Frankie Cosmos Fit Me In [EP]

[Bayonet; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: twee-pop, anti-folk, pop, synthpop
Others: Porches., Esquimaux, Girlpool, Mitski

Lying in bed, chests pressed beneath the weight of warm laptop aluminum, we spot her: 41 minutes and 33 seconds into Noah Baumbach’s 2005 film The Squid and the Whale, an 11-year-old Greta Kline (as Greta Greenberg) stands flatly before us in a high school auditorium where, in the context of the film’s talent show, her character sings a flat bit of a capella before the fade into a plagiarized Pink Floyd performance from Walt Berkman (played by Jesse Eisenberg). Kline looks as she does now — spindly, dark-eyed, hair down, with an adorable “aw shucks” affectation that would soon come to loom over her music career over 10 years later.

But this is old news. After 2014’s triumphant Zentropy, Frankie Cosmos, Kline’s act and stage name, became a project synonymous with the rise of Bandcamp bedroom superstars, ones popularly cited with over 40 albums on their respective Bandcamp pages. For many, this served as a claim to authenticity for Kline. With her father an Academy Award-winning actor, Kline’s project was still somehow fashioned into a successful media narrative, one that found her work sincere, rather than written off as the transparent music career of a child actor with a famous father. This was done in part through the creation of an ethos of insularity, cuteness, and the hard work suggested by having 40 releases online.

Where once artists built media narratives primarily through touring, cassette swapping, and word-of-mouth transference, Bandcamp has become the de facto platform for artist discovery. Acts like Teen Suicide, Elvis Depressedly, Girlpool, Spook Houses, Mitski, Car Seat Headrest, and Eskimeaux all have built humble narratives of authenticity through the now-readymade “digital diy” template that Bandcamp has provided, allowing them to grow a massive following through the site’s social network and through social media. But what happens when these projects grow beyond the platform, beyond claims to bedroom authenticity and into #1 albums, sold-out shows, and vinyl releases on larger labels with transparent ties to the majors? Will fans finally grow fickle, seeking out newer and newer artists online, more and more diversified underground heroes to adore?

Fit Me In, the new EP from Frankie Cosmos, has big shoes to fill. As her first release in a post-Bandcamp landscape, Kline is no longer judged as an underdog in the musical topography, but simply as a pop artist. Gone are the veils of gooey language, words waxed lyrical of her insularity and extensive back catalog. For the first time, the hype feels undone.

The release borrows sounds from frequent collaborator Aaron Maine’s band Porches, whose Ronald Paris House 7-inch follows in the tradition of the band’s more electronic-leaning efforts, pairing lush 80s keyboard pads with drum machines and auto-tune harmonies. While abstaining from the auto-tune, Fit Me In takes its thick drums and low-end pads to build a new, hi-fi Frankie Cosmos, one with sharp vocal harmonies, taut bass lines, and gorgeous mixing. Kline’s songwriting translates remarkably well in this electro-pop context, filling the mix with lyrical confusion about being young (“Young”), feeling annoying (“O Contest Winner”), and bookshop romance (“Sand”). “Korean Food,” a re-recorded track from 2013’s DADDY COOL, gets entirely reworked here, polished from the ground up with a soft drum machine, cavernous vocal reverb, and a nice keyboard countermelody.

Despite all the pressure and expectations, Fit Me In surprisingly delivers. With just four tracks, Kline shows how the combination of her poised lyrical presence and the sharpness of the recording is a forced to be reckoned with — not only in the context of the Bandcamp artist, but also in the wider world of pop music.

Links: Frankie Cosmos - Bayonet

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