The greatest compliment one can pay is Frankie Cosmos’ Anxiety Attack is perhaps not music, but rather an experience of the song title.
Frankie Cosmos has managed to split the difference between Frank O’Hara’s witty, slice-of-life poetry, and the prolific output of R. Stevie Moore – pumping out over 50 lo-fi records since 2009, each of which sounds simultaneously thrown off and quietly laboured over.
Frankie – real name Greta Kline – writes about her friends, her worries, New York City, her recently-departed dog, and her boyfriend: typical teenage/early twenties fodder, but each story is spun in an amazingly vivid and singular fashion. She is an incredibly rich writer: seemingly inconsequential details help to paint entire scenes, while the first-name familiarity of the friends and lovers who pop up throughout the tales gives the sense of a diary entry: private sure, but also written to be shared with a select group of friends. Even the way in which she releases these records constantly and unceremoniously on Bandcamp suggests an almost LiveJournal style, although this comparison sounds too flippant to make for music this impressive.
Anxiety Attack is from Donutes, the first of four albums Frankie released in 2014, a year which saw her slow down (ha!) her release schedule somewhat (if not her actual writing pace) in order to promote her first label release, the excellent Zentropy. Anxiety Attack exists on Donutes in two forms; a demo version (actually a more musically-formed rendition of the song) directly trailing the original.
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The song feels both like being in the throes of an anxiety attack, and like the type of mantra one would adopt to ward off an impending anxiety attack. The emotions are contradictory, but make perfect sense; the tone is one of measured panic: “I feel cold, I feel hot, I can breathe, I cannot, what is up?”. The song is devoid of any music, bar Frankie’s body percussion, and the effect of this is almost robotic. She swings through not being able to trust anyone, mentally checking her belongings “keys, wallet, phone”, and ends with the temporary comforts of her boyfriend, and “warm, soft laundry” (although this last part could be a metaphor for the warmth he brings).
As with all of Frankie’s songs, the beauty is in the details. “You can feel me write your name, you ask what are you writing?” is where the song ends, and then – as if in an anxiety spiral – the entire thing starts again, this time coupled with a rough acoustic. The “demo” version ends with an interesting coda, a recording of Frankie getting down a rough verse idea for the song while it either pours rain outside or – more likely – a housemate or lover is having a shower. Although Frankie obviously affixed this short section to the end herself, it still feels unnervingly intrusive to hear it – a girl, a guitar, and a few stolen seconds of silence… or as close as you can get to silence in New York City, anyway.