Top 5: Mr. Gnome

Mr. Gnome
Madness in Miniature
El Marko Records
Street: 10.25
It’s hard to believe this album is the product of a duo rather than a full band, but having seen them live, I can testify that Cleveland-based singer/guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer/pianist Sam Meister are the only two musicians behind mr. Gnome—and with a box of pedals and a heap of talent, they’ve figured out how to execute their layered chaos on the road. Their third full-length release, Madness in Miniature, is more madness than miniature: The album was recorded Dark Side of the Moon style, each song transitioning seamlessly into the next. Barille’s vocals are unforgettable. Her voice demands attention, with screams and yelps à la Karen O, the child-like repartee of Joanna Newsom and the soft, ethereal whispers of Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino. Her wide-ranging vocal talent lends itself well to Miniature’s dynamic tracks. The band loves to start slow with whimsical, almost spooky intros—pretty vocals and soft drums—then stomp hard on their respective distortion/bass drum pedals to melt your face, Meister beating down hard and fast, Barille’s voice and heavy riffs adding to the chaos.  “Bit of Tongue” is the best example of this back and forth “madness.” My favorite track off the album, however, is “Wolf Girls.” Starting off with wolf-like yelps and a driving drum line with western-sounding guitar chords, the song slows to half its original tempo mid-track and amps up the distortion on both vocals and guitar before it climaxes into full-blown madness, Barille blaring out “Eh, eh, eh!” during music rests. Madness in Miniature is beautiful, frightening, maddening. Guaranteed if you pick it up, you won’t put it down for a while. There’s just too much going on to not give it a few listens at least. –Esther Meroño