BY EMMA MARTIN ’20
Indie group Frankie Cosmos released their new album “Vessel” through Seattle-based record company Sub Pop on March 30. “Vessel” is more experimental, more ambitious and longer — featuring an impressive 18 tracks — than the groups’ earlier records, employing new instruments and recording techniques. Band members David Maine, Lauren Martin, Luke Pyenson and Kline all contribute vocals and their unique musical perspectives to create a familiar yet distinct sound.
“Caramelize,” “Vessel’s” first track, sets the melancholy tone for the rest of the record. Lead singer and songwriter Greta Kline’s distinctively sincere, observant lyrics are accompanied by catchy acoustic rhythms. Kline sings, “When you rolled off way back when, / I got this feeling that I’d never see you again / but here you are in my bed,” expressing themes of love, dependency and loss that appear on many other tracks. With “Vessel,” Frankie Cosmos again accomplishes the difficult task of conveying complicated emotions with simple unaffected language that fans familiar with the group’s repertoire won’t find surprising.
In “Apathy,” Kline expresses bittersweet sentiments about change and learning to adopt to a certain degree of ambivalence towards the things one loves, crooning sweetly but sarcastically, “Looking around at 22, I’m so tired of myself around you / Maybe I don’t fit your ideals anymore / Or maybe I just grew up into a bore.” Kline seems to be searching for something or someone that listeners find equally elusive, finishing the song with the words, “You can take me and my apathy, / turn us into clarity.” “Jesse” is a clear hit with its memorable lyrics and upbeat tune, but is no less sophisticated than other tracks; its chorus “Oh to be, part of the scenery” is both mystifying and playful.
The album’s cover features a poodle enjoying a bubble bath against a pastel blue tile backdrop, reflecting the group’s charming aesthetic, in contrast to its moody tunes. Frankie Cosmos’ tone is never entirely lighthearted nor melancholic but a careful mixture of both, as Kline interprets and shares her experiences through song. “Being Alive” starts fast and energetic then grows slow and serious during the repeated chorus: “Matters quite a bit / even when you feel like sh*t / being alive.” “This Stuff” packs a particularly poignant punch. Simple acoustics highlight poetic lyrics: “Not all trees have fruits or flowers, / some are just there to grow,” celebrating the ability to accept mediocrity, and “I’m not like anyone else my age, / so I know why they call partying rage.”
The title track “Vessel” is intentionally ambiguous. “I don’t think my body is a vessel,” sings Kline. “But you seem to.” Listeners wonder what Kline really feels for this other person as she sings, “only you can make me cry” and that the person is what causes her to “stay alive by nodding along.”
“I wanna tour in a hot-pink band / and I want you to hold my hand” sings Kline in “This Stuff.” She seems to have at least partially accomplished that dream reflects on her well-deserved success. “She’s grown as a writer and performer, devising more complex albums and playing to larger audiences,” said Sup Pop Records of the album’s release. “Kline has begun to make her mark on modern independent music.”
In an interview with NPR music about the album, Kline described the difficulty of feeling ownership for one’s work in the industry as a woman. “Being stuck in a female body is restrictive in a lot of ways, It sort of defines the way that everybody’s going to see what I’m making, and what I’m doing and how they can treat me,” she said. “I’m never going to make [this project] for anyone else. It’s always going to originate from being for me, and I think I have to hold onto that.”