Frankie Cosmos moves on to ‘Next Thing’
Erin McAuliffe | Tuesday, April 12, 2016
At the Art Institute of Chicago, there is a tea kettle that would overflow if filled by a medicine dropper and a clock smaller than its pocket-sized brethren.
People peer into the 68 tiny tableaus of The Thorne Miniature Rooms and see minute details painstakingly crafted in constraint. Standing in front of the glassed-in art works, there is a surprising sense of immersion: a dollhouse-esque nostalgia in the breadth of the elaborate, condensed scenes.
“Next Thing” contains 15 songs. It is 28-minutes long. Frankie Cosmos’ sophomore album, released April 1, mirrors Narcissa Niblack Thorne’s intimately intricate art. The Thorne Miniature Rooms were constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot between 1932 and 1940. However, while Thorne instructed master craftsmen to carry out her specifications, Greta Kline (Frankie Cosmos) is a DIY artist.
With over 40 tracks on her Bandcamp profile in 2013, Kline, then 19 years-old, was mastering unconstrained experimentation via fragmented songs and involved lyricism. Vulture named Kline’s 2014 18-minute debut album “Zentropy” the Best Pop Album of 2014. She addresses the pressure the acclaim added to the development process of “Next Thing” (her self-awareness affirmed by the title) on track “I’m 20:” “Washed up already,” she croons before examining her thought process behind consumerism and corporate America via the time she accepted a MySpace pen from a recruiter.
Kline is able to strip down the heavy into relatable airy pop tracks that clock in under two minutes. She has the power to make small things seem deceivingly big and big things accessible. The concept is perfectly depicted in the Pitchfork produced music video for track “Outside With The Cuties.”
A GoPro helicopter shot seems to introduce an expansive nature documentary setting, until a toy train speeds into the camera and the scene is shown in full: a miniature indoor tableau of its own sorts. The circling train set and the song’s earnestly imploring lyrics, “I haven’t written this part yet / Can you help me write it?” evoke a nostalgia for children’s PBS shows — specifically, “Mr. Rogers” as Kline strums her garage as a larger-than-life musical adult amongst toys.
In a meta way, Kline addresses the compartmentalized and repeated miniature scenes in her lyrics: she peers into vans in “O Dreaded C Town” and glances into house windows from the street in “Sappho.” Kline is curious but removed, like the people standing in front of the Miniature exhibits at The Art Institute.
Kline expands on these meta references throughout the album. She elaborates on her “Rear Window” tendencies, wondering if the subject of her intent is reading Sappho (a female Greek lyric poet who is regarded as one of the greats but has only one full poem intact today; The rest are fragmented, paralleling Kline’s styling).
She references David Blaine’s illusion work in “On The Lips” and the affecting power of Arthur Russell’s music on her mood in “Sinister” — not the first Krill shout-out in her discography.
“Next Thing” is fuller than “Zentropy.” Kline has a full backing band allowing her to delve into pop-punk further than before, resulting in the fittingly cosmic, twirly synths on “Floated In,” the Mark Mothersbaugh-esque aquatic pinging on “Interlude” and the steady strumming, drumming and humming prevalent throughout. But it’s the lyrics that carry the capsulated tracks: The church responsorial repetition of “Embody all the grace and lightness” (“Embody”), the stingingly relatable “You were a dealer, a friend, a prick, a friend, again with more to it” (“O Dreaded C Town”) and the cutesy daily dog pic musings (“If I Had A Dog”).
In an interview with Pitchfork, Kline spoke on the process that goes into her lyrics.
“For me, this record was about old feelings. Half of it was written a long time ago, and the other half was written about a long time ago — this is what this emotion means, this is a good way to deal with it.”
Thankfully for us, Kline evaded the mindset of the album’s closing lyrics: “I don’t know or care to know / I don’t care or know to care.” Through cathartic, relatable and poignant musings, Kline has given us an album to get to know and care about. Call it a big thing, a small thing or a big thing disguised as a small thing — it should be your “Next Thing.”
Frankie Cosmos will be playing at Schuba’s in Chicago on April 27.
Tracks: “Sinister,” “Too Dark,” “Fool”
If you like: Eskimeaux, Cherry Glazerr