Personnel: Greta Kline (vocals, guitar); Aaron Maine (keyboards, drums); Hunter Davidsohn (marimba).
Audio Mixer: Hunter Davidsohn.
Recording information: The Business District.
The first fully realized studio album from Frankie Cosmos, aka New York songwriter and bedroom-recording enthusiast Greta Kline, is an impossibly rare instance of unabashedly twee songs that transcend self-consciousness and overstated humility to connect with visceral emotional currents. Built on the same heart-on-the-sleeve optimism as both the K Records scene and the early-2000s heyday of New York's anti-folk movement, Zentropy finds Kline presenting ten incredibly short songs of half-daydreamed, half-confessional melodic pop, delivered in a softly deadpan voice that belies the intricate countermelodies and harmonies that hide in every corner of the album. Before this, Kline released over 40 albums' worth of home-recorded sounds online, but Zentropy finds her backed by drummer/vocalist Aaron Maine and bassist/keyboardist David Maine, filling out the sound and taking songs like "Owen" from sleepy folk territory to high-definition indie rock. All the songs come on as simplistic and straightforward, but there's so much happening below the surface in almost every case, musically, lyrically, and conceptually. Complex Smiths-like guitar lines, tempo shifts, and fearlessly open lyrics make songs like "Buses Splash with Rain" and "Birthday Song" crackle with an energy that seems masterful even in the context of their unassuming approach. Often Frankie Cosmos recalls Kimya Dawson's spoken-sung delivery, but replaces the toilet humor, brattiness, and self-awareness of the Moldy Peaches with painfully direct and honest lyrics of separation, confused love, alienation, and affection so blatant it seems like the narrator is singing to herself, unaware anyone's listening in. In this way, Kline completely surpasses even her most immediate influences. Concise, endlessly hooky, and complex on several levels, the album ramps up to a trifecta of three gorgeously sad closing songs. "Dancing in the Public Eye" tosses off lines like "If you really love me you will leave me alone" in a way that makes its darkness sound almost carefree, "My I Love You" aches with the vulnerability of giving in fully to love, and "Sad 2" mourns a dead pet, capturing the hollowness of loss with opening lyric "He was just a dog, now his body's gone, so what is left but me and my poem?" Though short, Zentropy is astonishingly complete, communicating enormous ideas effortlessly and approaching perfection with its 27 minutes. ~ Fred Thomas