by Preston Radtke
It was a busy 2017 for Frankie Cosmos. Riding the high of 2016’s Next Thing, the band spent a good portion of the year touring and starting up side projects. The most noteworthy result of 2017 for the outfit was signing to indie super-label Sub Pop. At the conclusion of the year many music heads were whispering about an impending freshman release on Sub Pop, but no one had a clear-cut date. Then the band released “Jesse” – the lead single off of Vessel, their third full-length LP to be out on March 30.
“Jesse” is a beautifully necessary and promising cut for such a young band. The instrumentation, structure and vocal performance are far more complex than their previous material, resulting in a more intimate and personality-infused song.
While singer Greta Kline’s vocals are innovative and effective, it’s the guitar work and drumming that make this song fly. Throughout the entirety of the song, there is a stark juxtaposition between lead and backing guitars. Instead of sounding disjointed or confusing, the resulting sound seems to represent a musicalization of conflicting thoughts and feelings reminiscent of the song’s theme. “Jesse” is about a protagonist who runs to a significant other’s friend to hopefully learn the mysteries behind their behavior. Of course, in the process the protagonist learns more about themselves and basically nothing about their perplexing spouse.
Luke Pyenson’s drumming also deserves snaps for how present and rhythmic he makes the track feel. On previous Frankie Cosmos cuts, the drums were led by the vocalizations and other instrumentations. “Jesse” finds the percussion more in-step with the instrumentation, thus providing the percussion a greater role. At about the 1 minute, 18 second mark Pyenson unleashes a sort of unbalanced mini-barrage of percussion just as the fervor of the track is ratcheting up.
“Jesse” feels more like a poem and less like an indie track. There is no definable chorus or bridge. There is melody and progression, but the song doesn’t safely fall back on many repeated lyrics or familiar constructs to pad its trajectory. This is a remarkable iteration for the band. Their past releases were experimental to a degree, but there was nothing as intricate or advanced as the structure of this song. Perhaps the most inspiring thing about this track is just how nontraditional the structure is while still keeping its theme and context front and center to the listener. Kline’s delivery and backing instrumentation is still able to maintain the audience’s attention even though they are being presented in a new format.
Lexie was a 2017 side project commandeered by front woman Greta Kline. Their 2017 LP Record Time hearkened back to the days of controlled mischief and youthful inhibition. Kline’s performance on the album was more sporadic and extroverted than her refined and sometimes brooding output on Next Thing. It appears she’s completely embraced this more free-spirited and freewheeling vocal style. The vocals on “Jesse” are delivered in a very whimsical, seemingly ADD-inspired manner. Kline still sounds like Kline, but with a smile. Her vocal contribution makes this song feel like it was done by a band, whereas her past performances felt like it was only the Greta Kline show. Undoubtedly the improved abilities of other Frankie Cosmos members also contributes to this feeling and to the soundscape of their work as a unit.
Featured image from Genius
On their previous two albums, Frankie Cosmos painted amateur musical portraits of youthful urban life, but there was always the tiniest bit of predictability. “Jesse” could be the entryway to a new, more in-depth world of musicality for the group. The song’s structure and Kline’s vocals have helped the outfit paint with more elaborate colors and textures than we’ve heard from them before.
Preston is a Emerging Media and Design major. His favorite things include: Seinfeld, the band Sleater-Kinney, denim jackets, and traveling. When he is not writing for Byte, he’s working on his thesis dealing with transmedia in music marketing, working on his very amateur novel, and spending way too much money on restaurants.