Secret Meeting score: 78
by Philip Moss
Over the last couple of years, much has been made of Car Seat Headrest aka Will Toldeo making the move from being an online star – having spent his late teens and early twenties releasing music through Bandcamp – to signing for Matador Records. And, in much the same way, after releasing over 49 bedroom albums through Bandcamp, and her first two full band/studio albums on indie label, Double Double Whammy, Frankie Cosmos aka Greta Kline is now treading a similar path having signed to legendary Seattle label, Sub Pop.
At 18 tracks and exactly double the run time of 2014’s wonderous 17 minute long breakout album, Zentropy, Vessel opens with the sugar-sweet pop of Caramelize. Within seconds, it’s clear that Sub Pop have allowed Kline (and producer Hunter Davidsohn who the band returned to upstate New York to work with) to retain artistic control over her own brand of whimsical, twee pop- ‘When the heart gets too tender, return it to the sender’ – and that Kline is still the ‘kind of girl buses splash with rain’, as she sang on Zentropy.
Album highlight, Accomodate, is another lovely slab of melancholic, summer pop, and with lines like ‘my body is a burden’, it carries enough teen diary cuts to see why Sub Pop think that there’s a bigger audience awaiting and that Frankie Cosmos can crossover from being just another bedroom songwriter.
Ur Up sounds like an iPhone voice recording and, at just 36 seconds, serves as a lovely interlude, backed with simple piano tinklings. I’m Fried and Hereby are understated ear worms. The End is a White Album-esque, breakup ditty that was recorded through directly into Garageband through her computer mic- exactly as her older ‘Bandcamp’ records were made. While album finale, Vessel – one of only two songs on the record that goes beyond the three minute mark – is possibly the most unguardedly autobiographical: ‘Walking along in midtown at night, like fog that disappears quickly, I leave no mark at all’.
Lead single, Apathy, does show more of a punk-tinged, harder edge than previous works, which – it must be said – Kline’s delicate voice holds up to on this particular number. But this isn’t the case across the record. As Toledo did for his most recent album (Twin Fantasy), Being Alive (originally recorded for 2014’s Affirms Glinting) sees Kline reworking an old Bandcamp released song. However, having a studio budget doesn’t always mean the song will be improved, and this case it isn’t- as the brash drums and harsher delivery strips away the beautiful Belle and Sebastian-evoking vulnerability of the original home recording.
So while the overall mood and sound feels like a continuum, the record does lack that little bit of something special that made Zentropy feel unique and, at 18 songs long, could have done with a little editing (the likes of Cafeteria and Ballad of R & J really are just throwaway filler). But irrespective of this, Vessel is a fine record, in fact, it’s possibly the best 52nd album ever made.