CocoRosie Grey Oceans: A Dialogue

A few years ago I wrote a positive review of CocoRosie’s The Adventures of Ghosthorse And Stillborn. Too positive, it turns out: The publication that assigned it killed the piece at the 11th hour and instead ran a snarky takedown. I’d never had that happen before and I’ve been championing challenging music for a long while. (This was 2007. I ran it elsewhere.) At the time I noticed Antony also liked the record. John Darnielle, who called it his favorite album of the year, did too. As he put it: “At its lyrical best, it inhabits its own country, unashamed of real poetry and willing to put in the hard work necessary to inhabit a space unlike anybody else’s.” Truth. Plenty of others like it, of course — though, oddly, when not spewing vinegar, there were mostly crickets from other music journalists.

Last month I posted the video for “Lemonade” from CocoRosie’s fourth album Grey Oceans. It’s a gorgeously surreal, intimately familial clip that not surprisingly didn’t get much traction. This started me thinking about the ongoing, almost singularly strange reception Bianca and Sierra Casady receive in the American press.

Grey Oceans is the Casady sister’s subtlest, most cohesive statement. (And it is a statement, something we need more of these days.) Even when they play “Hopscotch,” the feeling remains a kind of grayish blue. It may seem downcast in a way, but like all of their work, it’s uplifting even when discussing tears, lost relations, a fear of sharks, these grey (and increasingly black) oceans. As always, there are plenty of dance beats (“Fairy Paradise”), but nothing as outrageously disco as last year’s “God Has A Voice, She Speaks Through Me.” It’s for singing with a flashlight under a blanket. I’ve always found CocoRosie’s work honest and bravely naked — some of the most emotionally bare music you’ll hear. Which is part of why the shouts of “pretentious” confuse me. They give a lot of themselves, something people tend to miss because of the fake beards and outfits. This album’s no different — a strange mix of strength and fragility. Also, their ear for melody is crystalline, their compositions so weirdly fathomless. It’s hard listening to the title track without getting goosebumps.

My interest in the group — along with the strength of the new album mixed and the dismissal/lack of considered dialogue it’s again received — led me to a discussion with Antony. Instead of cheerleading in private, we decided to reach out to a few other folks for their thoughts on CocoRosie and Grey Oceans. We returned, hopefully a little wiser, with write-ups from Yoko Ono, Jamie Stewart, Annie Clark, Nico Muhly, JD Samson, Doveman, Wild Beasts, and others.

Antony Hegarty
I have concluded that the reception of CocoRosie in the US reflects the denial of a greater feminist issue, an ecological issue, a racial issue, a spiritual issue. If we cannot face that our collective brokenness in these areas is the rockbed of our crisis as a virulent species, then we will continue in our blindness to dismiss our American art revolutionaries who are out in the field, working through exactly these issues. For me Cocorosie’s new album Grey Oceans is perhaps the most important new music coming out of the US this year. It is no surprise that as the sea turns black in the gulf with no end in sight in the midst of the biggest ecological disaster in US history, CocoRosie are the only ones to hit the zeitgeist with an album filled with psychic omniscience, entitled “Grey Oceans.” And yet it seems to be the album the indie US press doesn’t want to talk about. Bianca and Sierra Casady paints pictures of lost children across a broken land, feral, elemental spirits who roam the dreamscapes of our world, naming perpetrators, painting their memories, recovering and reclaiming power. They are unafraid to manifest their vision that the application of magical creativity could be a balm for aching souls in a struggling world. They take risks that no other artists in the scene dare to, and the (predominantly white hetero male) music press punishes them for it. In the artistic community, CocoRosie are treasured. Their costumes and visual aesthetics are a vital part of their expression, revealing further illustration of their ideas and their inspirations and creating a striking format for the shamanistic shapeshifting that occurs in their live performances (in some ways they are the feminist branch of a voyage that Animal Collective in their boyish and heralded way have undertaken in parallel) and yet as women Cocorosie are dismissed because their visual presentation frustrates many male writers’ abilities to sexualize them. Who are you assigning to think on your behalf?

JD Samson (MEN, Le Tigre)
I constantly hear the word “haunting” to describe this band, but I think that’s deeply inaccurate. The word is “inspirational.” “Uplifting.” Simplicity building music that feels you. Instead of you feeling it. This is simply songwriting. A genuinely sensitive and organic response to the slow world. Without taking up too much space. Or trying too hard. This is polite musicianship. Respecting themselves. Respecting the space each instrument has surrounding it. With forays into every genre you could ever think of. This is complimentary crossover. Mazes and wide-open spheres getting split in places you never dreamt they could. Put back together again with nothing but easy love. This is unaffectedly opening up your heart and mind and letting music make drip sand castles on every beach i can think of.

Hayden Thorpe (Wild Beasts)
The beauty of CocoRosie is how utterly uninhibited they are in what they do. It comes through in their instruments, their voices and their words. The rarity and braveness of such a thing is to be cherished and admired. They exist totally under their own lexicon, sounding as if electronic music was actually conceived in Baroque Europe and classical music in Doo-wop era America. It is these contortionist-like shapes that they form which allows them to occupy that sweet spot on the axis between ancient and ultra modern.

Yoko Ono
Grey Oceans by CocoRosie shows us a sliver of a secret ocean of high waves we wish to be part of in our dreams. CocoRosie is the shower we need now in the musical desert. “God Has a Voice She Speaks Through Me” … What a line!

Nico Muhly
CocoRosie are magpie queens, who collect objects and bring them into not only a nest, but an entire universe of their own creation. Listen to just half a second of their music, and the incense, rituals, and grammar of this world unfolds. As an artist, I cannot overstate my admiration for their simultaneous embrace of the digital and the organic; the world they hinted at in La Maison de Mon Rêve had as much technical prowess behind it as it did emotionally shattering music and lyrics. I’ve always liked their ability to insist on the irregular shapes of their music: trees growing through the sidewalks of pop songwriting. While each of their albums has irritated me as much as delighted, it’s always in the same way I am irritated by not being able to speak Chinese when I walk through the supermarket under the Manhattan bridge, or by watching the ease with which deaf lovers address each other across the noise of a crowded restaurant. I want to achieve a fluency in their world, and with each album, I feel myself coming closer to a child-like ability to phonate.

CocoRosie’s music is shockingly beautiful, impossibly engaging, and ultimately, some of my favorite music being made today.

Thomas Bartlett (Doveman)
Listening to Cocorosie, I feel like I’m being invited into a secret garden filled with the most precious and exotic flora and fauna from a distant, beautiful future, or from some past that never happened — it’s an experience both wondrously strange, and deeply, comfortingly familiar.

Brad Truax
CocoRosie’s new album Grey Oceans for me is like a telegraph from one of my old childhood dreams, hallucinatory and haunted, yet filled with beauty. How people could criticize a band for “creating their own worlds within worlds” these days is beyond me. As much as I can be jaded and critical of my peers around me, I can’t deny that bands like CocoRosie give me hope in the “music industry climate” these days … Sure they can be dangerous, controversial, and sometimes ugly, however they’re strange, exotic, worldly, and goddammit forgive me for saying this FUNKY!! Listen to this record … is all I’m saying … it will do you no harm … or hopefully it will…

William Basinski
Last night I was in New York, tonight I am in Toronto, tomorrow I will be in Montreal and I think CocoRosie, my darlings, will be there too … I think I might actually be able to see my darlings do their gorgeous new work unless they are on the same time as me which would suck, but be typical. Anyway, I love the new record and was listening to “Lemonade” in my convertible in Los Angeles the other day and came across a lemonade stand near my house run by two young enterprising boys in my Leave It To Beaver-ville neighborhood … they were so cute and it was just so perfect I had to stop and buy a lemonade. It was 50 cents for a big paper cup of fresh California lemonade .. .homemade, from the tree in the back yard … not the mix… Bianca and Sierra would have just loved it, and by the way these two boys loved CocoRosie’s music and so do i!

Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu)
CocoRosie have always frightened me a little bit. I don’t know them personally very well — if at all, really — but we have met a few times. Each time I have been fascinated and concerned for my state of mind. I like that in a band. They always strike me across the knuckles as so wrong in so many ways that it is wonderful actually, like when you look into a cloud of poison gas.

So many white North East and Oakland bands are trying to be and play black but only come across as clueless, racist idiots. CocoRosie has always had what John Darnielle — a huge fan of theirs — described as race issues but they seemed to deal with race as just that, an issue. not like fake Ivy League Afropop rip-off assholes who are, as their wealthy grandparents before them, plundering race without any consideration for the implications. Coco race dives into race in a way that — as I said — scares me. Scares me because it is so insane and so bold and it is also respectful and feels true. Thank you so much for making art that is freaking me out.

Annie Clark (St. Vincent)
The following is an excerpt from Air Guitar, a collection of essays by former art gallerist and long-time music critic, Dave Hickey. A bit of context for this essay, entitled “My Weimar”: Dave recalls the lectures of his college theater professor, Herr Volbach, a German-Jewish refugee from the second World War. These lectures would have taken place during the mid-1960′s. When I was asked to analyze the critical discourse directed at CocoRosie, this essay came right to the surface of my mind. It celebrates the subversive spirit with which CocoRosie create their art, as well as gives origin to the controversy that such art inspires. The third paragraph, in particular, resonates with me. And, of course, don’t be Aryan muscle-boys.

“These muscle-bound whiners,” he said, “they do not want to make the new world. They want to take their power back. They want to turn back the clock. You should not let them do it.” He then proceeded to explain to us that, in case we hadn’t heard, there had been two great wars in this century, and a number of smaller ones, into which most of the able-bodied and apparently heterosexual men in Europe and the United States had been drafted — excepting those in critical industries, in government, or in education. Moreover, he pointed out, the arts — theater, dance, music, painting, and sculpture — were not critical industries, nor were they government, nor were they education. They were little businesses, so all the heterosexual men were drafted out of them. “So who is left?” Volbach asked, thrusting his finger into the air and swaying behind it, “Queers and women and a bunch of old Jews! Suddenly, they are the arts! They do a little business in the night. They get paid a little for it and do their best, while the government and the goyim are out killing one another.”

“Then the war is over, and the big, brave soldiers come home — feeling very angry and very heroic — and what do they find? They find the world has changed. This was true in the Weimar and this is true again today. All these soldiers look around and see the culture of their nation being run by effeminate, Semitic, commercial pansies! And they are shocked! For the first time in history, the songs we sing, the pictures we see, and the plays we attend are not being dispensed by over-educated, Aryan muscle-boys, and these muscle-boys are very upset. But what can they do? Business is business after all. Even Aryan muscle-boys believe in that, and as long as pictures are being bought and plays are being attended and songs are being sung…?”

“Well, you might think they can’t do anything,” Volbach said slyly, “but you would be wrong. Because the muscle-boys still control the government and the universities. The professors and the bureaucrats, they were not drafted. They are cozy in their little Bunde pleasing no one but themselves. And they tell themselves that even though business is business, culture is culture too, and the culture is public business. So all the muscle-boy artists and writers, they will become professors and the darlings of professors, and they will teach the young to revere their pure, muscle-boy art, because it is good for them, and they will teach women and Jews and queers to make muscle-boy art, too. And it will be very pure, because they are muscle-boys and they don’t have to please anyone. So there will be no cabaret, no pictures, no fantasy or flashing lights, no filth or sexy talk, no cruelty, no melodies, no laughter, no Max Reinhardt, no Ur-Faust, no “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” And nobody will love it. And nobody will pay money to own it or see it, but that will not matter.”

“The government will pay for it, and the universities, because paying your own money for culture, and making your own money out of it, this is a Jew thing, a queer thing, a silly woman thing. It means you are not satisfied with what the professors provide, with what Reichminister tells you is good. It means you want more and that is unpatriotic…” Here Volbach paused for a moment, and even though I hadn’t said a single word, he fixed his gaze on me and continued. “So all you Aryan muscle-boys down there at the end of the table, Don’t be Aryan muscle-boys! I have seen enough official culture. I will teach you how to hit your marks and set the lights and make the tempo float. The rest you will have to learn from the women and the queers — out in the dark. Also, don’t be too artistic to count your own receipts. Also, carry your pistol. There are thugs out there.”

///

Grey Oceans is out via Sub Pop. “Art is polishing God’s shoes.

Comments (86)
  1. this band is great. i’ve always been surprised by the lack of response by many to them but at the same time not really. challenging music is almost never championed in this pitchfork world. now that indie music has crossed over, the music getting big reception is just the pop equivalent in that realm. basically party music. not that party music doesnt have any merit.. but often the experimental seems to get pushed aside. however, if a band like cocorosie was playing the size of venues they are now but in the 90s they would have been probably considered to be a ‘big’ indie band back then.

    in terms of ‘famous musician’ fans, i believe i’ve read interviews a few years back with omar from atdi/mars volta where he talked about cocorosie.

  2. CocoRosie always makes me think of the twins from The Shining. If those little girls had grown up and decided to make music together, this’d be them. And even though they’re sometimes a little too shrill, too meandering, and sometimes generally too “out-there” for my tastes (and I’m being generous compared to most of my friends on whom I’ve unsuccessfully subjected CocoRosie), I continue to give them a chance with each new album. Why? I think no matter what hits my ears, they’re going to give me a jolt. I’m not going to be hearing the status quo. I’m going to be challenged. Sometimes that challenge is going to keep right on going over my head and into the clouds, but I know I won’t be bored. Sometimes…usually…okay, most of the time, that’s what I want from music. Other artists add some sugar or honey, but CocoRosie choose to serve up their brand of crazy raw and ungilded. It’s not something I could make a steady diet of, but every now and again it’s exactly what I need to hear. Are they pretentious? I don’t know. Sure? Does that always have to be a bad thing?

  3. just to add one more thing.. when i was a freshman in college i would play ‘noahs ark’ by cocorosie in my dorm room and my suburban, third eye blind/mainstream music roommate would love it. their music is very weird yet accessible at the same time (the anco parallel by antony is very apt).

    i was pleasantly surprised though to see you guys make this ‘op-ed.’ i think stereogum could make more of an effort to break/cover more experimental acts and not just NYC based bands you’re friends with and ‘best new music’ bands. i know that is a generalization but there is an obvious nyc bias to the bands you cover and you could do a lot to try to promote more interesting music also.

  4. This article exclaims my feelings so well. I just do not like the fact that people are scared to like a band like CocoRosie, but yet will enjoy any kind of obscure ‘male-led’ band. This is truth.

    CocoRosie are leading a revolution, and I thank them for that.

  5. I think it’s silly to blame response to this on sexism, or chalk it up to some greater conspiracy—or that people are afraid of “revolutionaries” and “challenges”. Ultimately the music they make is annoying. They come across as insincere and trite and many people see right through the act. Their sex /sexuality has nothing to do with press reaction. It’s their lacklustre music that does. Nice try though.

    • I might be making a hasty generalization, but you’re a man, aren’t you?

