For a few years now, baroque-pop/bedroom-pop maestro Frank Maston has been churning out stylish retro soundscapes designed to transport you back in time. Major touchstones for his earlier works Shadows and Opal Collection include Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and Burt Bacharach, but with Tulips, Maston—per his PR—was inspired by “the deep-grooving soundtracks of French and Italian cinema.” The result is equal parts film score and frothy 60s pop-rock—think Ennio Morricone composing songs for yé-yé queen Sylvie Vartan. The unbelievably lush and dreamy “Swans” straddles the line between an old-school soul ballad and score for a Truffaut film, while “New Danger” is as laid-back and cool as Jean-Paul Belmondo in a skinny suit. It’s a vibe quite comparable to fellow Angelenos Midnight Sister—their debut album displays similar filmic influences—but Maston operates in the sun, not the shadows. He’s playing it straight instead of surreal, returning often to a distinctive balance of wiry organ, spacey keyboards, and loping 60s guitar. “Evening”’s subtle bossa nova beat sounds an awful lot like elevator music—not the usual tepid elevator music, but the something you’d expect to hear in a retro-kitsch movie. But then the heat-shimmer psychedelic guitars of “Rain Dance” suggest a particularly cool unreleased Byrds or Buffalo Springfield backing track. He’s at his most cinematic at the center of Tulips, when the sound of a car pulling out at the end of “Chase Theme I” gives way to “Infinite Bliss.” With its gauzy flutes and lovestruck vocalizing—the only time Maston’s voice is heard—it might as well be called “Love Theme.” It’s a natural descendant of Martial Solal’s dreamy Breathless track “L’amour, La Mort.” Tulips‘ aesthetic is foolproof—as cool today as it was back then. It’s the perfect thing to pop on when you feel like starring in your very own movie.
MASTON’S TULIPS IS OUT FRI. OCT. 27 ON PHONOSCOPE.