Vessel is Greta Kline’s third studio album as Frankie Cosmos, and two years on from her last release, she is able to captivate her listeners even more. As with her other releases, the album is light and charming to listen to on the surface, with its dainty vocals and clean guitars. But Kline is always exploring complex emotions, and the closer you listen, the more this is apparent. In Caramelize, she comfortably sings “the light in the world is dull” – her lyrics are simple, often even childlike with their rhyme schemes, but they touch on deeper subjects. They are always simultaneously relaxed and meaningful. The same could be said about the sound of the whole album – it could be played anywhere, to fit almost any mood. And I think that quality comes from the fact that it never tries too hard to be understood. Meaning isn’t pushed upon you, but is latent, waiting to be discovered – or not.
The album works on so many levels – on first listen it reveals itself as a magnificent, aesthetically-satisfying tableau of sound. The flute-like breathiness of her voice never falters, and its clarity always cuts through, even in the busier sections of tracks like Being Alive. With guitar riffs often echoing melodic phrases, and intricate percussion embellishing the space behind, you get the sense that every track has been thoughtfully and painstakingly arranged. Looking back at Zentropy, the band’s first release, Vessel sees Kline experimenting a lot more with instrumentation. She often shifts dynamic and tempo within songs, unexpectedly alternating between fast-paced, rhythmic beats and sparser sections of just vocals and a guitar.
The creativity of her writing is apparent in the song structure, too. A number of the tracks are characteristically short, with some of them being less than one-minute long. For any new listeners perhaps this is a surprising feature – I can see how people would want tracks to go on for longer, especially since her sound is so easy to listen to. The third track, As Often as I Can, builds pleasantly into a catchy chorus-like section, only to end 30 seconds later. But Vessel actually features some of Kline’s longest songs to date. She has always been economical with her art, preferring to abandon the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure and express herself more succinctly. The length of her tracks demonstrates her songwriting talent –– for example, the 58-second-long track ‘Hereby’ has everything you would want from an indie-pop song.
There’s a maturity to this album that seems hard to come by. Underneath the dreamy, vivid narratives about hot pink vans, late-night cafeterias and warm laundry, lies a well of troubled observations that touch on the bitterness of relationships and the struggles of self-expression. In an interview with Pitchfork, Kline talks about how her songs give her an opportunity to explore life’s natural contradictions: “Lots of life is constantly putting on a brave face and not exactly giving everyone the true experience of what you’re feeling. So my songs are a fun place to sneak in those thoughts, right underneath a happy melody, or make something that sounds like a love song but is actually really sad.”
The whole album is almost like an adult inside a child’s body – carefree and optimistic on the surface, but much more complicated when you look inside. She sings questions like “Are you relieved when I leave?” and “I’m so tired of myself around you”, peppering tracks with an ironic humour that makes them both witty and crushingly-sad. Vessel is undeniably introspective and often self-critical in its tone, but there’s a confidence in her delivery: she effortlessly captures a blend of curiosity and cynicism that characterises early adulthood for most.
Picks:As Often as I Can, Accommodate, I’m Fried, Cafeteria