Coco’s self-titled debut album is a masterclass in restraint which doesn’t so much start as gradually unfold. The band, who initially kept their identities secret, are a collaboration between long standing friends Maia Friedman of Dirty Projectors, Uni and Ika Ai, Dan Molad of Lucius and Chimney, and Oliver Hill of Pavo Pavo and Dustrider. Friedman and Hill had toured together and Molad had produced for their respective projects, but they met up in Los Angeles to see if they could translate these connections into their own music. By the end of the first session, they already had two songs in the bag.
Coco is infused with magic hour sunlight and a 60s/70s sound that harks back to work of the sessions musicians known as The Wrecking Crew which featured such luminaries as the bass player’s bass player Carol Kaye, drummer Earl Palmer, guitarist Glen Campbell and Mike Melvoin (father of Prince collaborators Wendy & Lisa). Coco are their own Wrecking Crew with every member of the band accomplished on vocals, guitar, bass, piano and synths, and thankfully their assuredness with playing, arrangements and production never stifles the irresistible warmth of this album.
Coco is soft-edged and comforting, and caresses you tenderly from the opening track, ‘Empty Beach’, which drifts in on early morning mist and feels like the moment, on a cold day, when you’ve turned your heating on and realise you are starting to get warm. ‘Knots’ channels the sadder side of the Beach Boys or Three Dog Night’s ‘One Is The Loneliest Number’ and swirls with their pure voices and delicate harmonies. ‘Last of the Loving’ (see video below) and ‘One Time Villain’ give an indication of what Molad brings to his work with Lucius and ‘Come Along’ rides on a gorgeous, dampened bass line and an arrangement could have come from David Axelrod’s catalogue. ‘Hard to Say Hello’ and ‘Sage’ have a woozy early morning feel, ‘Eleanor’ is the song that would accompany a sad montage in in a romcom and the album closes with ‘Anybody’s Guess’ a slow feather-floating-on-the-breeze track which could have been written for The Carpenters and feels constructed from maple syrup and marshmallow.
Don’t think that the fact that citing the influences I hear means that I think Coco is derivative. All musicians are magpies who store up the music they love and celebrate it with their own interpretation. This album is no time capsule but celebrates how lush and gratifying music can be, like managing to record the songs you hear in your dreams. This album is a warm summer’s afternoon, drowsy with contentment and replete with optimism. An utter joy.
Review by Paul F Cook