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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
CocoRosie
Noah's Ark
Touch & Go Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


September 13, 2005
The spirit of tragedy embodied by Jean Valjean in Les MisÚrables and Hedwig Robinson in the tail of his Angry Inch is present and weeping throughout CocoRosie's newest creation, Noah's Ark. This sophomore album - more honestly related to those bleak, gender-bending musicals than most other aural experiences of late - turns the tale of that iconic vessel on its head, focusing on the tortured, misunderstood beings left behind.

With the guardian angel of androgynous soul, the one and only Antony, floating squarely above the shoulders of the sisters Casady as they spill their bawdy watercolor narratives, Noah's Ark is more hypnotic and infiltrating than their enchanting (but short shelf-lived) debut, Le Maison de Mon Reve, but ultimately less magical. Notions of the innocence that abounded on their debut are duly crushed by the weight of the world - be it real or surreal - as noted immediately in "K-Hole"'s nightmarish claim, "All of the aborted babies will turn into little Bambis." Also, with its mournful tone, the characters within Noah's Ark are as concerned with understanding their own transgressions as they are escaping them. Drugs and passion are popular, if consistently doomed, attempts at salvation; the apocalyptic tones loom so closely to the earth on Noah's Ark, its darkness feels urgently condemning. As its opener asks, "What's God's name, I don't remember", we know that these characters are so far removed from redemption, they've forgotten how to seek it.

With all of these factors in play, Noah's Ark is a distant album - one that outgrows a few fast friends made on Le Maison de Mon Reve and depends on those truly willing to listen. It is a record designed to make believers out of its fans, and is certainly not for the faint-spirited or fickle. Relying on 'freak' more than 'folk', it walks its audience through thorny rows of certain danger, on a seemingly never-ending trail, and demands they have faith that a garden is at the end of the path. Fumbling toward deliverance, visions of manna, milk and honey are frequently far from sight - instead the characters are flummoxed by their own questionable sins - but without believing in and pursuing the light, no one could ever truly be saved. CocoRosie knows this, and inserts moments of levity throughout Noah's Ark, but chronically, their characters do not.

For these simple reasons, the greatest moments within Noah's Ark are the ones that reveal that rare glimmer of hope within unlikely circumstances. There are several times within the album that, without brief, optimistic interludes and acoustic oases, the inhabitants - and we as an audience - might not be able to absorb it all and soldier on. While understated tracks like "Tekno Love Song" and "South 2nd" might not be noticed in the face of brilliant creations like "Madonna" and "Terrible Angels", on Noah's Ark they are the instants when reality is most satisfying and at peace. Otherwise, the best offerings inevitably arrive in the presence of Antony and Devendra Banhart, whose guest appearances enhance and possibly upstage their lovely hosts. The collaborations are thrilling - as they ignite the possibility of continued crossover potential - but they are also threatening in that some of the other pieces can sound somewhat bare in comparison.

When standing on their own, the Casadys present several very convincing and lovable songs, the likes of which will gratify their supporters and strengthen the bond between them and their audience - a bond which is especially important considering the shaky, risky subject matter presented herein. With its pastoral, hazy feel and the appropriately dizzying din of a cell phone ring, "South 2nd" is fully realized, as is the title track, which harbors one of their most kinetic, indelible hooks to date. "Armageddon", in turn, feels so fittingly holy in places, it confronts the bleakness of the rest of the album with truly attainable, truly redemptive hope. While it shifts from choral surges to perky USO-style ditties to gothic desperation, it offers, at last, the immortal answer so desperately needed to survive.

As the disc ends with the simple corn-picking tune, "Honey or Tar", we are given a way to return full circle to the childlike, unquestionable hope found in Le Maison de Mon Reve. Its optimism is a surprisingly sweet ending; it is a childhood born again after being all but lost. In addition to its redeeming qualities, it also sets the patient listener up for their next release, offering promise to those who have remained strongly at their side through all the tribulations. Symbolically, the guiding light is important to all who have journeyed on Noah's Ark, and CocoRosie have presented a lesson in love, through hardship, that may not have been as powerful otherwise.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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