Mr. Gnome are a Cleveland-based duo made up of Nicole Barille on vocals and guitar and Sam Meister on drums and occasional keyboards. The songs often feel like the product of a tension between the two—with Barille’s swoopy little-girl voice pulling into dreamy pop territory and Meister’s clockwork pounding lending a harder edge.
Mr. Gnome is not a band that find a groove and sticks with it. Tunes like “We Sing Electric” start and stop and switch gears unexpectedly. When it works, as on “Wolf Girls” or the six minute-plus epic “House of the Circles”, the whole ends up being more compelling than the sum of its parts. When it doesn’t quite work, as on “Bit of Tongue” and “Outsiders”, the musicians seem to be working at cross purposes, with Barille’s groaning soprano getting the prize for headache-inducing stridency. Approach with caution.