Frankie Cosmos

New York native songwriter and composer Greta Kline has shared a bounty of her innermost thoughts and experiences from the past six years through the almost inconceivable number of songs she has released since 2011. Like many of her peers, Kline’s prolific creative output was initially born out of an era where bedroom recording and self-releasing became more possible than ever through the advent of the internet. But as she’s grown as a writer and performer, playing to larger audiences and devising more complex albums, Kline has shifted from an artist who’s made strides despite limitations, to an artist whose impact can be seen across modern independent music. Her newest record, Vessel, which will be out spring 2018 through Sub Pop Records, is the 52nd release from Kline and the third studio album by her indie pop outfit Frankie Cosmos. On it, Kline explores all of the changes that have come in her life as a result of the music she has shared with the world for the past half-decade, as well as the parts of her life that have remained irrevocable.

Frankie Cosmos has taken several different shapes since their first full band album, Zentropy, erupted in New York’s DIY music scene in 2014. For Vessel the band’s line up comprises of multi-instrumentalists David Maine, Lauren Martin, Luke Pyenson, and Kline, who each contributed their own musical sensibilities to help shape the sound of the new record. In between tours supporting their last album, Next Thing, Kline brought new songs to the band’s rehearsals, and together the members collectively participated in turning them into full band arrangements. As a result, the album’s staggering 18 tracks implement a range of instrumentations and recording methods unheard of on the albums preceding it, while still maintaining the succinctly sincere nature of Kline’s songwriting.

The album’s opening track, “Caramelize,” serves as the thematic overture for Vessel, alluding to topics like dependency, growth, and love which reoccur throughout the record. The song strings together a scope of musical motifs and showcases the intense dynamics in both Kline’s lyrics and the band’s performance that continue on the tracks that follow. Although many of the scenarios and personalities written about on Vessel are familiar territory for Frankie Cosmos, what’s really changed on the new record is Kline’s nuanced point of view and her desire to constantly question the latent meaning of her experiences. In the album’s first single “Jesse,” Kline grapples with the startling personal epiphanies in life that stem from dreams and subconscious realizations. On another single, “Apathy,” Kline confronts her own insecurities around personal change and feeling distant from the people she once had a close relationship with. Then later on the album “Accommodate,” deals with the complexity of being in a community that would rather turn its nose a problem than hold its members accountable. “Being Alive” stands out as one of the few old bandcamp-era Frankie Cosmos songs the band reworked for Vessel, and shows the rhythm section quickly shifting between fast and slow tempos as Kline ponders the minutia of existence. Kline’s dissonant lyrics are paired with the band’s driving, jangly grooves creating several moments on the album where the bandmates’ chemistry playing together is brought to the forefront.

To record Vessel, Frankie Cosmos traveled back up to Binghamton, New York to work with Hunter Davidsohn, the producer and studio engineer who helped craft the sound for Zentropy and Next Thing. The band spent 3 days upstate tracking drums, bass, guitars, and vocals, favoring the spontaneity of reel-to-reel tape over the meticulous perfectionism caused by recording digitally. Then the band and Davidsohn continued recording the album for another three days in Brooklyn with Carlos Hernandez and Julian Fader at their studio, Gravesend Recordings. As Frankie Cosmos started testing out new songs for Vessel on the road, the band invited members from their fellow touring bands to join them on stage to sing or play parts on tracks like “Being Alive” and “Jesse.” Once in the studio, the band decided to invite those same friends and more to contribute parts to the final recorded versions including Alex Bailey (formerly of Warehouse, who has replaced David Maine as a permanent member of the live band), Vishal Narang (of Airhead DC), and singer/songwriter Anna McClellan. After six days of recording, Davidsohn continued mixing the album back upstate and eventually sent the finished album to Josh Bonati to be mastered.

“I have a way of loving too many things to take on just one shape,” Jilian Medford sings over and over again on the title track of the Brooklyn-based band IAN SWEET’s debut album, Shapeshifter, repeating it like a mantra. This is Medford’s thesis statement, a narrator to carry us through Shapeshifter, which is above all else a meditation on loneliness and displacement. It’s about losing love and your sense of self in the process, about grabbing at the little things in life that bring joy when nothing else is going according to plan. It’s also an ode to the bandmates, and the friends, that see you through.
While she was writing Shapeshifter, Medford’s life was in turmoil. She ended an emotionally abusive relationship in Boston, graduated from Berklee College of Music, and briefly moved home to the San Fernando Valley, thinking she would stay there. Medford was unsure of the band’s future and suffering from a severe, undiagnosed panic disorder. When she returned to Boston to record the album in July of 2015 alongside Cheney and Scalise, Medford was reminded of everything she’d hoped to escape after graduation. She felt stagnant; trudging through a quicksand made up of heartbreak and severe depression, a process she references on Shapeshifter stand-out “Slime Time Live.”

That’s one of many lighthearted, nostalgic references on the album that subvert the pain beneath. Like its title suggests, most of the songs on Shapeshifter don’t settle in a particular scene so much as they delve into a sensibility. Whether Medford’s singing about Slime Time Live, eating ice cream in bed on “All Skaters Go To Heaven,” or honoring her favorite athlete Michael Jordan on “#23,” Medford displaces loneliness by falling in love with the small things that make her happy; like skateboarding, basketball, candy, and her preferred footwear: Crocs.

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