Mr. Gnome: Madness in Miniature (El Marko)

Mr. Gnome is a Cleveland duo, and they make such an intense and glorious musical uproar that I wouldn't believe a word about this "duo" business if I hadn't seen them play with my own eyes.

Their latest release, Madness in Miniature, shows them perfecting their loud-soft-loud dynamic. They burst out of the gates with the track "Ate the Sun." Unassuming at first, the guitar builds and grinds while Nicole Barille's voice, all sweetness at the onset, gathers ferocity until the initial chorus hits—and it's time to fasten that seatbelt. She lashes out, unbridled, her vocal range tested at every turn. Once Sam Meister brings in the percussive reinforcements, you realize the full potential of this band.

The track "House of Circles" is six-plus minutes of pure genius, featuring the creative meshing of what sounds like three distinct, diverse songs. "Outsiders" starts off with a hint of frenzied spaghetti-Western flair, then slows to a My Bloody Valentine-esque waltz, with Barille insisting, "I would be trouble, I would be trouble, I would be ... ."

Progressive without pretension, hard-hitting with a feminine edge—it's rock 'n' roll as its finest.