The Casket Girls - True Love Kills the Fairy Tale

If Gemini were to speak to the dark under a glinting moon, this is its stage.

Additional Info


ALBUM: True Love Kills the Fairy Tale

ARTIST: The Casket Girls



The Casket Girls’ second album, True Love Kills the Fairy Tale, is a repository of musings and dreamscapes that border the philosophical, the visceral, and the unconscious. Sisters, Phaedra and Elsa Greene from Savannah, GA, provide the fluid, cherubic, haunted (and haunting) voices for electronically created backdrops. Ryan Graveface, originator of Graveface records and member of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dreamend, and the Marshmallow Ghosts, uses his electronic wizardry to create landscapes that complement the Greene sisters’ aphoristic lyricism. If the Casket Girls are our dark sage guiding our trek through a strangely constructed landscape, then Graveface is the landscape’s architect. Together, they navigate us through dreamlike settings where thoughts are cloudy, love is strange, and love can be a stranger. It may be helpful to visualize this album on a spectrum: On one end is the super duo Icona Pop, securing their position as the cool girls of today’s electro pop—their songs becoming anthems for the millennial sisterhood. On the other end is CocoRosie, the sisters who innovated a unique sound that ventures toward the melodic weird (some call it “freak folk”)—creatively using various instruments and objects of noise to concoct layered melodies veined in hip hop, opera, folk, and electronica. The Casket Girls are closer to CocoRosie, but manage to procure a catchiness that makes this album one you can easily sing along to. The Casket Girls’ accessible and authentic “weirdness” is most evident in their lyricism and their lyricism is what makes this album particularly effective. It’s not that cheap, disposable weird content—the kind of weird that’s trendy and weird for weird’s sake. Instead, it’s a weirdness that stems from experiences that touch the fantastic, the unconscious, the uncanny, the unknown, the spiritual, and the unapproachable, but is all grounded in a familiar reality. Their lyricism is a kaleidoscopic exposé on large questions of life, love, and self-experience.

The Greene sisters’ voices melt together into a harmonious palimpsest. The layering—the writing over each other’s voices—creates a synchronicity that reveals just enough asymmetry to leave the listener curious. Sometimes, their voices are so aligned it’s difficult to distinguish two distinct voices. However, in all cases, their voices interact to remind you that this isn’t a single person. And if it were a single person, it’d be a single split person—a sort of Gemini figure having a conversation with itself. The sisters sing on a spectrum of twinning or mirroring, layering, call and response, and a chasing after. The sisters synchronize their voices to create a memorable juxtaposition of ethereality and substance. This ethereality is supported by their lilted, cherubic voices, rising and falling calmly. The substance is found in their abstract rhetoric like the one driving “Chemical Dizzy.” Here, the sisters sing speech that borders the theoretical and philosophical—“in between the question and reason” and “opposites only exist with each other.” In the title track, the sisters open with “it was madness that moved you from the known to the unknown.” The sisters’ rhetoric is one concerned with the liminal. Graveface does an effective job echoing the meanderings of the sisters’ voices while providing instrumentals that support the vocals and deepen the messages they carry. Usually, however, the tracks accumulate and progress in expected ways. Because the sounds don’t mess with our expectations, we’re encouraged to focus on the sisters’ lyricism. Without this negotiation in sound, their lyricism would be less noticeable and less effective.

The title of the album suggests a reconfiguring or even admonishment of the fairy tale. If “true love kills the fairy tale,” then a fairy tale love is untrue. The story behind this album is, in itself, a bit of a “fairy tale”—only, it’s a bewildering romance between people and the sounds they make. Here’s the tale: Graveface dropped off a bunch of tracks for Phaedra and Elsa. After a mysterious hibernation, the sisters returned a recording of the album that immediately impressed Graveface. Phaedra and Elsa recorded the album exactly as they recorded their demo, though, as Graveface remarked on the album’s website, “...they [Phaedra and Elsa] really didn’t remember any of it.” The sisters “had to learn the songs as if someone else had written them entirely.” The magical turnaround, and the forgetting of the songs they created suggests the sisters occupied that very liminal space they lyricize throughout the album in order to create this album. The album’s title also provides some insight to the album’s sequencing. With its straightforward narrative, a distinct beginning, middle, and end, the fairy tale has a formulaic construction. The end is where we expect that guttural satisfaction of “happily ever after.” The album’s own sequencing has an arc that mimics the traditional composition of a fairy tale, but fails to maintain an interesting momentum. Though the album opens strongly, the “middle” of this album lacks in the luster I learned to expect from the first few songs. The album does pick up towards the end—the exit song a sweet return to the entrance song. Though the quieter and less progressive tracks feel the weakest, they can be seen as the narrative plateau before the climax. One can therefore deduce from the album’s arc that true love is a love that modulates and isn’t a single ascent to a final ecstatic moment. But this may be a generous reading of the album. At best, after experiencing the album as a single journey, the listener can recognize the tension between fantasy and reality. This album is a long night’s dream—a soft entering, and a slow pushing out. We sleep to join the sisters’ fantastical world then wake into our realities a bit groggy, a bit hungover. The sisters use Graveface’s sounds as the vessel for their lyricism—a vessel that is, in the end, a thoughtfully crafted casket.

“We are the preacher. We are the choir. Nobody is getting any higher.”

