Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Frankie Cosmos goes electronic on stellar new EP

By Jackson Maxwell

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(digboston/Flickr)

(digboston/Flickr)

When I saw Greta Kline live for the first time, she arrived, but her band did not.

It was February, in the midst of one of those distinctly New England winter storms. Her band apparently couldn’t make it through the staggering snowdrifts to the little, temporarily converted classroom in Hampshire College where the show was taking place. Ever the trooper though, Kline borrowed a guitar and tore through a set of revealing but spunky Frankie Cosmos songs on her own.

Although “bedroom pop” and “twee” are typical descriptors of Kline’s work as Frankie Cosmos, they don’t do justice to the beguiling abstractions and lyrical left turns she dots her painfully brief songs with. Even when she was performing in that most vulnerable of states – on stage without her band or even her own guitar – she had the entire crowd comfortably on a string.

Kline’s newest Frankie Cosmos EP, “Fit Me In,” is a departure in that it does not feature a single guitar. In keeping with her noted commitment to all things DIY, the drum machines and keyboards that compromise the instrumentation of the EP, released Nov. 13, are decidedly humble.

Though the omission of guitars may raise the eyebrows of skeptics, the simple, whirring electronic soundscapes that Kline assembles here end up being almost as good, if not better, a vehicle for her indirect confessionals as her typical backing band.

In less than eight minutes, Kline reveals four simple but breathtaking sketches. Kline’s emotions take a multitude of forms on this EP: cheeky, confident, lost and reflective. But the minute you think you’ve caught up to her, she’s moved on, leaving tantalizing fragments of scenes in her wake.

On the quietly stunning “O Contest Winner,” Kline seems to long for anything but the reality she is a part of, but also turns this seeming vulnerability on its head by singing at one point, “No need for a retest/I know I’m a genius.” On “Sand,” she declares, “I love when the days are long/I notice more of everything,” before abandoning the perfect little song after 45 seconds.

In an exchange like that lies the honesty of Kline’s music. Kline is willing to not only talk about how she loves enjoying long days but also to cut a song off, almost to make a point about how she’d rather enjoy the day at hand than keep playing.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong on that front, and Kline simply had nothing left to say on “Sand.” But what makes her Frankie Cosmos material, with or without guitars, so special is that Kline can be as ultra-confessional and intimate as she pleases, while still leaving ample room for people like me to over-analyze the meaning of her brief, but immaculately constructed vignettes. If anything, “Fit Me In’s” bone-simple electronics give Kline more space to connect to our imaginations.

Though its entire length is around seven and a half minutes, each of “Fit Me In’s” songs somehow have enough time to both dazzle and toy with us.

 

Jackson Maxwell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JMaxwell82.

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