With Frankel’s Anonymity is the New Fame, subtlety is the name of the game. Filled to the lip with fondly constructed pop and cloud-like structures, this is slow and easy stuff worth sitting under the stars for.
Frankel is actually L.A. songwriter Michael Orendy and he doesn’t like being the center of attention, making his latest album’s title all the more fitting. He plays all instruments on Anonymity save for drums (Kevin Stevens), pouring his passion and instinctive artistry into each piece of music and each dazzling arrangement.
Perhaps it’s accurate to suggest that Frankel has a few Howard Hughes tendencies, living out his life as a sort of reclusive genius type. Finding interviews or materials of any sort of informative nature can be an uphill climb for a journalist, so one has to peg things together using the sound of his voice. It’s a little like feeling one’s way along a wall in the dark: intriguing, exhilarating and ultimately rewarding when the doorknob is finally reached.
Anonymity is the New Fame, out on Autumn Tone, is a compelling record from start to finish. It plays on the theme of being anonymous, again apropos for Frankel, and each track passes by like a well-mannered nod or a silent hello to a stranger.
Frankel builds things on subtle tones and soft whispers, engaging the listener to peer closer into the darkness and listen for sound within the elastic silence. His nuance is natural and easy to soak up. There is comforting flow to the plucking of guitar strings and the playing of piano and the use of electronic haze that carries through the veins of the album and into the bloodstream of the listener.
“Ticket Machine” is one of the best examples of this flow. To say that the song is mild would be an understatement, as it almost barely exists sonically. Frankel’s vocal tones delicately illustrate the vagueness of his perception, operating lovingly over remote noise and gently-strummed guitar.
“When I grow up, I wanna be myself,” he sings on “When I Grow Up.” It’s an absorbed piece, reminiscent of watching the world go by through a third-storey windowpane.
Frankel doesn’t tour and barely plays any gigs in support of his albums, choosing instead to stay at home. This isn’t overly surprising, given how “at home” Anonymity feels. It’s like a kitchen table chat with a soft-spoken friend, a soft moment shared over a cup of coffee or a glass of orange juice.
He does know how (and when) to raise his voice slightly to let the inside out, however, as the high notes on “The Royal We” demonstrate. The poppy piano of the title track also invokes a bit of a braver spirit, but Frankel pulls back just in time.
Anonymity is the New Fame is an elusive piece of work. Frankel, who was probably told to “speak up” often as a young lad, is an introspective and fascinating artist in full command of his own exposure and lack thereof. This really is a beautiful record, challenging in that it causes the listener to reach in while the music warmly reaches out.