      I work for a lot of women in the music industry, and I can tell you that they are tremendously disadvantaged by their sex and age. If you don’t believe the old adage “sex sells,” I don’t know what to tell you.

      Almost every publication that produces music criticism is run by an all-male or almost-all-male editorial staff (Pitchfork and The Fader have but one female editor). Stereogum’s staff is much smaller and features one woman. I don’t really believe the constant skew toward male artists and male-fronted bands will change until more women writers and editors are incorporated into the industry. Maybe slowly-but-surely, but maybe not at all.

      I’m proud of all these people speaking up for Cocorosie. This was a really excellent, thought-provoking post.

    • “They come across as insincere and trite and many people see right through the act. ”

      I really can’t parse this part at all. You do realize that the guy in Sunset Rubdown isn’t actually a centaur and stuff, right?

    • Right on, trinity. I’ve given their music a bunch of tries but it’s sooo contrived and simply annoying. I understand some of my favorite music had to “slow burn”; like it took a few listens to really soak in because it was different. But theirs doesn’t work that way…it just reaks of trying way too hard to be abrasive and weird without any real vision or heart.
      I mean, look at the absurd album art…is it like such an ironic commentary on irony istelf that it becomes serious art? i call bullshit. supposed to be comical? is it supposed to be such an ironic commentary on “our blindness to dismiss our American art revolutionaries” bla bla bla? i call bullshit. Hey Antony, it’s not hard to hard to take risks…it’s hard to create something worthy of taking risks.

  6. ps. leave it to jamie stewart when asked to share his love for coco rosie, to instead make a groundless jab at Vampire Weekend. Stop being so bitter everyone!

    • seriously, what a dick. vampire weekend is no worse than all of the white jazz/blues/hip-hop musicians that came before them (in terms of the whole “recklessly pillaging black culture” aspect of their music). it’s just sour grapes if you ask me. VW’s brand of music is purposefully fun, and his last album was titled “dear god, i hate myself.” hmm, i wonder why he has a problem with them.

      anyway, re: cocorosie, i simply can’t get past their voices. and i probably never will, as i’ve given them a few tries over the last 5 years or so and have only succeeded in being annoyed. just not my cup of tea… perhaps i should pull a jamie stewart and profanely insult them in a public forum?

      • I agree with Jamie on this one. It’s always appropriate to take a shot at such contrived unimaginative rich kid bullshit.

        • I don’t care for Vampire Weekend’s music but the fact is, they’re not rich kids. A few of them have tried to dispell that perception. Just because they went to an ivy league school (earned their way in), talk about a few aspects of the upper class in their music, and wear branded polo shirts doesn’t mean you should judge. It’s like a pseudo parody persona of a lifestyle they weren’t actually born into.

          And jamie stewart is clearly a loser. It’s a lot more valid to discount his shit music for the fact that he constantly needs to incorporate shock to gain attention.

  7. Listening to Grey Oceans now… I’m a bit scared. It’s kinda brilliant, maybe. Not really sure. Article was a nice read.

  8. If I had to write about Grey Oceans it would never occur to me to address it as a racial topic… I really don’t understand. Great art should transcend such superficial things, and I believe that CocoRosie have accomplished that.

    • I totally agree, also I think Antony mentioning the oil spill and even feminism was a little obtuse. Although with feminism I understand what he means about their choosing not to have sex appeal and wear beards, but that’s more of an issue in the mainstream media and less important for their kind of market.

  9. This is the finest thing I’ve read on Stereogum in months. Thank you for encouraging me to give CocoRosie another shot.

  10. This is nice exercise and all, but I’d love to see Stereogum publish a collection of other respected musician-types explaining why Cocorosie is so terrible and despised. As it stands, this collection of art-fucked defenses and accusations of misogyny-by-numbers is a pretty hollow endorsement. For a lot of people (myself included), the deep loathing of Cocorosie comes from an informed sense of “knowing bullshit when I see it.” And these sisters stink like bullshit.

  11. Paul, not to start a long, pointless dialogue about this but your response makes you sound exactly like the people Antony described in his review of why people don’t like CR. Perhaps you could elaborate on your feelings and not simplify them by using terms like Bull shit when reviewing someones art.

    • I won’t engage in a long and pointless dialogue about art and what makes it and what doesn’t, but having Antony as your chief defender is hardly a selling point in any real discussion of why Cocorosie is or isn’t good. Sometimes I appreciate being challenged by what I’m hearing or seeing, but I never appreciate it when the challenges are hollow and devoid of any deeper point. Cocorosie exist to provocate and nothing more. The fact that most of the people sticking up for them in this panel are likewise loft-bubble NYC art people (or in the same scenes in their respective locales) just strengthens my position. None of them have any grasp on what’s good anymore. They exist in a huge daisy chain of self-congratulatory and orgiastic approval. If you want to provocate, fine. Do it well. Don’t do it limply with some of the most average, unchallenging music around. And if you want to provocate on the level that Cocorosie does, you better be making the best damn music I’ve ever heard, because it will be a requirement to offset the mountains of bullshit you’re trafficking.

      • CocoRosie also make music.

        And if anyone here sounds self-congratulatory, it’s uh. Well you know.

      • You were explain why you don’t their music is good music, and you’re delivering ad hominem attacks at theoretical critics. Try again?

        Also, I’m not sure about CocoRosie existing to “provocate.” They make music, and sometimes they wear costumes. Is it the costumes?

        • You were asked to explain, I mean.

        • Ugh, and “why you don’t think their music is good music.”

        • No, it’s the hamfisted racial/sexual/socio themes dressed up in a we’re-storytellers-DO-U-SEE guise that’s neither shocking nor sincere. They keep doing it because dopes keep eating it up. As for the music itself, *yawn.*

          What I really object to is being condescended to by all you people telling me I don’t get it because I’m a man. Fuck you people. Based on percentages, I probably listen to more female-driven music than male-driven music (or it’s at least a 50/50 spread). I don’t not like Cocorosie because they’re female and non-stereotypically sexualized. I don’t like them because they’re twelve kinds of terrible.

          • I’m on Paul’s side, though I have no opinion on CocoRosie’s music.

            And really, Jamie? A juvenile potshot at VW? I love your music but you sound like such a little bitch. After reading these condescending and self-righteous essays I have no interest in listening to CocoRosie.

            And congrats Stereogum, this post actually got me to sign up for your redesigned site. Keep doing posts like this — even if I think these people are full of shit it at least creates some dialogue worth getting involved in.

          • i too must back paul on this one. to me, it’s horseshit to premise that cocorosie isn’t as big as they could be because of the “aryan muscle-boys” out there, aka heterosexual men. seems like some pretty baseless blame right there. if that’s the case, why did tune-yards recently get a lot of good press for her new album? after all, she’s also a female, isn’t very conventionally attractive, and makes weird, conceptual music while wearing facepaint and whatnot. hmmmm, well i guess it logically couldn’t be due to the alleged misogynist/frat-boy/aryan jock asshole deep within all heterosexual men… you know, the voice that told us not to like cocorosie. whatever. i’ve got plenty of friends who dig cocorosie, including several men. i personally think they sound like shit. perhaps there’s other people out there who agree?

          • Honestly, though. Why are you so angry? “Fuck you people.” I’m not going to pretend like I’m the coolest most relaxed dude on the internetz or in life, but you came in here completely guns blazing. You don’t have to attack the band themselves and everyone who disagrees with you just because -you- particularly don’t like them. Fucking bad vibes, man.

            If you do anything with a moderate to high concept, someone- for whatever reason- is going to call you on it.

