Published July 10, 2013
One day someone is going to write an in-depth piece about how Iceland’s twee/krútt/naivete scene moved from a musical alternative to the aggressive homogeneity of mainstream culture to a clichéd consumerist lifestyle choice used to hawk everything from mobile phone networks to glacier tours.
But until then we have the self-titled debut from Icelandic four-piece Grúska Babúska. Murmurings from the band and their admirers have called their music “otherworldly,” “wonky,” and “feminine.” And listening to this EP, you could say that these descriptive words are correct, if your idea of otherworldly and feminine is reductive to the point of infantilism.
Everything about this EP is childlike to the point of affected regression. The music contains all the usual twee accoutrements from the ukulele to twinkly children’s toys to the horribly mouse-y vocals. But everything is so sonically polite and cloying that it doesn’t come across as magical or otherworldly. The wonky-ness of songs such as “Mid” actually feel safe and conservative.
Funnily enough, when they tone down such nonsense, on “Bur” for instance, they’re capable of making music that threatens to make good on their claims with thick synth sounds mixing with clean flute lines before moving into a decent chant-along.
‘Grúska Babúska’ wouldn’t work as a children’s album, but that’s not the point is it? These are adults playing as child savants, making music marketed to adults who prefer to see the world in a state of cosseted infancy.
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