As I sat in the same bedroom where I do my homework, hang out with my online friends, and make my own music, I watched Frankie Cosmos lead singer and guitarist, Greta Kline, perform live from her home. Watching from my desk, I felt like we were in this together—not just in quarantine but in this beautiful, confusing mess that is life. I definitely would prefer to see her perform in person, with all the sound quality, lighting, and overall atmosphere that a live venue provides, but honestly, the music lends itself well to an Instagram live video made at home, too. The magic of Frankie Cosmos is not in the production, or in the instrumentation, or even the tune, though those are often enjoyable. It’s in the genuine emotion Frankie Cosmos conveys, and the feeling that the listener is getting a glimpse into her unfiltered life.
Kline’s voice is pretty in all of her work, but it isn’t loud or perfectly blended. Every once in a while it’s drowned out by the accompaniment, despite being the centerpiece of most songs. The rest of the band, Lauren Martin (keyboardist, vocalist, and synth player), Luke Pyenson (drummer and vocalist), and Alex Bailey (keyboardist and bassist) add more character to every piece, despite rarely having surprising technical ability or effects that blow me away. But Kline doesn’t need to belt, the mixing doesn’t have to sound perfect, and the backing band doesn’t need to shred their guitars or have mind-blowing solos.
Because above all else, Frankie Cosmos has a unique sound. As Kline said in a KEXP interview, “You don't have to be trained, or sound like someone else.” Unlike some current indie artists, take Japanese Breakfast or Soccer Mommy for example, Kline’s voice is almost always the focus, and effects added to it are usually minimal. The instrumentation, lyrics, and song structure flow like a stream of consciousness, led by Kline’s voice. The beat of the song Young, for example, backs down halfway through to make room for vocals and synth alone, conveying an even greater sense of thoughtfulness, and pauses before ending, highlighting its culminating thought. This free form approach allows songs to be strikingly varied in structure.
“I’m a lover, I give light, I was never made to fight.” This line from the song Marbles hit close to home, and stuck with me. Told in simple lyrics with accompaniment from a single guitar and vocal harmony, Marbles is a timeless tribute to the balance between love, hurt, and the choices we face with the progression of time. It’s a song you could sing around a campfire while you or a friend played guitar, or around a campfire hundreds of years in the future, after being passed down through the generations.
In a time when producers, singers, bands, and songwriting teams are separated, Kline’s live chat with her mom and the virtual audience shows that music can be meaningful even when separated from the industry it's so often associated with. The meaning of all music lies in the emotions and associations it inspires in us, and those can be created by a group of professionals or by you alone in your home. Frankie Cosmos inspires a refreshing realness I think we all need right now.
I encourage you to watch Kline perform live on Friday, April 24, from the Frankie Cosmos Instagram, @frankiecombos, at 6:00pm PDT (9:00pm EDT), and to otherwise explore the band’s work.