Release Date: May 11, 2010
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Locked up in a vintage Buenos Aires studio with Franco-African jazz pianist Gael Rakotondrabe for this blissfully weirdo fourth outing, the sisters Casady freakishly but joyfully plunder the odder bits of medieval folk, drum and bass, Western saloon and Mitteleuropa gothic elements. As always, they trill their moon-beamed-but-earth-bound fairy tales (“Hopscotch,” “R.I.P. Burn Face”) like a couple of wounded birds—or over-medicated children.
Not since [b]System Of A Down[/b]’s [b]‘Steal This Album!’[/b] has a record cover conveyed such an overt order. “Go on,” the blue, moustachio’d, beardy and downright wacky Bianca and Sierra seem to be goading. “Buy this if you’re brave enough. We dare you.” The old maxim about not judging books by covers won’t stop a lot of people from doing so with the Casady sisters’ fourth album, which is a shame, seeing as [b]‘Grey Oceans’[/b] is [b]CocoRosie[/b]’s most beautiful and, more importantly, least bloody irritating record to date.
Grey Oceans' unfortunate cover art is a reminder of everything that can be seen as irritating about CocoRosie -- a pity, because there is a lot of beauty on this album. Sierra and Bianca Casady's songwriting and approach matured in the three years between these songs and The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn; even though it still sounds like Ouija boards and wax cylinders are vital pieces of equipment for them, Grey Oceans has a more expansive and polished sound than any of the sisters’ previous albums, and they don’t try to fill each song to the brim with sonic doodles. “Trinity’s Crying” begins the album by proving that CocoRosie sound as witchy as ever with its mix of odd samples and acoustic instruments, but as its coolly hypnotic vibe unfolds, it’s clear that it was made in a more professional setting than, say, a Paris apartment.
Listening to the fourth CocoRosie album, Grey Oceans, it seems apt to wonder where the dividing line occurs between ambition and self-indulgence. Just how much distance is there between Kid A, and, say, the work of Genesis? Cocorosie have always trod a path of stubborn individuality, often encompassing a child-like innocence and a simultaneous desire to pick away at the scabs which sit delicately over taboos. The fearlessness of the sisters in their creative vision has probably won them more fans than haters; David Byrne and Anthony Hegarty are among their higher profile admirers.
Upon first listen, the intimate mewling of the Casady sisters seems playful and beguiling, as if every word were sprinkled with pixie dust. The sisters breathe in childish whispers that evoke Björk’s early ingénue in all its youthful mischief and simple sincerity. Their first album, 2004’s La Maison de Mon Reve, showcased this approach wonderfully, with a velvety collection of unadorned pop creations that combined operatic caterwauling with soft-spoken poetry into intricate folk songs set against arrhythmic percussion.
What would CocoRosie have to do at this point for you to change your mind about them? One of the world's biggest cult acts remains one of its most divisive. Whether it's their absurd cover art, affected vocals, one-time affiliations with too-ironic parties, or their many famous friends, something about CocoRosie causes grudges to be held. To be honest, I wish I could let that baggage get me worked up about Grey Oceans-- music is most fun when it inspires strong feelings.
Listening to CocoRosie has always felt like eavesdropping on your crazy neighbors. You draw up close to the wall and hear all those muffled thumps and shrieks, and you draw all kinds of conclusions. When it grates on you, you think things like, "What is that, a mound of feral cats in a wind tunnel?" But when it draws you in, like those crazy neighbors, you call around to friends, you tell them they have to hear this crazy shit.
Less a band than shepherds over a motley herd of weirdo conceits, CocoRosie has traveled a rough road since 2004’s halfway-promising La Maison de Mon Reve, offering up two washout albums that played less like a taming of their quirks than a complete surrender to them. At times it seems like there’s more to say about the band’s two members than there is about their music: they’re formerly estranged sisters who reunited in the early aughts and started making music together; they wear exotic and often awful costumes; one (Siera) is a classically trained singer, or passes as one, while the other (Bianca) has a rusty creak of a voice; they fill their songs with sounds culled from children’s toys and electronic gadgets. Too often these songs appear as wasted canyons of distended nothingness, studded with echoing sound effects that amount to little more than decorative glitter.
Only CocoRosie's most diehard fans and the most patient of listeners will likely enjoy the freak folk duo's fourth album. There is much to get past: an annoying album cover featuring the Casady sisters wearing crystals and blue felt on their heads and sporting furry moustaches; their possessed-child-in-a-horror-movie-meets-Joanna-Newsom voices; the incongruous blend of opera and hip-hop; those mystical lyrics. [rssbreak] But there are also moments that effectively translate the impenetrable one-of-a-kind world the sisters inhabit, moments only they could conjure and deliver - like the pained, gentle refrain at the end of Trinity's Crying, Lemonade's suddenly energetic chorus, Grey Oceans' elegant piano lines, Gallows' unnerving harp and howling wind, the soulful intro to Here I Come.
From the cover of CocoRosie’s latest album, Grey Oceans, which features the duo sporting Druid-ish cloaks and paste-on beards, one could deduce that the sisters have matured little from their days of singing about little Bambis and candy canes. And while flits of sophomoric frivolity remain on their Sub Pop debut, it is a largely sober affair. The Casady sisters have come a long way from their homemade debut, La Maison de Mon Reve, a strange yet beautiful collection of lo-fi folk gems.
The oddest purveyors of freak-folk deliver a patchy fourth album. Louis Pattison 2010 Not that you’d expect anything particularly conventional from an act that apparently emerged from underneath the voluminous kaftan of Devendra Banhart back in the mid-Noughties, but of all the artists to be lumped into the “freak-folk” movement, CocoRrosie have surely turned out to be some of the freakiest. Based between Paris and Williamsburg, New York, sisters Bianca "Coco" and Sierra "Rosie" Casady have pursued a studied sort of oddity that has entranced some just as it has bemused others – a hodgepodge of folk, blues and cabaret unafraid to mess with racial or gender roles, or toy with pastiche in its pursuit of hallucinogenic, cracked-mirror creativity.
I think some things are far above our comprehension and CocoRosie is one of them. For some odd reason, a duo that I find so simple in instrumentation makes little to no sense in arrangement. Their new release, Grey Oceans, is no exception to the trend they have set for the last few years. Although these two sisters have disarming voices that might suck you in for a few moments, the disconnected background arrangements caution you away.