Album Review: CocoRosie – Grey Oceans


People have been talking about the cover way before the album was released and the reactions were usually negative. But what’s so horrible about it anyway? It’s CocoRosie after all, they’ve been around for years and dressing up in unconventional ways / playing with the established perception of gender has always been one of their trademarks. Anyway, Grey Oceans is a record and there are songs in it, so, the best thing to do is to focus on the music. And the music is very good.

It starts with “Trinity’s Crying.” Economic lyric-wise, it is a surprise to hear the hypnotic electronic background interrupting the soft vocals and sounds that probably come from one of the famous toys they use as musical instruments. Since the first track, it’s noticeable that Bianca’s vocals have been toned down a little and are more in harmony with Sierra’s. That is not common for them since the abyss between their vocal approaches has marked of all their albums. Sierra’s opera-like tone and Bianca with her purposely weird, uncommon style are still differentiable, of course, but the feeling that they’re singing different songs in one single track is not on Grey Oceans. They are both there and “Smokey Taboo” is unquestionably a highlight of the album. Perfectly structured and layered with its heartbreaking lyrics.

“Hopscotch” with its playful piano line allied with the fast-paced percussion is a nice treat and an unlikely predecessor for the most melancholic string of songs: “Undertaker,” “Grey Oceans,” and “RIP Burn Face.” The first has verses that create one surreal scene after another. The effects on Bianca’s vocals and tribal-like drums are spot on. The title track brings the same melancholy as “Smokey Taboo” even though it’s developed basically around Gael Rakotondrabe’s piano and Bianca. Sierra’s echo-y background vocals make it even more magical – and sad. “Inside I feel like I’m crying beside a tree / I watch myself like an old movie on color TV.” “RIP Burn Face” closes this section of the record bringing a familiar theme in the duo’s work: death. Not only on this track but also in their single “Lemonade” and “Gallows,” mortality is approached in a very poetic and yet graphic way. The fast-paced hip hop melodies then come back with the excellent “The Moon Asked The Crow” and it also brings back the rhythmic strangeness that CocoRosie is known for. The stripped down piano centered chorus has a totally different sonority and it takes a second to adjust to the change. “Fairy Paradise” is the get-up-and-dance track with its irresistible beats. “Trance music makes the fairies dance / From the caves of snail shells.” Not only fairies will be dancing to this one. It would be the perfect as Grey Oceans last track. “Here I Come” sounds unnecessary and the unchanging background and spoken rather than sung vocal approach makes the song highly skippable.

Sierra and Bianca Cassidy can’t help it; they are going to take you to another world, a magical one full of bright colors, and unexpected combinations of lyrics and sounds. If you are going to feel at home there or not, it’s out of their hands.

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