Music Reviews
Next Thing

Frankie Cosmos Next Thing

(Bayonet) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Indie rock began as a theater of the modest, as a space where introversion and emotional reservation were a calling card rather than a barrier. Whether that changed first with The Strokes or Arcade Fire is up for debate, but the expansion of indie’s musical (and commercial) ambition and emotional audacity isn’t. Next Thing, the second LP from singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos (real name: Greta Kline), can then be viewed as the newest work in a wave of indie rockers bringing the genre back to its unassuming roots. The movement has been largely female-driven, with names like Waxahatchee, Colleen Green, Palehound, Alvvays and Girlpool, or at least the women practicing this kind of back-to-basics indie seem more of a piece than their male counterparts like Parquet Courts and Car Seat Headrest. 

Next Thing doesn’t stray much from the style of Kline’s contemporaries, but her tight, concise songwriting and ever-present wit succeed in setting her apart from the crowd. The former is apparent from opener Floated In, which, well, floats in and out on an inviting guitar line and coasts to its finish over a layer of synthesizer in 84 seconds flat. Kline is determined not to overstay her welcome with these songs, none of which last longer than 3 minutes. Their runtime is befitting of their consistently direct, stripped-down construction, which dispenses with anything potentially superfluous in service of the always-strong melodies. Most of the music here stays in a fairly narrow mid-tempo range, but Kline has a talent for delivering choruses that shake up the structure of the songs for a moment before they snap back into place.

As clear as Frankie Cosmos’s roots to the indie rock of the early ‘90s are, there’s an unguarded emotional honesty here that would have been out of place in that scene. That’s not to say it’s dripping with earnestness, either, but that it occupies a unique space that manages to be simultaneously truthful and funny, sincerely documenting the insecurities of youth while recognizing them as nothing more than the insecurities of youth. The tone of the album is probably best summarized by its Bandcamp tags, which read “blues dog sounds quiet secret sad stupid New York.” Next Thing is laden with songs about both breakups and infatuation, but there’s a freshness to Kline’s writing that makes them at once extraordinarily personal and universally relatable. She can be bitter (“It all makes sense now / Thanks so much / Goodbye forever/ What the fuck”), movingly self-deprecating (“When I know I'm not the best girl in the room / I tell myself I'm the best you can do”) or offer simple happiness (“It’s Sunday night and my friends are my friends”) with seemingly effortless charm. Every once in a while, a line will come along expressing some emotion or insight so specific it can’t be anything other than true, such as Embody’s “Everybody understands me / But I wish nobody understood me / So you could be / The one who did.” On an album with limited musical range, Kline’s writing presents a full range of emotions while always remaining engaging and endearing.

That limited range is probably the only real disappointment of Next Thing, especially after the synthpop move of her 2015 EP Fit Me In. There are additions to her guitar-pop foundation here, but they’re mostly limited to the occasional keyboard line or an anomaly like the dreamy synth outro of Outside with the Cuties. Met on its own terms, however, it’s a record that plays entirely to Kline’s strengths and confirms her as a worthy successor to the legacy of indie modesty.