Sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, who have been recording music since 2004 under the name CocoRosie, have just completed their fourth album, “Grey Oceans,” much to the pleasure of their growing fan following.
CocoRosie has typically been described as “freak folk” because it tends to draw on a variety of genres, making it difficult to tie down. “Grey Oceans” is no different, as it incorporates everything from hip hop to opera; there are even some drum and bass beats in track three, “Hopscotch,” which, according to a press release from CocoRosie, “became our most playful and schizophrenic song on the record.” The track features Bianca, whose vocals could only be described as a mix between Joanna Newsom and Björk with a hint of Tom Waits, singing a lighthearted hopscotch rhyme to an upbeat piano melody, which gives way to high-speed drumming and the operatic singing of Sierra. The contrast is stark, but CocoRosie proves it is capable of effectively pulling off such contrast throughout the album, leaving the listener confused yet pleasantly mystified.
The album, as the name would imply, takes on a murky overtone of intrigue, straying from past albums, which tended to be more cluttered instrumentally and vocally. While still using a variety of instruments, CocoRosie relies more on established melodies in “Grey Oceans,” giving the piano a more prominent role in songs such as “Lemonade” and “Grey Oceans.” While most of the songs on the album are not as upbeat as previous songs such as “Japan,” from “The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn” (2007), or “Noah’s Ark,” off the album of the same name (2005), the melodies from most of the tracks on “Grey Oceans” carry the listener through.
However, the album, as any good album will do, does more than just hold one’s attention. The contrasts previously described will keep you constantly on edge and in anticipation.
As CocoRosie describes, “Between our two vocal stylings, we have pushed our differences even further [than previous albums], and played with this dualism to show an inner and outer world expression in the characters of our songs.”
This dualism makes each song an individual experience with its own hypnotic fluctuations. Tied together, the album becomes a mystical journey traversing forests, space and deserts, all with the backdrop of foggy and mysterious oceans. It seems to be an easy place to get lost in, and you certainly do. But CocoRosie always manages to bring you back and guide you to your next adventure.
The album starts you off with an eerie ambience enhanced by haunting vocals with the track, “Trinity’s Crying.” This general mood is maintained and played with throughout, but, in the end, you are brought back to the lighthouse of reality (although your perception of it is now somewhat warped) with the final song, “Here I Come.”
Between this vaguely fun mood and a beautifully maintained dualism, a variety of instruments and sounds and “Grey Oceans” is a musical experience not to pass up and is best listened to in its entirety.
However, “Grey Oceans” may not be the best album to dive into CocoRosie as it can be almost shocking to those not accustomed to CocoRosie’s odd musical habits. A better place to start may be its debut album from 2004, “La maison de mon rêve,” or “Noah’s Ark.” “Grey Oceans” will largely appeal to CocoRosie’s current fan base, but new listeners may still find themselves enjoying it; at the very least, their curiosity will be peaked.
“Grey Oceans” will be released on CD and vinyl through Sub Pop Records on May 11. Download the song “Lemonade” for free at www.subpop.com/artists/cocorosie.
Opinion editor Braden Smith can be reached at email@example.com
Photo and music sample courtesy of Sub Pop