Amidst the throngs of overly quiet, keenly whimsical, mechanically naïve few-piece twee indie pop bands, the Frankie Cosmos name always manages to somehow stand out, promising something slightly different to the rest. And, to be honest, I’ve long struggled to see why. Since the band proverbially “went electric” and left the confines of lo-fi bedroom recording following 2014’s intimately adolescent, catchy and charmingly sincere breakout record Zentropy, there haven’t been many discernible differences between Frankie Cosmos tracks or projects. It can often feel like you could swap around any of bandleader Greta Kline’s tracks from either Vessel or Next Thing (and now Close It Quietly), and those records wouldn’t suffer from stylistic inconsistency or lose any general cohesion.

On a fundamental level, Frankie Cosmos have always relied too heavily on Kline’s vocals being distinctive and her lyrics being relatable, while the band’s lack of real instrumental development between releases has thoroughly worn their formula down into something that is now openly unsurprising. And as that formula is ground down, the process feels gradually more symptomatic of a genre that is itself feeling rather fatigued. By now one can’t help but think that the once-plump body of such inoffensive post-bedroom indie pop, that churns out the same chord progressions and are all knowingly twee and directionless, is now a mostly bare carcass. Though there are some impressive tracks on Close It Quietly that do indeed signpost Frankie Cosmos as one of the genre’s more talented outfits, it seems they’re struggling to find much by way of substantial picking.

While one could endlessly deride the stagnation of indie pop as a whole, most frustrating about Close It Quietly specifically, however, is that what it attempts has already been more effectively achieved by Kline and co. on previous Frankie Cosmos releases. The trick with short, vignette-style tracks is for them to have the individual sincerity or overall conceptual tightness to seem focused and worthwhile. They have to feel like they contribute to something - anything - more substantial than their individual levity. Yet, though the tracks on Close It Quietly are loosely passed off as painting a picture of the twee and odd Frankie Cosmos universe, in truth they feel more unfinished and purposeless. Instead of being a patchwork or collage, here the tracks feel like a roughly-compiled assortment of unconnected half-stories.

Among the 21 tracks of Close It Quietly there is plenty that is amiable and whimsical, pleasant and inoffensive. There is also, however, almost nothing affecting or memorable. ‘A Joke’ is the album’s clear highlight, notably feeling both effortlessly likeable and, importantly, complete as it demonstrates a purposeful structure and moves from its sparse guitar-led opening into a catchy refrain. Unfortunately, most of Close It Quietly is far from as successful. Well-worn chord progressions and a lack of ear-worming choruses leave few discernible differences between this record and the band’s previous two. Though there is something continually charming about music under the Frankie Cosmos name, that charm is diluted with every passing release in which nothing changes.