The Ethnobabes

Stargazer

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AllMusic Review by

Listening to the turn of the millennium wave of super-sugary guitar pop gushing out of Norway, one gets the impression that this is what music would have sounded like if punk rock never existed. This observation isn't meant as a condemnation of the movement's giddy naïveté; in fact, with the (American) music scene having long been dominated by music driven by testosterone-fueled male sexual fantasies and unwarranted (white) middle-class rage, it is refreshing to come across bands so shamelessly devoted to attaining the pure pop aesthetic that was blossoming in the 1960s before being obliterated in the 1970s. Like their Perfect Pop labelmates the Loch Ness Mouse, the Ethnobabes present crisp, jangly guitar pop laced with whimsical bits of Farfisa, flute, and kazoo. However, whereas the Loch Ness Mouse's musical heart seems to have been swept away by the Beach Boys and the Monkees (oh, sure, and the Beatles as well), the Ethnobabes, being led by a female vocalist, sport the influence of those bands as well as traces of the saccharine pop of groups like the Sundays and, at times, the Corrs (that is, if the Corrs surrendered themselves to pure '60s dream pop rather than their self-consciously hip, G-rated sexy adult contemporary pop/rock of late). If Audrey Gallagher were locked in Willy Wonka's factory overnight, she might end up sounding a bit like the Ethnobabes' Eivor Vindenes. While Vindenes' lilting vocals are undeniably pretty, it often seems as though she may be straining a bit to stay in a higher vocal register. While this approach often yields some truly lush results (as on the La's-esque "My Dad"), it is also a bit of shame because on the occasions that she sings in what would seem to be a more comfortable, natural range, the result is far superior (listen to the dreamy "My Favourite Fool" and "Jennifer Reads" for proof). Though the songs generally tend to be quite similar in tone and pacing (sparkling layers of merrily strummed guitars), Stargazer is such a warm album that it is hard to take too much of an issue with it. Like the Loch Ness Mouse's gorgeous Flair for Darjeeling, Stargazer is one of those records that serves as the perfect soundtrack to an especially bright summer day. Plus, in those dark winter months, a little sunshine, real or musical, goes a long way.

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