One of indie pop's leading ladies gave a raw and intimate show last week at Gasa Gasa, befriending her audience and keeping with her music's quirky persona
(This review is the first piece by new contributor, Devorah Levy-Pearlman.)
Twenty-four-year-old Greta Kline doesn’t like to put herself on a pedestal above her audience. She’d rather be right in the thick of it. Performing with her band under the pseudonym Frankie Cosmos, Kline uses the stage as a platform to converse with her listeners. She took the stage at Gasa Gasa Wednesday night with so little fanfare that hardly anyone noticed her until she began to tune her guitar. Dressed in a simple T-shirt and jeans, the singer-songwriter who started out by recording songs in her bedroom and putting them on Bandcamp didn’t make any grandiose presentations; in fact, it’s the lack of glamour and flash that made Frankie Cosmos’ performance, the band’s minimal sound, and Kline’s tender but matter-of-fact voice so approachable.
Frankie Cosmos’ bedroom pop grew from Kline’s roots in the New York anti-folk scene. She has traded her bedroom/laptop studio for a more professional recording space, and she now has a four-piece band to help flesh out her sound, but she doesn’t stray too far from a guiding mantra of simple, catchy melodies and raw, personal lyrics. The band’s style glides easily between danceable rock and the subtle sonic texturing of dream pop, but it’s never so reminiscent of other artists that it detracts from Frankie Cosmos’ sound.
The band kicked off its set at Gasa Gasa with “Caramelize”, the opening track from their newest album Vessel, released last March on Sub Pop Records. The song starts out as a delicate ballad with only Kline’s light, cherubic voice and shimmery guitar, and it gradually builds up to a more urgent tempo change backed by punchy, pulsating drums. The gentle ebb-and-flow of her music subtly rises and falls, making for a playful performance experience driven by Kline’s immediacy and connection with the audience who she takes on for the ride.
Throughout the hour-long set, the band jumped around between the newer tracks and crowd favorites from the first two albums. Since Kline’s songs are an average of two minutes long on albums that last on average 26 minutes, the hour allowed the band to cover a lot of ground. That brevity serves Frankie Cosmos well because if the songs were longer, they’d lose their novelty. Any shorter, and they’d seem more like a ditty than a full track. At Gasa Gasa, the economical presentation made her songs approachable. Kline’s lyrics are highly personal and matter-of-factly expressed, so if the songs were longer, listening might seen intrusive.
Kline writes about the world the way she sees it--the tidal wave of emotions she rides as a twentysomething, and the small moments of little joys in life that make everything worth it. The common thread that runs through the records is her intimate and witty musings of this strange world she (and all of us) inhabits. On “Apathy”, she sang energetically early on in the show, “Neatly designed / Like a telephone pole / I want to feel whole / Do you want to go on a date?/ Or would that be hard to orchestrate?”
In the second half of the show, she brought the energy down to make space for the quieter, more reflective moments from her albums. In the set’s slower songs like “The End“ and “Young,“ the tight arrangements feel careful and compact while still leaving a trail of dreamy effect. Some songs, like “Same Thing”, work as brief fleeting moments of thought encapsulated into a minute and a half. The lyrics feel like the scattered scribbling of poetry on a napkin: “Nothing is deserved, nothing is his earned / Hours wasted on the train, every body part is pain”. These moments, instead of feeling incomplete, actually feel whole and beautiful in their simplicity.
A funny transitional moment occurred at the start of playing “Sinister”, the lead single on their 2016 record Next Thing, when the guitarist clinked around for a moment playing the wrong chords, at which point Kline turned to him and asked, “What the fuck are you playing?” She turned towards the audience and joked, “He doesn’t have a setlist.” The mess-ups added to the show’s playfulness and furthered the intimate relationship that Frankie Cosmos shared with her fans. The concert felt like an active dialogue first, a spectacle second. More than once, Kline asked if she should sing louder or softer, or if the people in the back could hear her alright. It was her quirkiness that drew the audience in to see her as a friend.
After numerous pleas from the crowd to play the popular “Fool,” the band closed the set with the catchy tune as half the crowd sang along. Both charming and understated in its meditation on human connection, the song was a fitting way to end the show, conveying the emotional heaviness of a souring relationship with a surprising lightness and optimism. It’s this contradiction that Frankie Cosmos delights in. Although Kline’s writing is full of fun surprises and wit, her greatest asset both on stage and in the studio is just being normal. Moments of divinity come fluttering out in the simple observations of life’s growing pains approached with sensitivity and humor. She doesn’t seem to care about being famous; she just wants to be heard.