            There’s always someone who thinks your favorite band is bullshit/pretentious, duh, that’s how life goes. But if we know that, if you know that, why contribute to a negative atmosphere on something that is purely subjective,(you don’t know CocoRosie, or these people. and honestly, agaaain someone can take anything you say about something you feel strongly about and flip it and call you “condescending” or “self-righteous” etc LIKE these comments) resorting to name-calling and all that shit in an attempt to get your point across.

            It muddles any possible valuable communication by turning a potential discussion into a gunfight.

            What is anyone supposed to get out of that?

  12. I guess I’m looking in the wrong (right) places, I’ve only seen positive things about CocoRosie. My friends and I all fell in love with Ghosthorse+Stillborn at the same time. It’s such an incredible album, we had new favorite tracks like every week.

    How could someone resist a track like Werewolf?

    actually, the other day I was in the car and a track from Grey Oceans was on the radio and my mom (a black woman in her early 50s- DEMOGRAPH SHOCK) really liked it.

  13. Totally agree with Paul Cox. The implication that not liking CocoRosie is somehow anti-feminist, or demonstrates a fear of being “challenged,” ignores the fact that it might be even conceivable that someone might just truly find them unlistenable and empty. Come ON. At the absolute least, that’s conceivable.

    I’m female, I approached them with an open mind, and I truly, honestly don’t like them. I realize the overblown praise is here to counter what people feel like has been unfair panning, but it’s still so over the top. It’s pretty hard to take these seriously when nobody really acknowledges this possibility, and instead blames poor critical reception on an inability to recognize our collective plight as human beings or something equally ridiculous.

  14. Wow, friend sent me a link. Great article, pretentious readership.

    Did ya’ll, uh, seriously neglect to read this article in your hurry to be contrarians? It was Antony who dropped the dreaded feminist word that’s got you all up in arms, and his quote was only one of many. An entire article took place in front of your eyes and you’ve apparently neglected to read anything but two quotes. I’ve read Antony’s quote over several times and at no point does he say anyone who doesn’t enjoy CocoRosie is anti-feminist. This is the actual quote- truncated, so that you might actually read it:

    “…the reception of CocoRosie in the US reflects the denial of a greater feminist issue, an ecological issue, a racial issue, a spiritual issue. If we cannot face that our collective brokenness in these areas is the rockbed of our crisis as a virulent species, then we will continue… to dismiss our American art revolutionaries who are… working through exactly these issues.”

    What part of this means “people who don’t like Cocorosie hate women/are anti-feminist/are racist?” Isn’t it possible that Antony is speaking generally here about American society/culture (considering he even says “our crisis… as a… species”) , and not about You, Some Dude/tte On the Internet? Is anyone going to argue that racism, sexism, religious fundamentalism, etc aren’t problems in this country? Institutionalized problems which infiltrate all forms of our media, including music review and journalism, and therefore our collective perception of the music it reviews? If you’d take the time to actually read this excellent article thoroughly, you’ll notice that in the FIRST paragraph, brandon states that he was asked to write a review for a Cocorosie album and gave the album a positive review, only for the piece to be pulled at the last moment and replaced with a negative one written by someone else. Listening to a band and deciding they aren’t your cup of tea is one thing; coming across so many negative reviews that you never bother to give them a shot at all is another entirely.

    Annie Clark’s comment is a critical essay about a college lecture given in the 60s (context, folks), and the “aryan muscle boys” in that essay are white collar, born into money, prodigal sons and those attempting to be like them by attaching themselves to “official culture”- not all white, heterosexual men on the planet. (Lay a Cocorosie album in front of some of the aryan muscle boys running most major record labels and see what happens, for example.) The professor in the essay even cautions his students not to “be” aryan muscle boys; implying they aren’t bound to be by their gender or race, but could CHOOSE to be. I mean, we’re reading the same article, right? Where does all this silly, strange defensiveness come from? If you openly support counter culture and the art it produces, regardless of the race/gender/class/etc of the person making it , you probably aren’t an “aryan muscle boy.” There you go; everyone feel secure now?

    ATTN my generation: Your worth as a human being is not decided by the amount of stuff you hate. Talk a little more about the things you like and a whine a lot less about all the many, various things you don’t. You’ll feel better, I promise.

    • all in all this article is just friends whiney about their other friends not getting as much “press love” as they did. Clearly the “mainstream press” doesn’t have a problem with sexuality, a al joanna newsome or feist. Or sexual preference a la Antony or Grizzly Bear. Basically this reads as “Friends are who are annoyed thier other friends didn’t get good reviews”

      • “Clearly the “mainstream press” doesn’t have a problem with sexuality, a al joanna newsome or feist. Or sexual preference a la Antony or Grizzly Bear. ”
        your choice of examples here are really just proving the author & artist’s point re: the dismissiveness of the casady sisters. you’ve missed the point completely. joanna newsom and leslie feist are both what most would call conventionally attractive ladies, their gender/sexuality/race are not up for question. if anything, they could be considered the model of token cute indie girls. and despite antonys own ambiguous gender expression, he/she for the most part is still viewed with a masculine/male presence..which could be chalked up to societies inability to accept any gender expression outside of black/white, male/female…and well GRIZZY BEAR?realllly?? despite one member being queer, they’re still men. so, yeah the discussion was about cocorosie’s a-typical female presence in the american music business. also, fyi, even in most queer communities the visibility of queer men trumps that of a women’s.
        kinda missed the mark there.

    • er, that’s a pretty big assumption to just figure that nobody read the whole article – obviously people are going to comment on the content they react to most, namely antony and the st. vincent essay. i definitely read it and i know what i read.

      the antony quotes i actually took issue with were “they take risks that no other artists in the scene dare to, and the (predominantly white hetero male) music press punishes them for it,” and “they are the feminist branch of a voyage that animal collective have undertaken, and yet as women cocorosie are dismissed because their visual presentation frustrates many male writers’ abilities to sexualize them.”
      i think you’re correct that he is NOT saying “people who don’t like cocorosie hate women/are anti-feminist.” what i do think he’s saying though, is that there’s a white heterosexual male conspiracy within the music industry to keep cocorosie down. and what i’m arguing is that it might be possible that cocorosie isn’t beloved by all (including critics) simply because their music isn’t very good. nothing about institutionalized sexism or racism, at all.

      also, within the context of the st. vincent essay, the “aryan muscle boys” actually weren’t prodigal son-types, like you say. they were draftees – white, heterosexual men. the essay was about evolving from a white male-dominated society, and thus i’m pretty sure that st. vincent was giving a nod to the aforementioned “conspiracy theory.”

      nice scolding, though.

      • Right. Completely spot on. The whole reason some of us have reacted to this article and the comments from its panelists is its scolding tone. Let’s boil it down, shall we? A few years ago, Brandon writes a review that was later substituted for one that undoubtedly made for better reading. Oof! That probably hurt his feelings, because he could not fathom that people may not actually like a band he likes. So he’s been sitting around stewing on it for years until it reached a head. Now he goes out and approaches other people to write a defense of band who really doesn’t need defending. These people go on to say some of the most ludicrous things all as a means to justify why they think Cocorosie -really- isn’t getting the coverage, when in reality it’s just a matter of music publications having only so much room and making a concerted effort to fill that room with reviews people might actually want to read. No one likes a review which consists entirely of reasons we should like that band, against all we know that’s better logic. That’s what fan club message boards are for. Granted, I haven’t read nor do I know the content of Brandon’s original review, this whole thing comes across as sour grapes.

