Still taking on taboos, CocoRosie's latest effort Heartache City finds melodic wonder in a fiery cosmos that is their poetry and horror.
Take me down to the Heartache City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Take me home...
Actually, don't. That's not to say that CocoRosie's Heartache City is an album to avoid; the City that is figuratively imagined via the record's title is. And while this place -- or more accurately, places -- aren't in any sense literal, there is a construction of the kind of rusty southern location where malicious intent has been common within its population's history. When citizens find themselves in those locales, usually near dimming light fixtures and roads with dozens of potholes, lust substitutes the word want. It's a lust for dominance, sex, and the other six sins.
So in this way, Heartache City is an album that deals taboo, something that the siblings Bianca and Sierra Casady have slipped into their music for years. To preface by including their past history of risk -- which several people might call blatant offensiveness -- is something done with this duo, like they were a frag mine tampered with. But it will be done again because of their proneness to come back to the same subject matter. They are taking their freak folk sound and staying within times when "Uncle Toms" were prominent. They skirt along roads where prostitution is common, while on the same nights the siblings sing like a Dukes of Hazzard-looking vocalist they've been admiring along with the deviant men. This record compacts these atmospheres with a stripped sound, dealing with no frills, but still sounding like a mixture of Regina Spektor and Destroyer.
Heartache City finds its sonic home within a place with an abundance of music boxes. "Forget Me Not" has a vocal quality to it akin to lo-fi production, but not. The siblings sing like fairies speaking their near-cryptic language, an element that can be polarizing, considering that sections can feel lifeless, yet child-like. It's a stream of consciousness with slow-tempo violins that make the track -- and the album, due to its constant return to this form -- a fine listen when on a bed in a very cloudy day. "Un Beso" flirts with trip-hop, having an endearingly simple chorus with forgettable mumbo-jumbo under it. There's a referential quality to the song, one that brings up Marilyn Manson to juxtapose the lax, dance-while-doing-the-dishes tune. It's Lana Del Rey for the people that don't like her.
"Lost Girls" seemingly takes from the siblings' relationship with their parents -- a mother with Native American history and a father who took them on vision quests -- using spoken word lines that have a prayer-like quality. CocoRosie sing while beautiful instrumentation embellishes in a way Destroyer could be proud of. The song consists of different sections that, while disorienting, demonstrate a care for appreciating not only their shifting flow, but a love for taking on off-putting lyrics. They reference Lolita on the album while talking about jailbait. They know they're scratching on a surface others wouldn't touch, something that could go either way, depending on execution. "Masturbating snails" also comes along in "Un Beso". That deviant way of songwriting is replaced on the title track, where brass fart their notes to help assist in the moody nature of the tune. It truly becomes a broken city.
"Bed Bugs", an instant favorite for those who like the spooky presences of Chelsea Wolfe a la "Simple Death" and Scott Walker, is a folk dream with pianos and percussion that create a broken home. Electronics freeze passersby while they try to admire the song's wonders. Ben Frost would love the tune if he gave the duo a chance. "Tim and Tina" keeps some of the cold, favoring sentimentality that reflects a frayed innocence which can be empathized with. It might be a song about two broken children finding love through each other's presence.
The two finally target the issues some shudder over in "Big and Black" and "Lucky Clover". In the former, ruffles of brass pass by along beautiful lines of simple piano. The singers become half buskers and half vagrants, singing while their money is being snatched from them by ne'er-do-wells. At one moment they mention white trash, while at another, a black man is shot because he caught citizens by surprise, and, oh, that man didn't want this individual to give a heart attack. Their sing-song, unfortunately, feels taunting to this predicament. "Lucky Clover", with its riff that goes off like sparks on a dark night, dabbles around sadness. A black man dies at the hands of a nurse, and it becomes the "last September ever" for him. Everyone on this album then becomes not someone who lives, but someone scared of death.
In this Heartache City, where tunes have something pleasurable to them, everyone's not scared of broken hearts--they're scared of dying where they'll never be found.