Cleveland duo Mr. Gnome boasts a sound that’s an impressive balancing act between soft and hard, masculine and feminine, ethereal and earthbound.
From the opening notes of “Spain,” Nicole Barille’s breathy vocals conjure up a misty place not quite a part of our reality, and certainly a far cry from their Rust Belt origins. With a name like Mr. Gnome, you know to expect some magic, but it’s not like Robert Plant singing about Mordor; theirs is a bit harder to put your finger on. “Hills, Valleys, and Valium” starts out like a gauzy dream, but Barille’s serrated guitars and drummer Sam Meister’s muscular beats cut through the haze quickly, building to a galloping rumble halfway through. The rollicking “Plastic Shadow” is a rust-bucket rocker that Cat Power should have recorded at some point, and “Pixie Dust” glitters like some lost 4AD band from 1988: light as a feather, but heavy enough to weaken the knees, much like the album as a whole.