June 24, 2010

Brassland Hearts CocoRosie

On May 11th, CocoRosie released its fourth full-length record, Grey Oceans. The release came and went without too much fanfare. Our friend Brandon at Stereogum noticed this and decided to run this op-ed article - featuring input from artists such as Antony Hegarty, Yoko Ono, Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) - on the lack of critical discourse surrounding CocoRosie's music as well as critic's individual cowardice in embracing more challenging music generally. Brandon writes:

A few years ago I wrote a positive review of CocoRosie's 'The Adventures of Ghosthorse And Stillborn.' Too positive, it turns out: The publication that assigned it killed the piece at the 11th hour and instead ran a snarky takedown. I'd never had that happen before and I've been championing challenging music for a long while. At the time I noticed Antony also liked the record. John Darnielle, who called it his favorite album of the year, did too. As he put it: "At its lyrical best, it inhabits its own country, unashamed of real poetry and willing to put in the hard work necessary to inhabit a space unlike anybody else's." Truth. Plenty of others like it, of course - though, oddly, when not spewing vinegar, there were mostly crickets from other music journalists...

'Grey Oceans' is the Casady sister's subtlest, most cohesive statement. (And it is a statement, something we need more of these days.) Even when they play "Hopscotch," the feeling remains a kind of grayish blue. It may seem downcast in a way, but like all of their work, it's uplifting even when discussing tears, lost relations, a fear of sharks, these grey (and increasingly black) oceans. As always, there are plenty of dance beats ("Fairy Paradise"), but nothing as outrageously disco as last year's "God Has A Voice, She Speaks Through Me." It's for singing with a flashlight under a blanket. I've always found CocoRosie’s work honest and bravely naked - some of the most emotionally bare music you'll hear. Which is part of why the shouts of "pretentious" confuse me. They give a lot of themselves, something people tend to miss because of the fake beards and outfits. This album's no different - a strange mix of strength and fragility. Also, their ear for melody is crystalline, their compositions so weirdly fathomless. It's hard listening to the title track without getting goosebumps.

In addition to Brandon's critical input, Brasslanders Nico Muhly and Doveman contributed their thoughts. Nico's words:

CocoRosie are magpie queens, who collect objects and bring them into not only a nest, but an entire universe of their own creation. Listen to just half a second of their music, and the incense, rituals, and grammar of this world unfolds. As an artist, I cannot overstate my admiration for their simultaneous embrace of the digital and the organic; the world they hinted at in 'La Maison de Mon Reve' had as much technical prowess behind it as it did emotionally shattering music and lyrics. I've always liked their ability to insist on the irregular shapes of their music: trees growing through the sidewalks of pop songwriting. While each of their albums has irritated me as much as delighted, it's always in the same way I am irritated by not being able to speak Chinese when I walk through the supermarket under the Manhattan bridge, or by watching the ease with which deaf lovers address each other across the noise of a crowded restaurant. I want to achieve a fluency in their world, and with each album, I feel myself coming closer to a child-like ability to phonate.

CocoRosie's music is shockingly beautiful, impossibly engaging, and ultimately, some of my favorite music being made today.

And Tommy Dove's:

Listening to Cocorosie, I feel like I'm being invited into a secret garden filled with the most precious and exotic flora and fauna from a distant, beautiful future, or from some past that never happened - it's an experience both wondrously strange, and deeply, comfortingly familiar.

In other words, CocoRosie salut!

To get a look at CocoRosie's wondrously strange world, watch the video (for Grey Oceans's first single, "Lemonade") below. Cue the images and sounds:

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