New Yorker Greta Kline – better known as her stage semi-persona Frankie Cosmos – pretty much embodies everything about contemporary DIY, self-releasing culture. Since 2011 she claims to have written a couple of hundred songs, releasing a fair chunk of her bedroom recordings under different names on Bandcamp before unleashing her critically acclaimed debut album Zentropy, a collection of seemingly twee, slacker-indie gems, in 2014. Her second full-length, Next Thing, has taken much the same approach; it’s a collection of songs that have been pieced together from fresh writing and from older unfinished material.
When it’s good, Next Thing does prove that if something isn’t broken, you shouldn’t attempt to fix it. Much of Kline’s charm comes from her airy, girlish charm mixed with ultra-lightweight indie, in the vein of Britain’s own Rozi Plain, and juxtaposed with plain, forthright statements. Things are no different here. ‘If I Had A Dog’ is something of a spiritual successor to Zentropy’s closer ‘Sad 2,’ Kline’s eulogy to a pet. It also shows off Kline’s astuteness and ability to observe the world around her. In this case, she takes something of a sideways swipe at deflected narcissism with the first line: “If I had a dog/I’d take a picture every day.” The slacker existentialism of ‘Sinister’ (“My soul is not like a water park”) is accompanied by reverberating chords and gorgeously washed-out synth in the chorus. ‘Embody’ sees Kline very sincerely saying “I wish nobody understood me/So you could be the one who embodies all the grace and lightness,” over guitars that swell and deflate perfectly to add to the emotion, while ‘Sappho’ manages to pack some serious emotional weight into its short running time, mostly thanks to Kline’s breathless vocals.
But it’s with some of the overly short song lengths that Next Thing stumbles. Its longest track runs for a mere two minutes and 45, while its shortest is only 46 seconds long, even though it is admittedly an ‘Interlude.’ Kline didn’t exactly fill Zentropy with eight-minute long progressive wig-outs (that album was less than 20 minutes long) but the speed with which she moves between concepts is sometimes more frustrating here than on her debut. While tunes like ‘Fool,’ ‘Embody’ and ‘Sinister’ do sound fully-formed despite their brevity, others feel like underdeveloped fragments. ‘Tour Good’ flits so rapidly from its slow-paced verses and quickly-strummed chorus that its structure becomes muddled. Essentially blending two songs together on ‘Is It Possible/ Sleep Song’ makes the two one-minute halves jar, while the self-loathing of ‘I’m 20’ all but flatlines melodically, staying one-paced throughout.
The way Next Thing skitters around restlessly means it’s sometimes difficult to get into and really connect with the ideas that Kline is trying to represent. While Kline is undoubtedly a talented songwriter, it’s hard not to get the feeling that fewer songs that feel more full-bodied would lend greater weight to her often witty observations. Nevertheless, there are still some little gems to treasure here.