“Flowers don’t grow in an organized way / Why should I?” Greta Kline asks on Close It Quietly, Frankie Cosmos’ latest release.
It’s an appropriate question for her to ponder considering the iterative nature of Kline’s project. Calling her prolific would be an understatement: In 2015, she estimated that she had written a few hundred songs since 2011, and the New Yorker hasn’t slowed down in the years since (“Does anyone wanna hear the 40 songs I wrote this year?” she sings winkingly on the new record). She even in one instance—”Rings (On A Tree)”— retraces her steps, giving another look at an already released song, this time bringing along her bandmates for the ride with fuller instrumentation. Some may see this as regressive, but instead, Kline is zig-zagging sideways, forwards and backwards, defying the typical idea of what growth looks like. Like a flower, she and her bandmates will wind their way around any fence post or push through any sidewalk crack that impedes them.
Their new album, the fourth studio LP since 2014’s breakthrough, Zentropy, showcases the four-piece’s growth with the clarity and personal touch of your mom marking your height on the kitchen wall (though, of course, not quite as linearly). Close It Quietly closely follows both Frankie Cosmos’ 2018 album Vessel and their 2019 Haunted Items series, the latter sparsely populated with just Kline’s voice and her contemplative piano. Kline’s approach to songwriting remains akin to journaling, a nearly compulsive desire to preserve particular memories and feelings. Before, that typically led to charming—if slightly twee—songs with the incisiveness of bedroom pop created by an artist with a poetic sensibility.
Now, Frankie Cosmos as a group edges closer to discovering their full potential by revisiting their past selves and adding new zest, adding Lauren Martin’s lithe synth here or delightfully buzzy guitar riffs there. Co-producer Gabe Wax (who worked on Soccer Mommy’s celebrated debut last year) brings a new sense of space to these 21 songs, including the re-recorded “Rings (On A Tree),” previously released as a Haunted Items track. But on this latest album, swaggery guitar and barely audible blips of synth breathe new life into the tune.
The lyrics on Close It Quietly still have all the intimacy of poems scrawled into a pocket notebook, as any Frankie Cosmos release does, but to call these songs navel-gazing would be superficial. Kline contemplates relationships with heart-wrenching simplicity (“Cause I’m the moon and you are the sea / You always seem sad underneath me” she sings dolefully on “Moonsea”), but her observations expand outward from her own experiences to the human condition itself. “It’s miraculous that humans are here / We built ourselves or God is real,” she notes on “Wannago.” Later, Kline examines internalized misogyny (“How can I still feel so unstrong”) and her own privilege (“But all those things you hear about / They only happen to other people / It doesn’t happen to me”) on “Last Season’s Textures.”
Self-reflection and human relationships remain her strong suit, though. “My heart is as sharp as a sonnet,” Kline declares on “With Great Purpose,” “You could crack an egg on it.” Beyond the pensive and sincere, she jokes on “Never Would” about how “It’d make a good song to miss you / But I really don’t at all.” Her imagery remains as evocative as ever, with the phrase “diamond in your throat” repeated in “A Hit” and “Ufo,” and slightly altered on “Windows” (“Spit out diamonds / Cough up rubies”), the meaning of which is never really as clear as the gemstone itself.
Those growing weary of Frankie Cosmos’ schtick, from the childlike vocals to the occasionally saccharine metaphors, may find themselves surprised by the group’s latest effort, one that pushes what we thought possible of the Kline-fronted project. Close It Quietly sees the band take a few steps forward, sideways and back—an aural square dance that’s well worth your time.