Greta Kline requires your whole attention if you are going follow what she’s saying on Vessel, her third studio album as Frankie Cosmos, now audibly a full band rather than a bedroom solo project. She makes a habit of pausing between phrases, making you wait a couple of beats for her to finish a thought. It feels as though she’s figuring out what she’s going to say as you listen. It’s worth it to be patient, hang on her words and let her draw you in.
Vessel could easily beguile without this quirk through the delicate and slightly tense balances it maintains. It’s a dreamy rock album with lyrics that face unsatisfying relationships and inner turmoil with realism and flashes of warped humor. Kline’s lyrics, underscored by offbeat, Phil Elverum-like vocal delivery, teeter on an exquisite line between goofiness and sharp honesty, mundanity and magic. In the end, it comes down hard on the side of magic.
Vessel is a long garland of short songs, about half well under two minutes. Most are sketches of early adulthood, when romantic relationships have a way of evaporating like mirages and your platonic friendships are a desperately needed source of perspective and equilibrium. On “Jesse,” Kline describes a late-night conversation with a friend: “We talked about dreams, about things / about you / It felt like anything can be real or fake / Like our love is my world but so is my heartache.” Throughout, troubled observations like this jumble with memorable bits of narrative like, “I’m living in a condo / It replaced your favorite movie theatre though.”
This release is twice as long as its predecessor Next Thing, giving listeners more time to get acquainted Kline’s vivid musical world. It looks a lot like the one we all live in, every detail closely observed, from an unexpected encounter with taxidermy to the eyes of the one who breaks your heart, but its painted in different colors. (In the case of Vessel, with its gauze-thin veil of reverb and vocal effects, and its mix of K Records inspired folk and girl-group indebted pop, let’s say these colors are washy pastels.) Her vision isn’t always sunny, but it is intense and deeply felt. It brightens the dullest and darkest moments, without taking the sting out of the painful, confusing parts. That’s the payoff for listening close: You might end up seeing through brighter eyes.