CocoRosie – Grey Oceans (PIAS Recordings) 03/05/2010

May 7, 2010 by  

It can be all too easy to misunderstand CocoRosie. The two Cassasdy sisters make the sort of music that could be termed ‘for art’s sake’, or if you were feeling brutal, pretentious would fill the bill equally well. Then there’s the issue of the album covers, 2005s Noah’s Ark winning them the dubious accolade of placement on both Pitchfork and the Guardian’s list of “The Worst Covers of All Time”. They’ve done nothing to placate this with their fourth release; the tasteless cover of Grey Oceans means it’s unlikely to be picked up by perusing record buyers. To top it all they have a propensity towards wearing fake mustachios at every opportunity. It would seem they wish to be judged by their music alone, so casting all aesthetics aside and on to the tunes:

There are a host of interesting ideas on the record. Grey Oceans is a quirky folk pop project of some merit, particularly if this is your kind of thing. At its best it reminds of My Brightest Diamond, as in the case of opening track ‘Trinity’s Crying’, a sober piano-led lament. Elsewhere the vocals of Bianca faintly recall a coquettish Björk, or a girlish Billie Holiday, if you’re feeling maximum generous.

Their instrumentation shows playful imagination – is that a Jew’s harp on ‘Fairy Paradise’? It’s simplistic, atmospheric stuff, underdone to the point of just right. Violins slide eerily over tablas in ‘Smokey Taboo’; ‘Hopscotch’ mashes a playground chant with the swoon-some vocals of Sierra to good effect.

Further on, ‘R.I.P. Burn Face’ begins with an autotuned vocal gleaned from the tasteful stylings of Bon Iver, and eases into downbeat marshmallow hip-hop, making for some luscious listening though if there’s only one souvenir you take from the record, it’s got to be standout track (currently doing the rounds on the music blogs) ‘Lemonade’. Gilded with a brief but glorious horn section before ebbing away, it’s a fragile folk pop gem.

Penultimate fantasy track ‘Fairy Paradise’ begins all ethereal floaty light until a bass drum kicks in and threatens to make a banger of it. It’s a moment that threatens to steal the show: the rest of the album, while endearing, slips all too easily out of consciousness into background music, just a little more energy would be welcomed with open arms.

CocoRosie will never have the lion’s share of music fans: Generation Y begs for a little more oomph from their listening, but if you’re a roll-around in the meadows making daisy chains sort of fellow with a lusting for a lady moustache, Grey Oceans may well be just up your alley.

[rating:3.5]


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