1. Same Side
This is a strong start to the album. Sounds like climbing into the sky on a unicorn you stole from your ex’s backyard. The track starts slowly to grow into an anthem. The “drop” provided by Graveface is timely and satisfying. This catchy track is a strong introduction to the sisters’ lyricism: “...the line is blurry. I caught my dreams turning tricks. When I feel sick, it’s unrequited reality.” In the chorus, the sisters join their voices to contend, “We are the preacher. We are the choir. Nobody is getting any higher.” Their voices call upon each other, summoning then combining to create their own choir.8.5
2. Day to Day
This track is a spooky translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The lyrics capture the swirling monotony Alice must have felt in her journey through a kooky alternate universe. We’re “caught up in the mirror” as the sisters muse “How did we get so low? How did we get so high?” The track begins with a lifted beat, then stretches as the chorus is released. With the second track the listener can notice Graveface’s acute sensibilities. Chimes add a saccharine disturbance to the track. When the voices leave, we sit in the static of recessing waves. This track also introduces the listener to the juxtaposition of the sisters’ light voices and the dark, heavier sounds.8.0
3. Chemical Dizzy
Here we begin to get the depth of the sisters’ philosophical musings. Though the opening lyrics echo the tempo of the chorus in “Same Side,” the lyrics here are more meditative, even “dizzy.” This track serves as an exposition to a series of aphorisms, riddles, and rhetorical questions. The sisters sing, “Numbers can’t explain the universe connection between a mind and a dream” and admit heady statements like “animal magnetism to the thunder,” “in between the question and reason,” and “opposites only exist with each other.” Graveface’s backdrop provides an effectively muted backdrop for the sisters’ meditative musings, but the song, overall, can be considered a quick and forgettable trip in and out of a subconscious if the listener doesn’t try to parse out the lyrics.7.5
4. Ashes & Embers
If you’re still on that unicorn, you’re now riding through dense fog in the middle of the night. This is the album’s “heaviest” track. The drums contribute a girth that the previous tracks haven’t reached. The lyrics circle unanswered questions like “Isn’t it a waste of time pretending there’s a reason to play the part of someone who isn’t you?” and “Isn’t it strange how it happens so slowly?” Graveface’s synthetic interlude provides an emotive reiteration of the forlorn and unresolved thoughts at play. The interaction between the vocals and the synth are particularly harmonious here.8.5
5. True Love Kills the Fairy Tale
The title song for the album opens, “It was madness that moved you from the known to the unknown.” The track’s steady, upbeat tempo, and melodic overtone is a departure from the darkness created in the last track. This very overtone, however, also connotes the same questioning and hesitancy experienced in “Ashes & Embers.” The instrumentals in this track noticeably carry as much weight as the voices. When the chorus hits, the instrumentals supports it. The instrumentals accent the chorus—“true love kills the fairy tale”—by matching the syllabic announcement of each word. Graveface’s abilities shine in this track. He layers multiple elements towards the end then retracts them at the moment we feel cradled. There’s also a push and pull within the sisters’ vocals. Here we get a strong understanding of the sisters’ synchronous asymmetry.8.5
6. Secular Love
Leaning more towards the ambient, this track punctuates the pacing of the album. The slowing down interrupts the build-up accrued in the first five songs. Here, you walk the unicorn through a misty forest. This track also seems more stylized and less organic. The sisters sing about kitschy material and the use of what sounds like a modified kazoo further limits the lyrics’ potential. After each sung statement, the kazoo comes in. It sounds like a shrug or a patronizing “no-no” and lends itself as a cheap comical effect that, in the end, is distracting, awkward, and unseemly. This combination of sounds seems like an attempt at aural irony. This track is the beginning of the album’s weak spot.6.7
7. Holding You Back
Remember the unicorn you stole from your ex’s backyard? It dropped you off at a strip mall. OK, maybe not exactly a strip mall, but a place one can easily drive past and not care to remember. With a faster tempo reminiscent of the beginning tracks, “Holding You Back” has a promising beginning. However, this track lacks the lyricism I’ve learned to expect from the front half of the album. With lyrics like “The night has gone black, the daylight is blinding” and “When you think about me when I’m gone, don’t be blue,” there’s a divergence into the cliché. The best part of this track is hearing the sisters’ voices round and ricochet off each other. There’s also more play on their vocal range. Nonetheless, this track leaves me sorely wanting more.6.5
8. Stone & Rock
This is the album’s lullaby. It’s a track that turns up the volume on itself, culminating to blanket the listener in a flood of sounds. The steady pacing of the beats against the breathy vocals provides a nice texture throughout the track. This track returns to the vibe created in the first half of the album. The lyrics are already more interesting than the previous track—“Our love is not like water, it’s made of stone and rock.” The sisters sing, “Put your right hand to heaven in case there is a god,” providing another poignant moment in the track. “Stone & Rock” is our entrance back into their beautiful weird world.7.5
9. Perfect Little Soul
Graveface’s sensibilities shine again in the album’s longest track. The melodic keyboard acts as the chorus, supplementing the despair felt in this track. This is the musical rendering of your thoughts standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. If the album were to have a thesis, this would be it. This track captures the elements of the sisters’ lyrical concerns and Graveface’s electronic wizardry. The instrumentals create a panoramic feel and a girth reminiscent of that in “Ashes & Embers.”8.5
10. The Chase
The track begins in a cacophony then goes immediately into a melodic overtone similar to earlier songs like “Day to Day.” The final track is a return to the aesthetics that opened the album. The lyrics, curiously, provide an open-ended conclusion to the album. The sisters sing “there is no prize. There is no finish line. There’s only forgiveness.” Though applicable to a romantic relationship, this track is also applicable to the sisters’ artistic intentions. The final track is the sisters’ final foray into ars poetica. The repetition of “forgiveness” at the end of the track creates an apologetic tone—as if the sisters are apologizing for leaving us a little bit broken at the end, for leaving us entranced in their own disenchantment. This is a solid ending to the album.8.0
Denver transplant Jenifer Park roll tides at the University of Alabama for her MFA in poetry.

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