CD review: ‘Tales of a GrassWidow’

June 29, 2013 

"Tales of a GrassWidow" by CocoRosie.

  • Freak Folk CocoRosie Tales of a GrassWidow

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Positioned in some artistic continuum that has celebrated kindred characters like Cindy Sherman and Bjork, CocoRosie soldiers on despite its lack of acclaim. It’s a good thing the Casady sisters have persisted, as fifth album “Tales of a GrassWidow” is its best to date. The album explicitly alludes to a past CocoRosie repertoire while eliminating the excess and lack of focus that created hiccups on earlier outings. If there’s anything such as a “reset” in the peculiar world these sisters have imagined, then “Tales of a GrassWidow” is it.

Though much of CocoRosie’s power lies in the contrast of Bianca’s affected voice with Sierra’s operatic technique, “Tears for Animals” soars on the duet of Sierra with CocoRosie mentor Antony Hegarty. “Tears for Animals” is their “Hyperballad.” Another intentional throwback is the production style of “End of Time.” The beatbox rhythm and high-pitched synthesizer have been carried over from the infamous performance of “Werewolf” on France 2’s “Esprits libres” in 2007. Since that version of “Werewolf” barely resembled the album track but has become popular on YouTube, the resurrection of its arrangement for a new song is a reward to listeners who have stayed with CocoRosie for the long haul.

Songs like “End of Time” and “After the Afterlife” signal a fixation on leaving the world behind. The CocoRosie mythology has long been spiritually ambiguous, incorporating repressed childhood traumas, vision quests, astral projections and so forth. The fantastical elements that could be read as means of escape are now becoming rooted in a more recognizable physical world, and this works to the strength of the songs. The most vivid storytelling involves the sorrow about injuries committed against young and defenseless characters.

It’s never been all that easy to navigate the world created within CocoRosie’s music, but as that world and its tormented characters start to look more like our own, the command to love is a good step toward making the wounded whole.

Thomas Britt/PopMatters.com

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