Frankie Cosmos don’t seem to take themselves very seriously. Their website ironically claims “Frankie Cosmos is connected to your soul. Frankie Cosmos is the flower you should grow. Frankie Cosmos is the infinite cosmos infinite space.” The album art for their latest album, Zentropy, is a low-resolution photo of a dog in a hat with “FRANKIE COSMOS” written over it in childish, rainbow-coloured writing. If their account on indie iTunes-alternative bandcamp.com is anything to go by, they’re also incredibly prolific, having released an album in almost every month in 2013. Zentropy is their first studio offering, and it’s a peculiar little thing.
The first thing you’ll probably notice (aside from the charmingly odd cover art) is its miniscule run-time. Despite containing ten tracks, Zentropy runs at little over 17 minutes from start to finish. The opening track, ‘Art School’, sets things off to a simple start, with understated lo-fi guitar chords underneath uncomplicated lyrics sung in the endearingly innocent tones of Greta Kline (the real name of the band’s lead singer Frankie Cosmos). It’s nothing mind-blowingly unusual, but the light, cheerful melodies of the vocals keep things interesting… and then less than two minutes later it’s over and we’re into the next track.
This formula of short, tuneful lo-fi tracks continues throughout the album and once you’re used to songs ending almost as soon as they’ve begun, it feels absolutely right. It’s not even a case of being left wanting more, each song is perfectly contained within its own two-minute lifespan and doesn’t feel the need to be any longer.
A particular highlight is ‘Birthday Song’: catchy and just the perfect level of unpolished lo-fi. It could quite easily have dropped straight out of the soundtrack of Juno. The tempo fluctuates, slowing down every now and then, while Kline sings simplistic yet thoughtful lyrics such as “Just because I am a certain age / Doesn’t mean I am any older / Than I was yesterday.”—everything about the track is beautifully naive and cutesy.
The ninth track, ‘My I Love You’, is little short of gorgeous. Instrumentally and lyrically it isn’t hugely different to the rest of the album; and yet, this song somehow incorporates a faint lamenting sadness in amongst the no-frills guitars and simple lyrics. It’s subtle but beautiful, and once again barely lasts a minute and a half.
The album closes on ‘Sad 2’ (having scanned the band’s previous few albums for the original Sad and found nothing, I’m choosing to believe that this is a reference to Kanye’s ‘Bound 2’, and no-one can tell me otherwise). At this point, the relevance of the headgear-loving canine on Zentropy‘s cover becomes clear: having worn down your defences with wholesome indie-film-soundtrack charm, this final track centres around Kline mourning the death of her knitwear-clad furry companion. It’s at this point that the simplicity of her lyrics truly demonstrates its worth—”I just want my dog back / Is that so much to ask? / I wish that / I could kiss his paws”, she sings, as your heart fractures into a thousand tiny pieces. The complete lack of any kind of pretentiousness or grandeur makes the raw, genuine sadness behind the song all the more powerful.
I cringe at the idea of describing an album as something as clichéd as “short and sweet”—but that’s exactly what Zentropy is. Despite the very deliberately unpolished aesthetic Frankie Cosmos put across, this album is ten tiny, perfectly-formed tracks. It’s not anything ground-breakingly new, but it’s not trying to be. It’s cute, it’s enjoyable, and it’s 17 minutes well spent.
Zentropy is available now on Bandcamp.