Frankie Cosmos

For me, discovering Frankie Cosmos a few weeks ago was like noticing there’s a trap door in the house you’ve been living in for years and then finding lots of things underneath it that you happen to need at that exact moment.

I’d seen the name included in the lineups for shows with other bands I’ve been following but had not checked them out. I started with their KEXP performance and then their most recent album Next Thing.

It took me about three seconds to like them. Sometimes I just instantly connect with a band, and this is certainly one of them. They quickly reminded me of Beat Happening with the general wistful mood of their music. The fact that this project was started by Greta Kline (under the name Ingrid Superstar) with lo-fi recordings also adds to the similarities between these two bands.

If you go to the bandcamp page for Frankie Cosmos, you’ll find an astonishing amount of music. I’ve only gotten to listen to a small portion of it so far, but it truly does feel like finding some kind of hidden, sonic treasure.

One particular album called Much Ado about Fucking contains both elaborate songs and some that are only around a minute long. Regardless of their duration, they are all heartfelt and have stuck with me over the last few weeks.

These songs are not only really fucking good but also inspiring. They show that a studio is not necessary to make meaningful music. A project does not need to be made in a specific way to be considered art. “Reading Hell Chipmunk” from Much Ado about Fucking blew my mind, and I’m glad she recorded it the way she did and got it out there for people to hear because it’s fantastic.

Even though this project began with just Kline, it is now a full band and has shifted to recording in a studio. Next Thing has some really great tracks and combines that Beat Happening feel with possibly a Belle and Sebastian approach. The songs are just as original as before, but now you can hear things better and there are more instruments.

“Floated In” opens the album with a calm riff and equally calm vocals. The song then picks up in tempo with catchy lyrics and a keyboard. “Fool” also has some incredible vocals that are sung with such relatable disappointment and fragility that it can be simultaneously heartbreaking and pleasurable to listen to it. “Sappho” also has intriguing vocals along with a driving bass line.

The years that Greta Kline spent making music alone really show through in Next Thing. She’s developed a specific feel to her work that is reminiscent of other bands but is also shaped in a way that is entirely hers. I’m really looking forward to listening to as much of her music as I can.


Beat Happening

Beat Happening was a fantastic band from Olympia, Washington that included Calvin Johnson, the founder of K Records. The other members were Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford, and the three of them came together to create amateurish sounding and wonderfully expressive music that drastically stands out from a lot of other things you’ve probably heard. The songs tend to be quite simple but at the same time demonstrate a great deal of meaning and importance.

When I think of Beat Happening, I always find them to be very inspiring because their music seems to constantly convey the idea that if you want to make music you should just do it right now no matter what you think is holding you back. The way Calvin sings is now probably my favorite form of singing to listen to, and yet many would argue that he cannot sing because he is off key or whatever it is musicians say to legitimize themselves. I honestly no longer enjoy listening to people sing on key because the idea is such a boring one since it’s so limiting. There have also been a few times that I noticed some mistakes (or what other people would call mistakes) in their music like drums being off time or something. The fact that they just kept it that way delights me.

It is easy to forget that art is expression and not perfection. When making music, you are not designing a bridge or writing an essay for school, so who gives a fuck? If you decide you still like something after realizing that you did something you didn’t intend to do, go with it. Lots of things are not fun, but music is fun. If you listen to Beat Happening, you get the sense that this is pretty much how they felt. K Records in general too. It’s always great to stumble upon something as unbelievably positive and meaningful as Beat Happening and K Records (you can also stream all of their music for free on their website, which is nice of them).

K’s motto: “K, exploding the teenage underground into passionate revolt against the corporate ogre since 1982!”