        People don’t like Cocorosie? NEWS FLASH. Lots of people don’t like lots of bands. But it would never even cross my mind to gather a bunch of quotes from other musicians in an effort to scold people into liking some band I like who I don’t think is getting a fair shake. If you want to do Cocorosie any favors, quit coddling them like you would a sweet sixteen who had no one show up to her party. They’re big girls and they know full well what they’re doing is going to split opinions. I’m sure it makes them feel warm and fuzzy to read all these nice things from their peers, but part of them has to feel insulted by the notion that they need some gang of protectors because the big, bad public at large out there is completely oblivious to their existence. Wah.

        • I guess you still haven’t figured out that this is not a call for the public to listen to cocorosie…. it’s not like they really need that (or are looking for it for that matter), since they have a HUGE cult following, especially in europe… So no one is trying to modify your tastes or tell you what bands to like. This is obviously a dialogue on the way cocorosie are treated by the music press, particularly on the US, which tends to review them in a very sexist, unfair way compared to male-fronted bands. And it’s about how that might be keeping so many people away from their music based on these too-confortable-with-themsleves-reviewers. That cocorosie has this kind of RIDICULOUS and poor criticism from the press and still maintain such a loyal fanbase says quite something about them.
          Let’s face it, there’s probably TONS of others bands whose sound you are not fond of, and you dont go all agressive on them like you do on cocorosie, and you do it because of all of these absolutely disrespectful reviews you read of them. i have never seen reviews that harsh being directed to an experimental male-fronted band to be honest.
          But the best about all of this is that cocorosie really dont give a fuck what anyone thinks, because if this music thing didnt work out for them they would still be doing their thing, even if only to their friends, and to say they are looking for attention is as idiotic as saying lady gaga is not.

          • “So no one is trying to modify your tastes or tell you what bands to like.” Uh, except for everyone Brandon used in this defense, as well as Brandon himself. I know you used Lady Gaga as an example of the opposite in your argument, but do you think she’s not a victim of some of the same attitudes in the mostly-male critical class that you claim Cocorosie is? Most reviews I’ve read of Lady Gaga’s albums (or Madonna’s albums or Janet Jackson’s albums or Mariah Carey’s albums or [insert widely-know megaselling female artist name here]‘s albums) spend the first 75% of the column expounding on things decidedly non-musical, and then cap off with a few lines about whether or not the record is any good. The fight you’re fighting is feminist issue, not a Cocorosie issue. I resent them being held up as some sort of unique pariah just because what they do is more traditionally “artful” or whatever. I think their press coverage (or the lack thereof) has everything to do with them just being terrible, not because they’re women.

            Somewhere else in the comment thread, Tune-Yards was used as an example. I don’t want to get into who’s conventionally attractive and who isn’t, but neither Merrill Garbus nor the Sister Casady could ever be mistaken for Heidi Klum, yet one of these bands seems to be embraced by the average American indie rocker and one doesn’t. That leads me to believe that it’s not about their sex or their looks or their willful intent to be conceptual or confrontational, but rather the music itself.

            I honestly believe Cocorosie has done an incredible disservice to themselves by making it so impossible to separate the music they make from the persona they project. They resist at every opportunity the chance to be critiqued on solely musical terms, so of course many reviews are going to focus on the non-musical before they get to the musical. And a lot of people AREN’T going to like the non-musical.

        • I can see why you’d think Brandon has some axe to grind, but that was not the impetus for this article. (Though obviously he has the insight to frame it in a personal way.)

          In any case, I think the dialogue from everyone on both sides is encouraging/useful. It’s been a ghost town since we shut off anonymous comments w/ the redesign in February.

          Thank you Paul for speaking up without hiding.

  15. thank you stereogum for making me ashamed of being a cocorosie fan. what a bunch of bullshit.

  16. Hmm. I’m listening to this album ((“Grey Oceans”) for the first time at the moment. My only experience of Cocorosie to date was a friend in Berlin telling me he felt compelled to walk out of their show there, because he felt that they were being overly pretentious for the sake of being pretentious. I think his exact words were, “it was painful.”

    I’m on the 3rd track by this point. Joanna Newsom seems to be the easiest point of reference I have so far. I like Joanna Newsom, but as with her music, the Casady sisters have a pretty distinct vocal thing happening (Hi Antony!). “Hopscotch” is a pretty great song. They’re definitely brave when it comes to throwing lots of supposedly disparate things into the mix. I like this a lot more than I expected I would, actually. Sometimes the singing/phrasing feels a little too imitative of Joanna Newsom, and that’s a little distracting, for some reason.

    The music is actually less “freak folk” (I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, exactly) than I anticipated. It’s mostly beautiful, and inventive. I could sorta see how maybe an album like this might not get a fair shake, but should probably have gotten as much attention as, say, the last Dirty Projectors album.

    I kinda hate the artwork. I don’t think it does the music justice. I don’t hate the artwork because I’m a man, and I want women to be sexed up on an record cover, I hate it because it makes me think the record would contain music that would be unlistenable, and this music is beautiful and interesting. I like gender-disrupting/confounding artwork, I just think it’s also not the worst thing to hint at what’s happening on the album.

    The textures and instrumentation are really breathtaking in places, and even though I might not always dig the vocal affectation, six tracks in I can see how this album didn’t get anywhere near the praise and attention it deserved. “R.I.P. Burn Face” is great.

    I’m not sure what Jamie Stewart is afraid of – it feels good in here!

    Thanks for bringing this record to my attention, and for facilitating this discussion.

  17. I liked Noah’s Ark. Grey Oceans, not so much. Can someone explain to me the socio-political reasons for this because I’m pretty sure everyone else knows the reasons for my opinions better than I do?

    Oh, and I like Xiu Xiu but Jamie’s opinions always tend to be inflammatory and a bit ludicrous. “Support Our Troops OH!” anyone?

  18. coco rosie is aiight, def make some interesting music.. but at the same time i have to agree they can be pretentious. i mean yoko ono queen of pretentia (imaginary land of all things pretentious, clever i know..) is their biggest fan.. nice article though

  19. Two things, heavy heavy HEAVY reliance on Bjork in terms of production and vocal affectation. I love Bjork so I actually really like the sound of the music but still, feels very unoriginal to me. Second, listen to Silent Shout. Do you hear the way Karen EMBODIES the people she is talking about? That’s what makes SS an unpretentious and amazingly powerful piece of social/sexual commentary. All she has to do is BE the person and you suddenly understand all the fucked up details that make this world so weird. CR have a terrible time really inhabiting the improprieties they feel and see. They want to critique but only in a distanced, disdainful way. This is pretentious and precious and just unbecoming in general. If you can’t seriously inhabit the people and things that make this world fucked up, you certainly can’t convince me you really know why and how they are wrong and disturbing in the first place. Also, seriously fuck that album cover. Way to make your whole image even more unconvincing with shitty ren faire photoshop text and a Coldwell Banker sign in the distance, as if anyone needs any more proof they’re just being put on.

    • While you’re probably a bit more hostile than most, you do raise a great point about The Knife/Fever Ray. The Knife are of mixed gender, but most of the press for the group seems to go to Karen. And her Fever Ray side project was getting ungodly amounts of press and positive reviews last year around this time. She also puts on an act that could be seen as pretentious and preposterous as Coco Rosie, but it’s almost impossible to sexualize her due to the anonymity she uses under both groups employing arguably even weirder make-up and costumes than Coco Rosie. Yet the indie press loves pretty much everything she’s touched. I think the music definitely has something to do with it. It’s not that Coco Rosie is terrible as many have said because they’re not. I think it’s more that while their songs can be intentionally difficult, their influences are pretty obvious (Bjork, Billie Holliday) and overall the songs don’t deviate too far from their influences whereas someone like Dreijer is creating music that almost seems incomprehensible because it’s so odd and unique against everything else being created right now.

