'Gypsy Chicken' - '13 Billion Years' (album)
After featuring 'Martin Månsson Sjöstrand Trio' last week, I was conscious that we do sometimes head off almost too frequently in the direction of the unusual and offbeat, but we do love bands that do things that are slightly different to the norm, and 'Gypsy Chicken' write infectiously likeable, quirky alternative folk that is pretty difficult to define, but is both entertaining and charming in equal quantities.
Behind 'Gypsy Chicken' are 2 musicians, both Norwegian based, but from very different backgrounds. Solvei Stenslie was American born and Joanna Kreft from Poland, and they share the vocal duties together with Martin Lien on drums. But actually that doesn't even begin to explain who they are, because whilst describing themselves as a 'girl ukulele duo', they're actually a mini orchestra of different sounds and textures, utilising pretty much anything they can lay their hands on from tuba, kazoo to triangle, which all accompany twisted folk inspired tunes, with quite beautifully conceived lyrics. Every track is a complete delight - unique, unconventional, warm, witty and just slightly ridiculous.
'13 Billion Years' begins with 'Kamikaze Paper Planes' (a song with that title is always going to be good), and a simple enough opening, before it dances into life, and I like the contrast between unusual vocals that are somewhere between unworldly and childlike, and a more conventional catchy chorus - accompanied by an array of percussive 'tings'. But it's the lyrics that really catch my attention in 'Clockwork Universe', a song about fate and knowing the Universe silently guides our path in life - ''They say I can't think like that, how can I get up every day when I don't feel the pride... but I've never been the one in control'', and again the upbeat feel of the track contrasts wonderfully well with the tone of the words. 'Roulette' is irresistibly catchy, whilst in 'Spinn' they really capture my attention, eventually building to a wonderfully chaotic musical chorus of sorts, where they literally throw the kitchen sink at a cacophony of post punk folk noise.
'Edda & Eve' is subtle and well judged, charming catchy wordplay mixes with the soft vocal harmonised melodies, and it's an easy listening highlight of the album, and possibly a good introduction to all things 'Gypsy Chicken'. 'Telephone Wire' takes us back with a baroque, even medieval influence, whilst 'Dinosaur Mayhem' is gorgeously different, a song for those who don't want to conform to the rules, which seems to match the 'Gypsy Chicken' ethos perfectly - 'I'm not going to match my socks today, some purple and blue, maybe a dinosaur too'', with a huge swinging climax. And 'Diabetic Broken Heart' is an inspired topic for a song, before concluding with the rousing 'Go'dag, Goodbye, Adieu' which starts with the most subtle of accelerations, before racing at break neck speed to the end, in what must be a great song to watch live.
Even after a week of listening, I still feel I'm only scratching the surface with '13 Billion Years'. Firstly there's just so much going on musically, from the vast array of accompanying percussion sounds to the original, charming melodies, but lyrically every sentence is worth considering in more detail, sometimes dark and normally with a humorous point to it. Like other bands we love here at Nordic Music Review ('The School Book Depository', 'Koria Kitten Riot'), they take the approach of poking humanity with a big stick and laughing at its misfortune, rather than getting too downtrodden by the misery of everything. Of course, it's only right to point out that 'Gypsy Chicken' are quirky to the point of teetering on the edge of absurdity, but you can hear the enjoyment that these guys have making their music, and they do so in the most original and inspiring way. '13 Billion Years' is simply uttery marvellous, and it will give us so much listening enjoyment over the rest of 2020.