Release Date: Apr 1, 2016
Record label: Bayonet Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Twee Pop
Most of the time, lyric sheets to albums are utilitarian; you turn to them to make sure what you're hearing is right. But the lyric sheet to Frankie Cosmos' Next Thing reads like book of poems on its own. It runs seven pages long, comprising 15 stanzas (1 for each of its songs) and it totals 1570 words, all of which are slyly idiosyncratic, bordering on perfectly arranged.
Hailing from New York City, Frankie Cosmos – real name Greta Kline – initially recorded music as Ingrid Superstar. Releasing lo-fi, bedroom recordings through Bandcamp, she quickly gained a cult status. Adopting the new Cosmos alias in 2012, this following grew with every new release. Next Thing is her sixth album – an impressive feat for the humble 22-year-old – and serves to prove the songwriter’s productivity.
An indie-pop descriptor that I think is overused to the point of imprecision is ‘sad.’ It’s like ‘alternative,’ which has come to claim any recording not dolled-up in millions of dollars’ worth of production. ‘Sad’ can be just as easily—and equally as uninformatively—used to label anything that doesn’t radiate pure, headstrong joy. Frankie Cosmos’s latest, Next Thing, certainly doesn’t radiate pure, headstrong joy.
Twenty-two year-old Greta Kline writes affecting, unassuming songs about subjects like Korean food and how much she misses her dead dog, Joe Joe. Her delivery is that of a best friend who invites you over, pulls out their guitar, and says, “I just wrote a new one, would you like to hear it?” A Rookie of the Year from the Rookie Yearbook, Kline recalls the legible confessionals of Colleen Green or Kimya Dawson and the bright-eyed melancholy of Beat Happening or Cub, all while building from her greatest strength: being immediately and deliberately herself. The earliest Frankie releases are still floating around online, though you won’t find them on your streaming service of choice.
Indie rock began as a theater of the modest, as a space where introversion and emotional reservation were a calling card rather than a barrier. Whether that changed first with The Strokes or Arcade Fire is up for debate, but the expansion of indie’s musical (and commercial) ambition and emotional audacity isn’t. Next Thing, the second LP from singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos (real name: Greta Kline), can then be viewed as the newest work in a wave of indie rockers bringing the genre back to its unassuming roots.
A prolific songwriter and self-recording uploader of dozens of song collections in her teens, Greta Kline began using the alias Frankie Cosmos before releasing her first studio album, Zentropy, at age 19. The follow-up LP, Next Thing, finds the musician's pensive, personal lyrics addressing her transition into her twenties. Insightful observations like the concise "when you're young, you're too young/when you're old, you're too old" anticipate a complicated future, expressed in an unassuming manner.
Greta Kline is a musical tour de force. With over forty albums and EPs released on Bandcamp as Ingrid Superstar, through time spent playing in various bands (including as bassist for boyfriend Aaron Maine’s project Porches), and most recently under the pseudonym Frankie Cosmos, her unique lyrical stylings and characteristically quirky sound have earned her a place in the heart and minds of fans far beyond the New York scene she calls home. Despite this, her music is very much rooted in the world that she encounters around her every day.
Twee has always been both a charming style and a petty criticism. Though it started off describing British music akin to Belle & Sebastian, it began to take on more flavors that veered into the hyper-saccharine field: peter pan collars tucked under any top, teacups used for things besides tea, the tidy props of Wes Anderson films. It became too quaint, too dainty, too hyper-modern in a vintage setting.
Flying the twee flag is perhaps a young person's game, and Frankie Cosmos continues to play it like, say, an extremely spry Robert Pollard—prolifically and without much of a filter, her catalog now stacking band-and-studio recordings atop dozens of bedroom-to-Bandcamp affairs. In interviews, Cosmos (real name Greta Simone Kline) is quick to discount the size of said catalog, insisting that only a small percentage of it represents anything beyond a diary-esque purge, and besides, what about prolificacy is inherently praiseworthy? Duly noted—allow us, then, to praise her laidback pop sensibilities and universal storytelling, a welcome continuation of the introspective conversations started by twee originators like The Vaselines, twee propagators like Beat Happening, twee descendents like The Moldy Peaches, and whatever '80s and '90s indie-pop or twee-adjacent acts sprinkle your frame of reference. .
