The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn

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The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn
Studio album by CocoRosie
Released April 10, 2007
Genre New folk[1]
Freak folk
Hip hop
Length 48:44
Label Touch and Go Records
Producer CocoRosie, Valgeir Sigurðsson
CocoRosie chronology
Noah's Ark
(2005)
The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn
(2007)
Grey Oceans
(2010)

The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn is the third full-length studio album by CocoRosie, released on April 10, 2007. It is widely considered the band's masterpiece, and marked a turning point in their style of songwriting and production.

Background[edit]

The story of the Casady sisters, Bianca “Coco” and Sierra “Rosie”, is as mythical as their twee, freak-folk music. The girls spent their youth traveling like nomads throughout the Southwestern United States and Hawaii, splitting time between their mother and father. Their mother was an artist. She encouraged the girls to drop out of school and learn through traveling the world instead. Neither of the girls finished high school. Their father became fascinated with Native American shamanism after the divorce. He would take the girls with him into the desert for days while he went vision quests, a ritual which included the ingestion of the psychedelic cactus, peyote. In the midst of their whirlwind childhood, the girls took refuge in music. Bianca was a prolific songwriter by the age of 9, and young Sierra nurtured a love for classical music. In an interview with New York Magazine in 2007, Bianca recalls her sister’s relationship with music, “My sister couldn’t communicate with words. She only knew how to be musical."[2]

CocoRosie-Casady sisters

The girls separated when their mother threw Sierra out of the house at the age of 14. For ten years, the girls lived separate lives. Bianca found a home in Brooklyn, New York working as an artist, poet, and fashion designer. Meanwhile, Sierra studied opera at the Conservatoire de Paris.[3] The sisters reunited one fateful night in 2003 when Bianca called Sierra asking for a place to stay. Over the next few months, the sisters combined their respective talents, Bianca’s hip-hop influenced, childlike tremor and Sierra’s classically trained opera, to create CocoRosie. They recorded their first album, La Maison De Mon Reve, in the bathtub of Sierra’s Paris apartment. From then on, the sisters have been inseparable; making polarizing, genre-breaking music that gives the listener a glimpse into their fairytale world.

Recording[edit]

CocoRosie made their preliminary recordings for The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn in a barn in the South of France that they turned into a makeshift studio. The creaking echoes and sounds of the old, wooden barn lend an otherworldly feel to the album. Running on a nocturnal schedule, the duo found inspiration their surroundings: the distant sounds of animals, the hum of nightlife around sounds of the night on an old-fashioned Dictaphone. In an interview with Electronic Musician in 2007, Bianca commented, “I feel like it added the atmosphere of a lot of songs, a lot of things you couldn't do in a proper studio. It was important for the creative process to start out in this space.”[3]

Beatboxing was provided by the Casadys’ friends Spleen and Tez and is featured on multiple tracks, including “Promise” and “Rainbowarriors”. Additional recording and polishing was done with the help of Valgeir Sigursson, the Icelandic producer famous for his collaborations with the artist Björk.[3]

Content[edit]

CocoRosie’s innocent, childlike aesthetic turns their often dark subject matter of abandonment and abuse into haunting lullabies and unsettling operatic hip-hop melodies. In the song “Werewolf” the sisters tell the story of their father, singing, “He’s a black magic wielder some say a witch”, but show their determination to move on despite the pain, repeating, “I’m a shake you off though/ Get up on the horse and/ Ride into the sunset/ Look back with no remorse”. The sister’s reinforce their will to move forward in the song “Rainbowarriors”, declaring, “We are rainbowarriors/ Evil come not near”.

The tracks “Sunshine” and “Bloody Twins” seem to speak to the sister’s memories of childhood, painting pictures of failed relations with peers along with brief glimpses of human connection. Many songs on The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn hint at past tragedies. The song “Raphael” shows the dark side of teenage sexuality with the story of a “teenage player” who knows all the right moves, but can only further damage an already shattered soul. The song ends with the pained repetition of the phrase “Don’t speak I can hear you”. Near the end of the album, the song “Miracle” pokes fun at what the sisters believe to be the unrealistic idea of a boy and a girl staying together forever.

While most of the album’s songs recall a shared girlhood and revel in a renewed sense of self, the song “Japan” makes a broader commentary on the world with lines like “Everyone wants to go to Iraq/ But once they go, they don’t come back”. Another track that stands out from the rest is “Girl And The Geese”, a spoken word track that tells the story of a girl who found she could talk to geese because “they were once human like her”. At first glance, the story may not appear to have a point, but in fact, it is a vivid depiction of how the Casady sisters see the world around them as magical and extremely personal.

The sisters have made themselves endearingly vulnerable in this album by showing us not only the fantastical, exclusive universe they have created, but also the deep-seated insecurities that helped to build it. In the song “Animals”, Sierra reveals the pain that accompanies her love of nature, singing, “I always knew I would spend a lot of time alone/ No one would understand me/ Maybe I should go and live amongst the animals”. CocoRosie bring us music like we’ve never heard. It’s abrasive, unsettling, mysterious, and innocent all at the same time. It is as imperfect as it is honest. The Casady sister’s ask only one thing: that you “Promise me that you’ll cherish/ This tarnished/ Oh this tarnished offering”.

Artwork[edit]

The cover art for album was done by Pierre et Gilles, a French art duo. Much like CocoRosie, homo-eroticism, religion, glamour, and myth are recurring themes in the work of Pierre et Gilles. The photograph for The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn depicts Bianca and Sierra in Victorian dress with Bianca kneeling at her own side, dressed as a soldier.

