Perfect Pop Records

Perfect Pop Records

POP43 – Splendid E-Zine

Norway’s Ethnobabes make marvelous pop music, despite their rather insipid name. Stargazer lives up to their label’s name (Perfect Pop) and serves as a soundtrack for springtime picnicking and beach blanket dreaming. This is one of those increasingly rare albums that can be enjoyed without asking such bothersome questions as “Who did this first, better, and indier?”, as The Ethnobabes create a timeless sound that is at once instantly recognizable and entirely their own.

From the outset, attention is drawn to the beautiful feminine vocals. The lead singer conveys a sense of innocence and whimsy that works perfectly with The Ethnobabes’ brand of saccharine pop. It’s easy to picture her smiling angelically during each of the album’s thirteen cuts. Jangly, breezy, and undisputably catchy, the sonic statements on Stargazer are simple sentences that would teeter on the edge of overkill with the addition of another clause — or even a prepositional phrase. Many gems surface after a few listens. “Tales You Told” seems at first a bit too sugary, with a flute flitting about in the background, but eventually the distorted guitars take over and bring the song back to solid ground. The band fires up the Farfisa organ for the downright rollicking “My Dad”, one of the disc’s most infectious cuts, while closer “My Favourite Fool” — a fine example of buzzsaw guitar pop, complete with the obligatory spastic drum fills — is the album’s most aggressive moment. “Sea Side Silence” is definitely the standout; a slower tune that comes in on the heels of some faster numbers, it’s the point at which The Ethnobabes transcend playful pop and enter the confines of moody, beautiful rock. The vocals and bass are at their most polished, creating a smooth, lilting melody, but the group eschews a grand chorus, preferring to let the guitars do the singing — allowing for tension, atmosphere, dynamics and other more sophisticated elements that the group’s simplistic format generally doesn’t allow.

Tapping into this ear for beauty more often would make for a more consistent and challenging album. It’s easier to forgive a flat melody, or to get past excessive poppiness, if every song strikes the chords of the heart. In this respect, there is ample room for The Ethnobabes to grow — but for the time being, there’s no reason not to enjoy their delightful pop-rock sounds.

– Phillip Buchan

Perfect Pop Records, Postboks 783 Sentrum, 0106 Oslo •