The fifth album from CocoRosie (aka the famously weird sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady), Tales of a Grass Widow is simultaneously upbeat and macabre. Since their freak folk 2004 debut, the lo-fi, bluesy La Maison de Mon Rêve, the Casady sisters have continued to play with their sound and image. CocoRosie’s second album, Noah’s Ark, offered more of La Maison‘s prettily off-kilter sound, pairing piano, guitar, and harp with recordings of kittens, toys, and voices of artists like Devendra Banhart and Antony Hegarty. The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn represented a turn toward a more feral brand of electro-pop, and Grey Oceans drifted back into gracefully warped, downtempo hollows using an assortment of string and wind instruments.
Grass Widow has notable hip-hop and pop influences compared to the unpolished crooning of the band’s earlier work, evident on the single “Gravediggress,” which features a pump organ, synthesizers, and an energetic beatbox. The vocals are alternately elegant and childish, and they’re representative of the duo’s penchant for intertwining the virtuosic and abrasive, the lovely and the gross. Those who were looking forward to melancholic lullabies might take comfort in “Harmless Monster” and “Far Away,” but those who want to dance will be most pleased.
Despite its percussive boldness, Grass Widow returns to some of CocoRosie’s traditional subjects: nature, twilight, stardust, and death. Also, unsurprisingly, it walks the line between affectation and brilliant, self-conscious naiveté. (City Slang)