Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
“It's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners” – Frank O’Hara
Greta Kline knows those words, I’m sure; and she can write some good ones, too. She writes so well the songs on her new album Vessels are for the most part, old. She writes so well and so fast that the album release cycle can’t keep up. As an independent artist, she put out over 40 projects worth of material through Bandcamp, repurposing the instant gratification of social media for the DIY music scene. With this first release on Seattle’s Sub Pop, she’s been tasked with refining her bedroom pop sound while retaining its mercurial energy; settling down and remaining free.
The head (as of now) of her musical centipede, Vessel is 18 songs that speak on relationships, solitude, hope in the face of despair, and growing up. First album Zentropy was about young love for everything, their Next Thing was a breakup album following the departure of boyfriend/ bandmate Aaron Maine. A similar simplification would label Vessel as “older and wiser”, and musically that holds true: the arrangements are incisive; the singing is stable and strong. The recording feels like a warm bath with a good brand of soap.
Lyrically, Kline continues to excel, crafting tight tracks that sometimes read like diary entries; sometimes spark like a revelatory walk through central park. They can be pleading and confrontational on “Apathy”, or seeking self-love on “I’m Fried”. She ponders the importance of a body on “Accommodate”, and asexuality on “Cafeteria”. In essence, Greta presents herself as uncomfortable but warming up. These unconventional song topics and her mastery in describing such esoteric emotions while remaining relatable are the album’s highlight.
Frankie Cosmos is Lauren Martin, Alex Bailey, and (recently replaced but here) David Maine. This band displays a large influence on the performance of Vessel, balancing Kline’s weighty prose with driving drums, heavy bass lines, and ethereal keys. Kline holds her own on guitar, with a flair for choppy power chords and, in more tender moments, clean melodic arpeggios. The skill of the band is evident on “Being Alive”, where they tackle a dynamic shift from a double time punk dirge to half tempo psychedelic, and “Duet”, where spacey verses slip slowly into beautiful arranged instrumental passages.
The required conversation is the band’s move to a major label and its effect. Most evident is this project’s recording, which serves as it’s greatest weakness: a sterile sound that doesn’t suit this artist, and seems out her control. The mix is safe and uninteresting, and Greta by association sounds pretty bored most of the time. Less a kinship with K Records, Vessel approximates early Ingrid Michaelson more than Beat Happening. It’s no accident she sounds most natural and exuberant on “The End”, which made it on the album still in demo form.
While this polish obscures the writing’s more sincere intentions, the outcome is far from forgettable. Vessel is a strong label debut for the group, showcasing a beyond her year's songwriter and a capable band. As a self-assured and growing individual, all indications point to Greta finding her artistic voice in the music industry, and releasing a true classic once she’s turned a few corners.