Despite being meek in sound, Frankie Cosmos songs frequently capture the emotional rush of viewing something larger than life firsthand: the triptych of reds, yellows, and greens atop a mountain range; the explosive joy and laughter of friends reuniting for the first time in years; the realization that you’re a cog in the machine, but that however trivial your role may seem, there’s beauty in carrying it to fruition. The band draws out these ruminations with stripped-back indie rock and lyrics sung barely above a whisper. On Inner World Peace, Frankie Cosmos’ fifth studio album, singer-guitarist Greta Kline turns that sense of wonder inward, viewing herself with a newfound sense of empathy that comes with age.
If she was once heralded as a teenage wunderkind who viewed songwriting as her version of microdosing, then Kline is now entering a phase of tenured inquisitiveness, where no stone goes unturned in the search to understand why she is who she is. After years of dodging the perceived formalities of adulthood—9-to-5 desk jobs, owning a car, looking forward to showering—Kline opens herself up to the unavoidable truths of your late 20s. “I’m regressing at light speed/I don’t still play the guitar every day,” she confesses. “I had a magnetic personality once/But I got too tired to keep it up.” As unfamiliar as this transition feels, it’s entirely normal; adjusting is the hard part.
Throughout Inner World Peace, Kline questions what it means to grow up and how to know if you’re doing it correctly. As she susses out in “One Year Stand,” no matter what your maturation process looks like or how many faults you fix, you can’t escape former iterations of yourself. She likens this sensation to being a cast-iron pan: Even if you try new meals and take on new flavors, seasonings from years prior will always be embedded into you. Kline puts her own spin on these signs of growing up, imbuing innocence and wonder into the framing. On “Wayne,” she relaxes her face to prevent wrinkles, only to break out crow’s feet while smiling around her crush. Throughout “Prolonging Babyhood,” she mocks her resistance to responsibilities, from feeding herself mashed-up broccoli to thinking about the future in any capacity. By stamping her feet down one last time in jest, Kline bids adieu to the stubbornness of her early traits and commits to bringing only the best parts forward with her.
Inner World Peace benefits from that introspection in its ability to groove. These songs bend and stretch like they’re toying with psych pop, even though the music is still delivered through Frankie Cosmos’ now-trademark minimalism. It’s that Stereolab-esque refrain repeating at the end of “A Work Call,” Alex Bailey’s roving bass and guitar parts straight out of the ‘60s in “Fragments,” Lauren Martin’s airy synth warbling like a ripple of smoke in “Fruit Stand.” The better you begin to understand yourself, the easier it becomes to move about the world. That looseness is at the heart of Inner World Peace, both in music and lyrics. “Aftershook” encapsulates it best; Kline sings about balancing emotional awareness and hopefulness while reconciling with her past. Around her, Bailey, Martin, and drummer Luke Pyenson lay down jazz-influenced psych-rock more fit for Crumb, but they snap back into their classic sound with each chorus. It’s like watching the band grapple with two versions of itself—the established, demure teenagers and the nebulous adults—to decipher the healthiest combination.
At the start of this year, Frankie Cosmos invited fans to enter the “FC Universe” with a project called How Do You Feel About Making the Song, a Tumblr devoted to interviews with bandmates, collaborators, and friends. Kline conducts each entry like a child attending a Take Your Kid to Work Day, asking about the fundamentals of their jobs with a genuine desire to learn. Extra emphasis is placed on the way fate and change have affected their careers. Inner World Peace seems like another attempt to navigate these turning points, dotted with uncertainty. By the end of the album, Kline is left to reflect on what she’s learned. “I am doing my best,” she sings quietly, as if resigned to the fact. That’s when she asks the evergreen question: “Will it always be like this?” The answer, as always, is up to time.
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