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.


Built to Spill

Built to Spill is a band that has come up many times in my life with lots of different people. They are the perfect mix of loud, fucked up sounds and melodic vocals and riffs. I love both of those things.

I love post-hardcore stuff like Shellac and Fugazi, and I love Belle and Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel. Somehow bringing those two worlds together is the ultimate sound in my opinion, and Built to Spill does a lot of that in their album The Normal Years.

The first track So & So  So & So from Wherever, Wherever starts off with a lot of short, dissonant notes but then quickly becomes melodic with both the guitar and Doug Martsch’s vocals. The verses have quiet sections that then explode in emotion giving the song a fresh and unpredictable feel.

It’s hard to predict where a Built to Spill song will go when listening for the first time. A good example is the song Liar from You in Reverse. The immediate vocals that are covered in reverb along with the quiet guitar are slow and apprehensive, but they quickly give way to one of the best bass lines I’ve ever heard.

This bass line is the most prominent riff in the song and sticks in your head for days. It does exactly what a bass line should – it brings everything else together and makes it into one cohesive sound.

What is certain when it comes to this band is that there will be incredibly intriguing guitar parts and vocals sung in the distinctive manner that only Martsch could achieve. For me, his vocals are always the dead giveaway that the song playing is by Built to Spill.

I realize they’re relatively well-known in the indie world, but it can also be easy to skip over bands like this accidentally. No one who is remotely interested in the kinds of music discussed on this site should skip over this band, and now you have no excuse.