Bianca is no stranger to dressing in drag. She regularly performs wearing a fake mustache and appears dressed as a man in several music videos, including the video for the track “Rainbowarriors”. In an interview with After Ellen in 2008, Bianca expressed surprise and pleasure at never being criticized for her portrayal of gender, saying, "I find it interesting that as a 'female' artist in this time, I can go in complete drag on a regular basis and no one really notices, where as an artist like Antony [of Antony and the Johnsons] was torn apart about his transexuality in all of the first major articles written about him."[4]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[5]
Drowned in Sound 9/10 stars[6]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[7]
Pitchfork Media (2.3/10)[8]
PopMatters 6/10 stars[9]
Q 2/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone 2.5/5 stars[11]
Stylus Magazine C+[12]
Uncut 4/5 stars[13]
Under the Radar 6/10 stars[14]
  • Pitchfork gave the album a rating of 2.3 out of 10, calling the sisters “self-impressed” and accusing them of being more interested in transcending genres than creating actual songs. They continue to bash the sisters, describing the lyrics as “lazy, meandering nothings”.[15] After the review was published, however, Sterogum founder and former Pitchfork-contributor Brandon Stousy revealed on his personal blog that he had originally been tasked with writing the Pitchfork review of the album, and gave it a very favorably high score, claiming the review was pulled at the last minute and replaced with Mark Hogan's score of 2.3. Stousy's review can be found here: http://www.thefanzine.com/articles/music/135/cocorosie-_the_adventures_of_ghosthorse_and_stillborn,_a_review
  • Tiny Mix Tapes found the album more tolerable, giving it a 3 out of 5. In the review, they give CocoRosie credit for being brave enough to produce such an album, saying they “don’t just push the envelope; they spit-seal that shit, shove it in the mailbox, and harass their friendly local carrier until he’s scared NOT to deliver their message."[16]
  • Allmusic gave the album a 4/5, saying that they find Cocorosie's “fractured fairy tale sound still surprising three albums into their career."[17]
  • Drowned in sound gave the album a 9/10, calling it “their most fully realized, well-produced and melody rich record yet."[18]
  • The Guardian gave it a 2/5, saying that Cocorosie “seem to have no interest in developing these fragments of ideas into a coherent artistic whole.”[19]
  • Sputnik Music gave the album a 4/5, calling it “pop music as it would sound from some demented far away place.”[20]
  • BuzzSugar gave it a 3/5, claiming that the album is “well worth a listen despite its flaws.”[21]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2007) Peak
position
French Albums Chart[22] 21
Swiss Music Charts[23] 84
Dutch Music Charts[24] 49
Belgian Music Charts (Flanders)[25] 24
Belgian Music Charts (Wallonia)[26] 57
Norwegian Music Charts[27] 39
Top Heatseekers[28] 37
European Top 100 Albums[28] 81

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Rainbowarriors" – 3:55
  2. "Promise" – 3:37
  3. "Bloody Twins" – 1:37
  4. "Japan" – 5:02
  5. "Sunshine" – 2:58
  6. "Black Poppies" – 2:37
  7. "Werewolf" – 4:50
  8. "Animals" – 6:02
  9. "Houses" – 2:56
  10. "Raphael" – 2:48
  11. "Girl and the Geese" – 0:46
  12. "Miracle" – 3:35 (UK edition = 11:36 due to including bonus track Childhood)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Keefe. "What Is New Folk? A Genre Profile". About.com. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  2. ^ [1], http://nymag.com/arts/popmusic/reviews/30330/
  3. ^ a b c [2], http://emusician.com/remixmag/artists_interviews/musicians/cocorosie_ghosthorse/
  4. ^ [3], http://www.afterellen.com/people/2008/1/biancacasady+?page=0%2C0
  5. ^ Allmusic review
  6. ^ Drowned in Sound review
  7. ^ The Guardian review
  8. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  9. ^ PopMatters review
  10. ^ Q review
  11. ^ Rolling Stone review
  12. ^ Stylus Magazine review
  13. ^ Uncut review
  14. ^ Under the Radar review
  15. ^ [4], http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/10122-the-adventures-of-ghosthorse-and-stillborn/
  16. ^ [5], http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/cocorosie-adventures-ghosthorse-and-stillborn
  17. ^ [6], http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-adventures-of-ghosthorse-and-stillborn-r1027945/review
  18. ^ [7], http://drownedinsound.com/releases/9294/reviews/1851757-cocorosie-the-adventures-of-ghosthorse-stillborn
  19. ^ [8], http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/apr/06/popandrock.shopping5
  20. ^ [9], http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/11691/CocoRosie-The-Adventures-of-Ghosthorse-and-Stillbo/
  21. ^ [10], http://www.buzzsugar.com/CD-Review-CocoRosie-Adventures-Ghosthorse-Stillborn-206546
  22. ^ Steffen Hung. "CocoRosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn". lescharts.com. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  23. ^ Steffen Hung. "CocoRosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  24. ^ Steffen Hung. "CocoRosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  25. ^ "CocoRosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn". ultratop.be. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  26. ^ "CocoRosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn". ultratop.be. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  27. ^ Steffen Hung. "CocoRosie - The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  28. ^ a b "CocoRosie Saddles Up For New 'Adventures'". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2011-11-02.