Cab for Cutie song ‘Frost Park’ sounds like.
This is the recurring criticism of the nascent indie-sleaze revival; it’s not bringing anything new to the table, instead just coasting on nostalgic sounds. But while ‘Hearth Room’ doesn’t sound new, it certainly feels contemporary. In its unbridled nostalgia lies an embrace of post-internet artificiality. For these terminally online natives, the idea of “keeping it real” feels regressive.
The track ‘Bob Dylan’ is a distillation of this attitude, and the best song on the album. Over a swirling Midwest emo riff, Angel relays a dream in which Bob Dylan releases a new song about “all the horrifying newly commercialised street corners of New York”. Dylan sees a poster promoting his new single next to an ad of Jack Harlow eating a Sweetgreens salad and wants to “tear it all to shreds and shed a tear about where he went wrong”.
A flailing Bob Dylan is merely a shorthand for countercultures of yore when authenticity was a valued commodity. For Frost Children, “the most punk person on the block is Jack Harlow smiling on a billboard”. In the aptly titled Substack Serving Capitalist Realism Angel expands on her take: “He [Harlow] is engaging with the world of Sweetgreens and making money off of a salad company and making art out of that.”
Not many would consider Jack Harlow teaming up with a high-end salad restaurant as particularly punk, but the fact that Frost Children do, is telling. For them being concerned about selling out is clearly passé, just like caring about genre distinctions and, perhaps, authenticity as a whole. ‘Hearth Room’ captures that the times are a-changing – luckily, it sounds pretty good.
Words: Harry Thorfinn-George