      • This comparison definitely crossed my mind before, Even though I do prefer The Knife and Fever Ray to CocoRosie I still like CR and the parallels are anything but clear cut. Firstly, even if this is a bit too obvious, I don’t think that Cocorosie are consciously trying to imitate the Knife or Bjork.

        More importantly, the idea of creating a new world and embodying characters broadly speaking is present with both say Silent and Cocorosie’s music but I have to stress that the intention is very different and the expression and ideas are in a very very different vein. With Silent Shout you have a “world” which is independent from the Knife’s other music and characters which are presented as creations of The Knife. Each song is distinct from each other song although most have common themes and every song melds to create a beautiful, alien, detached ethereal atmosphere. The masks that are worn by the Knife when promoting the album as well as their live shows are also presented as elements unique to the album.

        In contrast to this, all of Cocorosie’s music inhabits the same world but this world does change and develop such as the blue-grey shift of Grey Oceans and the image and artistic expression goes beyond the music as CocoRosie actually seem to inhabit their world when they speak in interviews (They talk about fairies and play with colouring books etc.), unlike the Knife who are totally normal. Really the “World” of Cocorosie in my opinion is just kind of the magical naive lens of childhood and all of the over the top creativity and playfulness that comes with that, and it is also reflected in their music where it might sometimes be hip hop but imaginatively interpreted with kids toys and kazoos and interesting samples. So unlike Silent Shout where the sounds used are interesting and relatively unique the obvious reference to and mixing of other musical styles is really a key part of CR’s music, they are not jsut relying on their influences as rskva believes. With fever Ray there is the whole dark tribal thing which goes with the lyrics and music and is separate from Silent Shout with it’s own accompanying visuals etc. etc..

        Really Silent Shout Compares well to Kate Bush’s The Dreaming, I can’t think of a good comparison for CocoRosie, maybe Ziggy Stardust era Bowie but that doesn’t quite fit…

        As far as “social/sexual commentary” is concerned it’s not something I think about when listening to Silent Shout or CR. Obviously “One Hit” and “Na Na Na” have obvious feminist undertones but I think that’s just a refection of the Knife themselves and the views they hold rather than an example of how they’re using their music as a medium to get their agenda across and make this “commentary”. With Deep cuts they were very obviously making social commentary their primary objective even with their publicity around the album, but honestly Deep cuts to me seems (as you say about CR) distanced and disdainful, they don’t really commit to it and most of the music is complete crap (it probably isn’t quite so bad as I can’t help feeling it is when I think of how unbelievably brillant Silent Shout is). I really like “You Take My Breath Away” though and honestly I like it in a similar way to how I enjoy CR’s music. It could be a CocoRosie song musically and lyrically, especially the rap bit “I like vanilla and I like sex, I ride the pony that I like best” genius :) and the way they use hip hop beats in a song about sexual naivety in contrast to the hypersexual nature of hip hop songs is much like how CocoRosie use hip hop in a song about peace and childishness (RainboWarriors) in contrast to the violent nature of a lot of current hip hop. both songs throwing in interesting home made sounding elements.

        As regards the singing style of Bjork I one hundred per cent disagree, there are two vocalists in CocoRosie and the one who does sound a bit like Bjork does not overdo her singing style nearly as much as Bjork herself and the vocal affectation is definitely distinct from Bjorks in many ways.

        To go off topic for a bit, it is interesting how the media focuses on Karin in the Knife and forgets Olof and not surprising that there is very little mention of Oni Ayhun from the Knife’s website while they were more than willing to inform Knife fans about Fever Ray. Still it would be great if Oni Ayhun’s music got more attention with or without mention of the Knife, has Stereogum ever posted about Oni Ayhun?

  20. so after this weary endorsement everybody seems to love the album. its great that the music industry is not dead enough to ditch these kinds of artists, but at the same time as the album is exciting, it is also pretentious about its desires and goals

  21. No one dislikes CocoRosie because they’re a female duo. People dislike them because they are annoying – their voices, their image, etc. To contend that Aryan muscle-boys are the root of their failure is to forget how terribly mediocre they are. Just because you’re weird, doesn’t make you memorable.

    Also, how are they not successful? Everyone remotely into music has heard of them, listened to them, and ultimately cast judgement. The fact that most people dislike them shouldn’t be seen as some hegemonic coaxing, but as a simple democratic process that has determined that CocoRosie is, at best, just okay.

    Also, Jamie Stewart has always been a dick, so why is anyone surprised? But let’s not debate VW here.

  22. A lot of people on here sure do have a lot to say about Cocorosie. Mainly the people who can’t stand them. I’m a huge fan of Cocorosie, I’ve heard all of their music,seen them live,seen and read countless interviews and continue to follow their music career. It wasn’t always like this, when I first started listening to Cocorosie I hated it. I thought they were way to weird and that they were only being weird to make up for how annoying they were. But then I listened to them. I heard the lyrics, I opened myself up and got past the initial “wtf?”. Slowly but surely they became a band that influenced me in many aspects of my life. They are free, they are not of the norm, they don’t give a shit about being famous, they’re fucked up, crazy as shit, they wear tacky ass clothes and they are nothing short of beautiful. You don’t have to like Cocorosie and you can say that what they make isn’t art, but at the end of the day they have a huge fan base that understand them and why they are so great. Maybe one day they will strike you in a way that makes you rethink what they are, maybe not. I’m a fan, their music inspires me and I’m very grateful for their music coming into my life. And I also like Vampire Weekend haha.

    • exactly the way i feel about them… they dont make excuses for their music, they just open their creativity to a whole lifestyle, and that’s how you see its not some fucking marketing, i-wanna-get-famous kind of thing

  23. really, really refreshing. stuff like this and the haunting the chapel articles make stereogum cool.

    checking out the comments section can be infuriating (did vampire weekend not have the number one album in the country? they’re going to be okay guys, no need to defend them so enthusiastically just because jamie stewart implied they were all “super rich” when they’re really not “that rich”. I mean, of course he doesn’t like them, it’s xiu xiu), but hey at least people are talking.

    • “stuff like this and the haunting the chapel articles make stereogum cool.”
      =
      Amrit, Brandon, and Jessica make Stereogum “cool.”
      I’m seeing Phil Collins tomorrow night. ;)

  24. now that would be cool, phil collins updates! he’s got an album coming out in September with a sweet cover and everything, and I saw no report on it. what’s the deal?

  25. All of these people who hate CocoRosie make their judgement based on the attention they pay to carving their image and the perceived pretentiousness of it as some kind of cheap gimmick to attract people to their music. The music itself doesn’t draw the same kind of reactions and people decide to hate the music based on their image which would actually be totally understandable if the music wan’t so damn brilliant. Honestly, isolated from all of the gimmicks, if you listen to their music without knowing how they dress or what their videos or live shows are like it is a great listening experience and has the same exuberant creativity and atmosphere. That’s not to say that their image doesn’t add to the statement of their music, if you give the music a chance first their actual image will seem a lot lot more natural and genuine and won’t seem forced at all however pretentious can appear alone. But still they are musicians aren’t they?

    Really I thought it seemed a bit pretentious and unnatural the way Animal Collective used to wear masks as if they kind of felt they should be doing something eccentric. Their music was good enough that it didn’t affect my enjoyment of them and it is only a small thing but I’m glad they don’t do it anymore and like I said I never had a huge problem with it so I didn’t think about most of the time.

