Sugar and Spice: Cocos Lovers’ Elephant Lands

Cocos Lovers‘ debut, last year’s Johannes, is a lovely thing. Full of pastoral imagery, impressive vocal harmonies, and unique instrumentation, the album feels like a journey to another world–albeit one in the past, with lots of petticoats and wandering bards. The standout from that album was the spicy “Time to Stand”, a catchy track with exotic percussion and a rousing chorus. For me, “Time to Stand” actually epitomizes the slight disappointment I have concerning Johannes: why aren’t there more of these nuggets of perfection? While the album is filled with great music, many of the other songs lack the punch of this one track. A little more stylistic diversity would have done wonders.

It was with this in mind that I turned on the Kent-based band’s sophomore effort, Elephant Lands. In many ways, it seems that my unspoken wishes were granted: from the very beginning, the album experiments with new sounds and textures. The titular first track mixes electric guitar with sitar, flute, and a calypso-style bass line, and closing song “Twilight” ends with swirling piano. Single “Bow and Arrow” has an Indian vibe, breaking into a percussive fury halfway through. Even the band’s trademark wall of sound, which is still there in spades, feels lighter and more varied. The a cappella “Days are Long” is a piece of Mountan Man-esque beauty, and the women’s harmonies in “Yellow” showcase their softer side. The structural changes are especially refreshing–I can’t see a song like “Lost Kids”, with its meandering arrangement, barely-there harmonies, and strong female vocals, on Cocos Lovers’ first work.

While Elephant Lands doesn’t contain anything quite as accessible (or dare I say, commercial?) as “Time to Stand”, it is just as enjoyable as their wonderful debut, and certainly more complex. The band continues to sound like nothing I’ve ever really heard before, this time mixing exotic flare with their characteristic old-world charm. Maybe Cocos Lovers did go off and visit some elephant lands–if so, it was time well spent.

Elephant Lands is out now.

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