22-year-old Greta Kline started puting intriguing song sketches online when she was in her teens, slowly amassing a cult following before releasing her promising debut Zentropy in 2014. On Next Thing, Kline, who records with a roving group of collaborators under the moniker Frankie Cosmos, moves from the lonesome bedroom to the cramped garage, updating her cloistered lo-fi aesthetic with a crisp pop minimalism best suited for the tinny Macbook speakers that will be playing this record in dorm rooms across this country.
If Frankie Cosmos sounds newly professional this time around, it hasn’t affected Kline’s insular anxiety and winking self-doubt one bit. These songs neatly summarize and expand on the young adult insecurities Kline has been so sharply chronicling for years. Even as she expands her sound and worldview, Kline still calls on deeply personal, familiar characters from albums past. On “Interlude,” she references “Ronnie” (Aaron Maine, Kline’s boyfriend and lead singer of the Brooklyn synth-pop band Porches) and “Joejoe” (a.k.a. Kline’s late dog whose picture graced the cover of Zentropy).
Kline wraps her doubts and fears in a veneer of twee naivety, playfully pondering the absurdities of her newfound independence in 90 second ditties with titles like “If I Had a Dog” and “I’m 20.” She has a way of grounding romantic despair in innocent minutiae, summarizing a failed relationship by pining, “I thought we could eat bread” in the perfect pop rush of “Fool.” This time, though, Frankie Cosmos is less timid about being anthemic, stretching several compositions past the 2:30 mark.
Elsewhere, Kline tosses off devastating couplets, singing lines like “If your love was strong as my shame/I’d marry you and take your name” in high mournful whispers and apathetic croons. Frankie Cosmos has adult musician problems now too; there’s even a song about how much touring sucks. But Next Thing shows that as the group continues to grow up, Kline’s clear-eyed observation and youthful disaffection only feel more vital.