Ark's strength is its delicate balance between childish sounds (cooing vocals, meowing cats, plinking pianos) and grown-up lyrics (aborted babies in "K-Hole," financial greed in "Armageddon," fights taken too far in "South 2nd"). That blend of innocence and corruption permeates every aspect of Ark, even its artwork—a primitive line drawing of a unicorn humping a horse, which is humping a horned zebra, which is puking rainbow-colored droplets.
The duo works best in collaboration with others: the fall-from-innocence story of "Beautiful Boyz" (an orphan is jailed after stealing from a nun) pairs one sister's creaking voice with guest Antony's melancholy, theatrical vocals. Bianca's boyfriend, Devendra Banhart, sings in crackly Spanish against the sisters' ghostly humming on "Brazilian Sun." But even on their own, the sisters maintain their childish weirdness: the simple, airy melody of "Honey or Tar" belies steamy lyrics such as "Undressed you with my eyes I have/ Maybe even raped you/ In a dark and eerie corner of my mind." In such moments, the sisters' elusiveness truly pays off, as their unpredictability makes their music all the more enticing.
-- Catherine P. Lewis