It’s almost possible to read about bands who receive a lot of internet attention without seeing the word “hype” somewhere throughout a body of text. (Yep, even a few concert reviews here on Milwaukee Record have fallen prey to using the word repeatedly.) Hype can be either an artist’s friend or foe, but one thing about hype is guaranteed: it sets a high standard for a young, oftentimes inexperienced artist. They’ll either live up to their precious online legacy or succumb to the “overrated” label.
Frankie Cosmos have been on the ol’ hype train for a while now, and deservedly so. Singer/songwriter Greta Kline began uploading countless self-recorded tracks to Bandcamp in her early teen years, becoming widely known as a post-modern “bedroom pop” pioneer. Even though Frankie Cosmos—Kline’s four-piece band—has only three “official” albums, Kline herself has spent the last 10 years curating a massive catalog of lo-fi tunes as a prolific D.I.Y. songwriter. The quartet made their first-ever stop in Milwaukee Thursday night, performing a delicate set in front of a sizeible audience at the sold-out Back Room @ Colectivo.
Becoming familiar with an artist through a pair of headphones is an entirely different experience from seeing them perform onstage. Bedroom pop is a very, very intimate genre, and moving such scrappy tunes from the screen to the stage isn’t always a seamless process. Kline and the rest of the Cosmos crew possess that endearing awkwardness that makes bedroom pop work in the first place, and said awkwardness certainly transcended the band’s recordings.
There’s a very childlike quality to Kline, in both her songwriting and presence. She’s a tiny woman with a tiny voice, most easily comparable to The Cranberries’ late crooner Dolores O’Riordan. Though she doesn’t growl with the same Clinton-era angst as O’Riordan, Kline’s voice does possess a similar sweetness and innocence.
Frankie Cosmos’ 1990s parallels don’t stop there. Even though their tracks highlight a minimalist instrumentation, they often invoke a ’90s pop/rock sensibility, with hints of emo tucked throughout. It comes as no surprise that a generation so ridden with 1990s nostalgia would take a liking to Frankie Cosmos’ intimate gloom.
These days, anyone with a guitar and a MacBook can upload their heart and soul online for the whole world to hear. Frankly, Kline and their contemporaries are a dime a dozen; what is it about Frankie Cosmos that helps them stand out from the crowd and sell out shows across the country? Maybe it’s the way Kline can relate to her peers. Her songwriting is often deemed Frankie Cosmos’ crown jewel, and her way with words was certainly one of the show’s highlights.
Playing tracks off the group’s most recent release, Vessel, Kline performed with a refreshing self-assurance that one might not expect from a bedroom pop superstar. The question remains: do Frankie Cosmos live up to their longstanding internet hype? Kline’s soft power, paralleled with her endearing vulnerability, makes the answer easy: yes. It’s almost guaranteed Frankie Cosmos will graduate to a larger venue next time they roll into town to accommodate fans both old and new.