CocoRosie: Tales of a Grass Widow
In terms of Cairo’s ever-so-slightly narrow frame of music, CocoRosie is quite the peculiar duo. Sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady make it their business to define what it means to be women in the music industry in the most extravagant of ways. With a very conscious and rebellious sense of feminism running throughout their general, collective being, the experimental folk twosome’s approach to music is as fantastical and abstract as the pencil moustaches often seen neatly drawn on their saintly faces.
Tales of a Grass Widow is CocoRosie’s fifth full-length album since 2004 and sees the group draw on the various tangents taken on stunning folk debut, La maison de mon rêve, and similarly conceived follow-up, Noah’s Ark, as well as less memorable albums, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn and, most recently, Grey Oceans.
The latter two releases saw the spiritual siblings – who formed their musical vision in Paris after years of estrangement – deviate from the freak-folk stylings of their early work which utilised simple combinations of guitar, piano, harp and, on occassion, experimental sounds using children’s toys. CocoRosie’s more recent work has delved into electronic pop and even hip-hop; a move that proved divisive amongst fans and critics alike. In the group’s intangible spirit, however, it has felt like a necessary mistake – for lack of a better word. CocoRosie is a musical force that knows no bounds.
Although their latest offering has toned down said hip hop and electronic elements, there still remains a very prevalent fusion of it that almost betrays the unique ‘new folk’ aura that made so many fall head over heels with them a decade ago.
‘Roots of My Hair’ is possibly the most explicit nod to the group’s early work, while the contemporary pop compositions of ‘Villain’ and ‘End of Time’ swamp any remnants of the group’s folksy inclinations. But the electro-pop does occasionally work, most notably on album opener, ‘After the Afterlife’ and ‘Tears for Animals’, which sees Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons guest star in a vocal collaboration made in heaven.
Generally, though, the eccentric sisters find a middle ground; first single, ‘Gravediggress’, and ‘Poison’ – which sees Hegarty contribute for a second time – maintain the trademark CocoRosie ethereality while fulfilling the duo’s electro-cravings.
Like all CocoRosie work, Tales of a Grass Widow lingers; lyrics are filled with fluent, restful allegories and choruses are almost cultish in chant. This is music that is as ghostly, intangible, playful and troubled as its elusive source.