Frankie Cosmos // Next Thing
by Brandi Fullwood on April 10, 2016
Posted in: Album Review, Music, Rock
Tiny green buds and blades sprouting underneath thin veils of crisp white snow are a first sign of the transition to spring. Winter tends to linger, washing the skies with dreadful gray streaks and leaving traces of biting winds. All the while, there is a bright optimism that situates itself amongst it. In it’s transition the weather reminds us of an obvious marriage of bitterness and optimism. Listening to Frankie Cosmos’ sophomore album Next Thing its apparent that it resembles just that—bringing together bedroom and sunshine pop right into the middle of cabin fever.
Next Thing is a muddled presentation of vulnerability marrying thoughtfulness and unsureness. It adds a genuine brightness and fear to situations such as figuring out how or why you should kiss someone. “On The Lips” embodies that cute hope and fear of such an interaction and equates it to magic. Kline sings with dismal delivery, “I watch David Blaine / find myself believing / in many things / in anything” as if almost in a trance. Discussing the actual act is much more uplifting, essentially isolating a joyful thought of simply kissing someone. However, just as its situated in this hope, Kline switches back into dreariness of not knowing how the magic trick happens or maybe even how to start it even though she seems to believe it, “sometimes I cry cause I know I’ll never have all the answers.” The reference to David Blaine came as no surprise, at a Monkey House concert in Winooski, Kline had asked me and other audience members to shout “Fuck Criss Angel! David Blaine is the only true musician.” That point of reference aside, the literal reference to pop culture and magic is much more grounded in reality than love’s previous associations with magic.
One of the first singles released, “Is It Possible / Sleep Song,” is wrapped in punchy percussion and self defeating lyrics, constantly building a groove into a solemn feeling. Just as in previous music projects, Kline emphasizes elements of twee and DIY throughout this song as well as the rest of the album,maintaining a signature tone of twinkling sadness. Likewise, Next Thing simultaneously fades and distinguishes the self-loathing vocals by separating it from the uplifting instrumentals paired with general storytelling.
There is innate subtly to Kline’s delivery of vulnerability. There are layers to be pulled back and tension to release with soft and simple explanations. Sometimes the message is not handed to the listener. For songs like, “If I Had A Dog,“ this method of explanation makes Frankie Cosmos’ songs seem nonsensical. However, after waiting long enough, it is clear that the message is not actually about dogs! Therapy dogs are a comfort and even a distraction from exploring greater depths of sadness. “Everybody says ‘the first one’s just a game / you’ll find a better one’/ and a comment about my body.” Just as a therapy dog would mask feelings in reality as a motif it also distracts from an overt exploration of sadness pertaining to a person.
Songs like “Fool” and “Too Dark” feel like taking a tiny bite into a ballon and letting the air slowly come out. The tracks are light and masked behind a soft vocal eventually building into floods of percussion, full bass, and a repetitive guitar riff where the dragging fingers across strings are left in the rhythm. Not only do the instruments resemble a slow release of air from a ballon, but the lyrics also compliment that style. Over the period of the song, Kline gives more of herself, creating a comfort in revealing the vulnerability and in receiving such personal anecdotes.
Frankie Cosmos’ new album has been especially great in this transition from winter to spring. As the Middlebury winter continues, I question after each snowfall if it will ever end. Fluctuating between freezing cold and warm days definitely adds its own weight. However, Next Thing leans much more toward the uplifting aspects of this transition. It is mature, refreshing and honest with ease.
BEST TRACKS: 13, 11, 9, 3, 5, 2 & 12
RIYL: Mitski, Eskimeaux, Radiator Hospital, Florist, and Porches
Next Thing was released April 1 on Bayonet Records. You can stream it below on Bandcamp:
Brandi Fullwood is one of WRMC’s two Music Directors. She hosts a radio show called “Of Mixes and Me” Mondays 9:00-10:30 on WRMC. When she’s not music directing, Brandi can be found on twitter beefing with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend.