Cover Story: On the Underground: Frankie Cosmos

As you may remember from the last cycle, I did a short series, called Color October in which I reviewed music from my own iTunes library, based on the color of their album art. Once again, I’m going to begin the cycle with a short series, which is called On the Underground. Here I will be reviewing bands and artists that are in the underground sphere of the music, or aren’t really in the public eye. My first review will be of Frankie Cosmos, a musical phenomenon that I found a couple of years ago and expected to catch on, though that wasn’t quite the case.

I want to preface this review with a disclaimer: I’m still not 100% sure if Frankie Cosmos is a solo artist or a band. Because Frankie Cosmos is somewhat unknown, there is not a lot of info on them on the internet. I keep thinking Frankie Cosmos is a band, because in any article or review I can find, it always states, “Greta Kline, lead singer,” and I also keep thinking that she’s just the solo artist, because I only ever see her in the music videos and only ever hear her name mentioned. As it happens, Frankie Cosmos is kind of both a singular artist as well as a group. When it’s just Greta Kline, the singer/guitarist, that’s just her stage name, but when she’s got a band backing her, she introduces them all as Frankie Cosmos, as though it’s the band name. It’s very, very confusing, but also kind of fitting to the current state of loose, uncategorized music that’s been kind of settling over music today.

Greta Kline has, actually, done music under many pseudonyms; she also has performed and recorded under the name Ingrid Superstar, who, though I recognize the name, doesn’t have any songs that ring a bell, for me. Cosmos’ songs are short, cheerful and sweet-sounding non sequiturs, that sound surprisingly like something that she jotted down immediately when it came to her, and put a backing track and chords to. They’re often message-based, or describe the feeling of an action, or an event, or a day in her life. In “Outside With The Cuties”, Cosmos writes, “Outside with the cuties / I don’t think the woods are too deep / The grass covers the sand / The wood is damp / feeling very touched, because my friends are in love.” As you can see, the lyrics don’t rhyme line to line, which usually limits the potential of most songs.

Another song, “Sleep Song,” which is much more direct in point, says, “I guess I just make myself the victim, like you said / That’s why, when you treat me shitty, you get mad / It all makes sense now, thanks so much / Goodbye forever / What the f–––.” A fun thing about the wordplay and almost trend that Cosmos’ songs follow is that they use the same melodic vocal patterns, no matter the message of the song. It’s always fun to have a sad or angry song that sticks to a cheerful or sarcastic-sounding tone, which, with Cosmos’ loyalty to sickly sweet melodies, is a common phenomenon. This is actually what turned me on to Frankie Cosmos to begin with, because “Sleep Song”, the first song of Cosmos’ that I found, is so angry and confused in lyrics, which is one of my favorite things that happen in songs.

Cosmos’ songs are often short-lived, which I personally really enjoy, because I’m both lazy and impatient, which means that if I feel like a song is too long, I’m too lazy to skip it, and I just have to suffer through the whole thing. The lyrical magic that Kline weaves, to me, is ridiculous. She’s seemingly talking about nothing at all, though the words that she sings are kind of crazily addicting to listen to. Kline has really hacked into this because each consecutive line in her songs is so unexpected, yet when they are all strung together, it’s like she’s made a little picture out of things that would usually never go together, like a collage for the ears. Does that make sense?

Kline’s ability to do this, however, does make sense. She studied English and majored in poetry at NYU, and has written so many songs; some as Ingrid Superstar, some as Frankie Cosmos, some with a band she was in for a while, Porches, and almost all in lower-case. As an aesthetic choice, I love this, and as a method of standing out, this is very eye-catching.

Confusing as this lady/band is, the music is merely sensible. It’s good if you want to listen to one artist for a long time, because there are so many songs, and it’s good if you want to listen to a larger variety of artists, because the songs are so short. It’s good if you want relaxing music, because the tone is actually very chill, and it’s good if you want to pay attention, because the lyrics are surprisingly interesting. Frankie Cosmos’ music covers all the bases.