  26. I am unabashedly downright misogynistic when it comes to my music. I have a hard time getting into female artists. Don’t know why , i just do. Yet only one I like that i can think of off the top of my head is Cocorosie. Why is that? Their dispay of honest emotion and poetic imagery is so achingly heartfelt,moving,raw and imaginative. Like someone said before how could you not find something beautiful in ‘werewolf’ or ‘sunshine’ for that matter? The idea that any of this is forced or pretentious is utterly garbage. People react in weird ways when they don’t understand something. They are doing THEM and what they want to do and certainly not catering to YOU. That’s the kind’ve thing I champion in music. I certainly didn’t like the whole rap-singing aesthetic at first and their voices were shrill and bordered on annoying for me but damn that album was a grower for me. I got past all that and just delved into the world that Cocorosie has created.
    As far as the new album I didn’t know it was out until I found review after lack-luster review. I was disappointed , thought that maybe they had fallen off. Then I listened to ‘Grey Oceans’ and all my fears were alleviated. They still got it :)

  27. What a waste of time. Look at these people. If they didn’t try so hard to look stupid, they would get better reviews, this is absolutely true…but the reviews wouldn’t be THAT much better. This is my personal opinion about the music they make. There’s some interesting production values and instrumentation and the occasional great melody. But it’s just grating over time.

    There’s a lot of music out there that I don’t care for. Made by men and women alike. It’s sad to me when people try to explain the opinions of others by suggesting they are closed-minded. “We disagree, therefore YOU are crazy/sexist/incapable of GETTING it.” How lazy and sad and self-righteous.

    Divisive music (CR or Waves or Girls or mostly anything that appears to rely on something other than the music itself–be it dumb album art, intentionally shitty production, or an elaborate back story) becomes more divisive when it tries to be more than music. That’s why there are a lot of bands that are a bit boring but have some followers and some middling reviews, but only certain bands provoke the vitriol of the masses. Look at Shout Out Louds (I could pick a hundred different examples)–quite a capable band: nothing groundbreaking, but nothing offensive or shocking or divisive about it, either. They might have some so-so reviews but I guarantee they would never provoke a discussion like this. Which, for me, is a good thing. There, Xiu Xiu, I said it. Sometimes being provocative is just plain annoying.

    Look at that dumb fucking picture. I mean, really look at it. I’ve listened to them before but I feel like I have several better ways to spend my limited time on this planet than to keep giving these dummies my time. If you enjoy their music, cheers, keep enjoying it. I have no desire to convince you otherwise. Pitchfork has a lot of power–of course a great review will boost sales. But is that the same as a bad review hurting a band’s potential? Who knows, there’s a legitimate argument to be had there. But don’t tell me I don’t get it or I’m sexist or I’m not ready for it or it’s the man’s fault.

  28. I totally respect – perhaps even admire – CocoRosie’s unapologetic and unblinking will to create something that doesn’t do a thing for me.

    • I’m sorry to hear that but since when did creating art have anything to do with other than expressing oneself?
      A second question .. have you really given “Ghosthorse” an honest try? I do find some of their stuff stupid and slightly annoying still but I judge them on a track by track basis and my god there are some beautiful tracks on that album with flowing visceral imagery.

      • Please give an example of “flowing visceral imagery.”

      • OK, very late reply and I don’t know if you’ll read this, but here goes.

        “since when did creating art have anything to do with other than expressing oneself?”

        I agree that creating art is solely about expressing oneself. Releasing albums, however, is not. If a band is going to get out there, they automatically become about connecting with an audience, not just expressing themselves.

        I respect the band for their uncompromising approach and I’m happy they have found an audience that will defend them extensively. If only their music didn’t leave me completely cold…

  29. Huh. It’s a weird response this has gotten. First things first:

    They most definitely are affected by institutional sexism, just like every one else. And just like how all artists of color are affected by instituional racism. There’s no question about that. It’s a fact and one we should deal with. With that said, I don’t think they’re the best example of how this discrepency is instituted in the American record buyer/critic. They have a rather large following, far more than other bands and artists that are female, of color, or alernate sexual orientation. Sharon Jones jumps immediately to mind (being a woman and african american, dunno her orientation). Obviously, there are many others. The so-called revolutionary stances that Cocorosie take are hard to come by as well. If small beards that hardly disguise (and I think I write this somewhat objectively) pretty young women behind them are supposed to function as a commentary on sex and gender… well, it’s a stretch and not nearly as overtly challenging as someone like Peaches who did/does similar things. If anything they remind me of little kids playing dress up, sailing the seas as pirates or wizards. It’s not as though they’re putting on fat suits, scarring their faces or performing with flaming swastikas while reading the torah (would that be revolutionary at this point anyway?). And why should they? Again, I just think the revolutionary thrust they supposedly encompass is overplayed, and assigned by seemingly self-important champions who aren’t content to simply like something for what it is.

    Secondly, their music seems as someone wrote earlier seem immediately heavily indebted to Bjork, but with a heavier affectation (and this is obviously simplifiying their sound so hold the yelling for a a second). And this may be the crux of it all. Now affectation is found in almost all music, and I can’t really criticise that too much when one of my favorite bands is Carcass. But Cocorosie’s form of affectation has never struck a lot of people favorably– the fey, dancing in the lillies with faeries while wearing make up and elaborate costumes. Obviously, this is not what they’re probably all about. But it’s what most people see (I know it certainly was when I first heard/saw them). It’s as off putting as seeing musical theater for a lot of us. Now some people love musical theater. A lot of people don’t. Same could be said about Bruce Springsteen. I fucking hate Bruce Springsteen.

    Thirdly, the problem people have with the article (as far as I can see) is that it’s a straw man argument. It creates a problem that doesn’t actually seem to exist. If again, you want to raise the spectre of institutional oppression, than please find a better example of it than a couple of theatrical white women playing dress up and writing pretty indie rock songs. Having a bunch of other artists stick up for them is probably not something they need or have earned. Marlyn Manson had a harder time of it than these ladies. But I digress. Really, when you have a bunch of strangers accusing you of problems you may or may not have, you begin to think the problem is theirs and not yours. But it’s good to see some discourse though.

  30. Wow, Jamie Stewart is definitely going into the dictionary next to “petulant”.

    “and by the way these two boys loved CocoRosie’s music…” No, they didn’t. You’re full of shit or they were. And if you think a painted-on mustache can stop me from sexualizing someone, you don’t know shit. I could sexualize a fire hydrant.

  31. (@ comments of antony and annie clark.)

    leave it to popular musicians living in 21st century cocoon-worlds of likeminded individuals to drastically overestimate the importance of their work. the reason that cocorosie doesn’t get media attention is that their music simply annoys the vast majority of listeners, and what gets talked about in the press if what people like to listen to. printing severe and mock-highminded discussion of an album your readers don’t give a shit about is a recipe for being out of business.

    when antony says that cocorosie are willing to be divergent and to experiment, it’s just another way of saying that they are willing to do things that will aggrivate many listeners. namely, sing very affectedly and write weird funhouse popsongs. this is the risk you run when you really start indulging yourself in music. the more “naked undisguised you” (if that’s what we’re calling this sort of play-acting) that you put in there, the less of themselves some other people will see.

    antony hegarty is a good example of an artist that presents us with a somewhat bewildering and androgynous image, but still gets media attention and even gets on american television. why? because his voice and his songwriting are enjoyable to a much wider demographic. most people will never even become conscious of whatever psychosexual issues are at work in cocorosie, because they will turn their music off once the singing begins to annoy them.

    i fully support the right of artists to make music that prizes idiosyncracy over mass appeal. cocorosie certainly does grow on you and i’d rather listen to (some of) their work than a lot of other shit out there. but i do not support the idea of making music whose sonic qualities intentionally alienate a huge number of listeners, and then using the resulting lack of media attention to invent some sort of fucking conspiracy and go off on dreamy philosophical tangents.

  32. As much as I love her music, I have to say I’m pretty disappointed in Annie Clark. I understand that that essay was written about a lecture in the ’60′s, but for all my “look for the deeper message” skills, I cannot see how it is relevant to this issue or even this time period.

    Ignoring the fact that it makes repetitive use of outdated terms, the essay seems to divide the field this way:
    -Straight white men who want to make self-indulgent art that no one will like
    -Homosexuals, Women, Jews and other minorities who just want to make fun art for everyone, but the straight white men don’t like it.

    First of all, both of these groups have made tons of “commercial” art. This is undeniable fact.

    Next, the essay assumes that we live in a culture that despises commercial art. This is absolutely false.

    And finally, this article is criticizing Straight white men for hating “Commercial Art” aka pop music. CocoRosie is not pop music. Now, right about here you could rip apart my argument and claim that this is merely my opinion.

    I don’t particularly dislike CocoRosie, but you could really never call them pop music. If you can, and claim they are the pop music we are “repressing” with our “crazy art music that nobody enjoys”, I’m just not going to talk to you.

    But if straight white men are making such stuffy, unlikable, uncommercial art… why are bands like the Strokes selling out Madison Square Garden?

  33. I guess I really really don’t know my shit…but can someone please explain what Jamie Stewart is referring to when he talks about CocoRosie’s race issues??

    [And yeah, what a jackass--why does he need to call people racist?! Wasn't he supposed to talk about CocoRosie?? Yeah Jamie, we can all relate. It's beautiful like "when you look into a cloud of poison gas." Exactly. Nice LiveJournal post. Shut up, Xiu Xiu.]

    But really, though. Am I missing something about race issues?

    • Oh, ok. There’s this site called Google and…well..

      So they dropped the N-Bomb and went to ironic race-themed parties. Soooo…Vampire Weekend plays guitar parts that sound like Paul Simon (who was influenced by black people) and they are assholes (also because their grandparents were rich [?], but CocoRosie can use epithets as a part of their schtick that is very hard to take seriously and they are applauded?

      So those are the “race issues” that Stewart is applauding? That’s what he chose to point out about this band? In contrast to other artists “playing black?” Jamie, let’s think these things through a bit more. And quit looking into poison gas clouds.

  34. Psst. Fuck Coco Rosie and the horse they rode in on, I’m female and I think their music is terrible.

  35. Honestly
    Cocorosie look like garbage and sound like gold
    they’re weird which pisses off people who have a problem with weirdos
    if u don’t like their music say that, and if you don’t like their outfits, DUH
    just don’t get the two confused
    i think its sad that a bunch of famous people had to write a defense piece of this album
    i think its a pretty fucking cool cd. when i heard RIP burnface i cried literal tears of joy !!! and i hate sappy shit…i just think its beautiful
    like xiu xiu i think cocorosie’s music intentially tries to unnerve and maybe even annoy you
    but always in context
    if it feels like rape they say it but if it also feels like rainbows or whatever their not affraid to come out and say that too however off putting it may be
    cocorosie’s music is unrelentingly truthful to the point of embarrassing
    because it makes you uncomfortable that somewhere someone genuinely feels something as hippyish and retarded as “rainbow waves of spirit blah blah blah….” doesn’t mean that feeling is insincere

    i’ve heard them talk and they sound like drugged out whakkos
    but if memory serves me drugged out whakkos make the best music
    (especially for other drugged out whakkos to listen to)
    they make nuanced music that keeps u paying attention to it
    i can’t wait to see them on tuesday they are one of the reasons i stay alive!!!

    when people do not like them i am hardly shocked
    they have flaws like everybody else
    but some peoples flaws are others pearls
    we all know this shit

  36. basically what jewbox said. “look like garbage and sound like gold”
    really like… that album cover is just sooooooooo fucking stupid and ugly. sorry. i like the music though. although I think they have been getting worse since Noah’s Ark :(

    and wow these are the most pretentious discussions i’ve ever read. yeah, i’d say cocorosie isn’t really pretentious, but most everything in this article is.

    • just to elaborate on pretentious topic, personally, i feel like cocorosie are just naturally a bunch of fucking weirdos. i think it makes for (mostly) good music but really comes off as just annoying with their whole image thing. Like someone mentioned a friend walking out of their concert cause it was too purposefully pretentious, idk it doesn’t strike me as pretentious, just that’s how they are. still just cause it’s weird or different and an expression of themselves doesn’t mean it isn’t totally shitty and stupid.

      a lot of people have mentioned the comparison to bjork, i see it a lot like that. bjork is the biggest fucking weirdo on this planet. but i don’t think she’s pretentious.. a pure weirdo. cocorosie and bjork are pure weirdos, their weirdness is pure. for the most part, at least… sometimes cocorosie makes me want to think otherwise. and i kinda wanna echo the statement someone made earlier that went something like ‘thanks stereogum for making me ashamed to be a cocorosie fan’

      maybe there should be an article about the male dominated industry et cetera in general, not focused on cocorosie…

  37. I have no idea why Cocorosie and “art” are ever used in the same sentence. Vapid lyrics and a mishmash of atmospheric noise do not art make.

    As for their newest album, I agree with the Slant review here: http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/review/cocorosie-grey-oceans/2100

  38. I do think it’s possible that some people out there really enjoy this stuff, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume they’re not spending a lot of time on Stereogum…they’re probably probably weaving a blanket out of troll hair or tattooing horses or something. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s beyond me… it’s not like it’s some complex form of art that I’m just not deep or hip enough to understand. These are excuses some kids make in order to feel like obscurists. Of COURSE they’re going to listen to a bearded sister duo and say it’s the most mind-opening experience ever. Plus, they’re like French, right…so their music posesses some sort of sophisticated Frenchy intelligence that regular Americans just don’t “get” unless they’re like totally cultured and shit. I’m going to stop being mean. I guess some people are fascinated by the weird…but a lot of us are just really tired of everyone’s efforts to shock us.

  39. Oh dear…someone just sent me a track as a sleeper aid and I thought he’d lost his fucking marbles.
    What in the name of bats and allah is this shit? Am I on the wrong med level? I’m female, feminist, and fucked in the lug holes after a blast of this nonsense. The Empressz are buck blue assed naked.
    I Googled their interviews and they’re painfully pretentious to the point of comic parody.
    Oy…America, come now. Their appearance at a Prada show killed me. They’re nice teeth though.
    Their folks hooked them up with one handy orthodontist way out there in the supposed lala media free zone they inhabited, all swooping owls and shrieking ctas in barns….pull the other one.
    These are two of the most contrived, cynical, achingly ambitious gals I’ve come across in an age.

  40. It’s so bad I’m typo-ed out of my mind!

  41. It’s so obvious cocorosie are ignorant as shit.

    not even going to go into the racism and fake native american ness.

    what about combining mediocre opera singing with stupid lyrics and horrible rap-rock.

    UGH.

    they’re hooks are like annoying commercials for pretentious hipsterdom.

  42. their. their.

  43. annoyance produces typos

  44. So to counter the idea of CocoRosie’s pretentiousness Antony produces the post shit-facedly pretentious analysis of their music that would shame Armond White.

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