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY THISwere usually the first words you heard. It had to be a legal thing, right? In a television show where the hosts shot scotch for science then grinned at dynamite in the cement mixer, you probably had to cover your bases. I didn’t watch MythBusters, really, not in 2016’s working definition of “watch” (deconstruct, consume, transfigure; this is your brain, this is your brain on Breaking Bad), but it was there, between the channels, in the lesson plans of the cool high school science teacher.
22-year-old Greta Kline started puting intriguing song sketches online when she was in her teens, slowly amassing a cult following before releasing her promising debut Zentropy in 2014. On Next Thing, Kline, who records with a roving group of collaborators under the moniker Frankie Cosmos, moves from the lonesome bedroom to the cramped garage, updating her cloistered lo-fi aesthetic with a crisp pop minimalism best suited for the tinny Macbook speakers that will be playing this record in dorm rooms across this country. If Frankie Cosmos sounds newly professional this time around, it hasn't affected Kline's insular anxiety and winking self-doubt one bit.
If nothing else, Frankie Cosmosâ€™s Next Thing proposes the question, â€œWhat is an album anymore?â€ If you go her bandcamp, there are thirty-nine releases on the discography page, each varying in length and pseudonym for 22-year-old Greta Kline. So what makes Next Thing different than the rest?ÂKline clearly has talent. Her ability to constantly pen roughly two minute songs each with their own independent theme is a gift.
On 2014's Zentropy, New York songwriter Frankie Cosmos (aka Greta Kline) brought her cozy, poignant pop nuggets out of the bedroom — literally; most of her Bandcamp releases contained sounds that seeped into her apartment windows from the New York streets outside — and into the studio for the first time. At the time, I raved that the record was "a painstaking portrait of internet-era isolation and love (both of the self and others) with a potent mix of intelligence, world-weariness and musicality. " I stand by that assertion and, obviously, Kline hasn't lost her ability to write songs since then, but there's something tentative about Next Thing that makes it harder to attach to emotionally.
'I’m 20, washed up already,' sings Frankie Cosmos on the appositely-titled I’m 20, in what may just be the most misleading lyric of the year. With over 30 releases to her name and associated acts since 2012, the young New Yorker has been carving out a name alongside the likes of Car Seat Headrest and Alex G at the vanguard of the hyper-prolific Bandcamp generation. Her 2014 debut album Zentropy offered up 10 tracks clocking in at less than 20 minutes, while last year’s follow-up EP Fit Me In aimed to further flesh out her bedroom sonics with the addition of synths.
TALKING ABOUT NEXT THING is like gossiping about a friend. Saying anything about it, good or bad, feels like a breach of privacy, because this record is intimate in a way that very few others are. Instead of being a complete portrait of the artist’s psyche, it’s a collection of bits and pieces that never coalesce into anything concrete or overtly meaningful.
Snapshots of teenage wonder and malaise dominate “Next Thing,” the wondrous new Frankie Cosmos album. Take “If I Had a Dog,” one of the album’s most deceptive numbers. Greta Kline — Frankie Cosmos is her recording alias — begins with a sheepish musing: “If I had a dog, I’d take a picture every day/Am I still so sad? Is that pretty lame?” That small note of inner sadness is soon amplified, then twisted: All the while, Ms.
With songs more like short poems than conventional pop tracks, Frankie Cosmos arrives with Next Thing, all tales of touring, age and self-doubt set against a cheerfully upbeat musical backdrop A lot of musicians sing about themselves, but often couch their ideas in so much abstraction you don’t really get the sense of who they are. Perhaps it’s a defence mechanism; being laid bare but holding a towel up for modesty, because well, it’s personal under there. Cosmos cuts to the quick at her own expense - she knows it, and you can’t help but respect such candour.