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CocoRosie - La Maison de Mon Rêve

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Artist: CocoRosie

Album: La Maison de Mon Rêve

Label: Touch and Go

Review date: Mar. 11, 2004

Without actually jumping into a bubble bath with Belle and Sebastian, it’s hard to imagine a more twee set up than two sisters singing songs and recording a record in a tiny apartment in the 18th district of Paris. CocoRosie, however, have danced around the inherent tweeness of the record’s genesis, catching the freakier vibe that seems to have been floating around lately, the one that fantastic new records by Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsome have been tuning into. It’s a real feat to keep songs about angels and butterscotch from being disgustingly cloying, but Bianca and Sierra Casady, the two sisters of CocoRosie, manage to keep the cuteness to a minimum, tending instead toward weirdness and an uncanny appeal.

The songs are notably simple in both construction and production, and it isn’t a huge imaginative leap from the songs here to that tiny apartment they where they were conceived. The sounds of La Maison de Mon Rêve, CocoRosie’s debut, consist of little more than the sisters’ voices – a guitar and a flute played by Sierra while Bianca provides charmingly haphazard percussion, rattles and squeaks generated from the materials at hand. The periodic crowing of what sounds like an alarm clock or a mechanical rooster is jarring without distracting or detracting from its surroundings.

Sierra, a former opera singer, handles most of the vocals, but she’s abandoned the grandiosity and drama of opera here, and her voice mostly ranges from the gravelly to a gentler, higher pitched sigh. On top of abandoning operatic technique, she’s also left behind the gap between performer and audience inevitably created by the trappings of traditional theatrical productions. La Maison de Mon Rêve transports the listener to the tiny confines of CocoRosie’s Parisian apartment and thrives in this intimate setting.

The sense of intimacy is facilitated by the sisters’ confrontational demeanor, beginning with the first song “Terrible Angels.” It’s easy enough when the songs seem sweet, as they do in the beginning, but as the record progresses the tête-à-tête between listener and performer becomes more complicated and less comfortable, as Sierra continues to directly address the listener, but less ingenuously now, as in the plaintive “You can leave me / on the corner / where you found me / I’m not for sale anymore” of “Not For Sale Anymore.” The record ends with “Lyla,” an unnerving tale of sexual solicitation. “You wanted to buy me / for a hundred euro,” Sierra sings matter-of-factly.

The cover of La Maison de Mon Rêve innocuously depicts Bianca and Sierra puckering up at each other under a rainbow, but a shadow of the seamier, unsettling implications imparted within. It’s that willingness to venture into darker terrain that keeps the record from becoming too adorable or precious. CocoRosie seem to totally lack a sense of decorum; an idea that there might be limitations to the topics suitable for a pop song, especially as sung by two charming girls with an acoustic guitar. The lack of restraint extends to musical traditions as well, as they exploit sounds ranging from opera to gospel as a means to their artistic ends. Uninhibited, they write songs that sound exactly right – both sordid and sweet.

By Emily Wanderer

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