Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chasing Rainbows

Psychedelic pop really is my thing. That, and bubblegum pop. Also, I can’t resist power pop.. power pop perhaps from the 90s? Combine all these and wow.. The music I’m going to describe now isn’t however power pop or bubblegum. It’s psychedelic, orchestrated pop from the 60s.

I found this UK-based band Nirvana maybe a year ago when I was looking for good sunshine pop. The group was founded in 1967 by Greek-born Alex Spyropoulos and Irish-born Patrick Campbell-Lyons. At that time, symphonic pop was popular and it shows in Nirvana’s early music. Later the band went on to make more progressive rock-styled music. They have never been very successful commercially but if you ask me, they should have been. I think they are a more interesting band than Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana – especially because I’m a person who loves melody-oriented baroque-psychedelia to pieces.

All of Us is Nirvana’s second album, released in 1968. It is a very good album filled with lovely psychedelic soft pop songs. It sounds to me like a combination of The Beatles’ more baroque-symphonic work and Sagittarius. One of my favourite songs is the opening track Rainbow Chaser, a brilliant tune with magnificently dramatic violins and trumpets. The song also has great melodies, and excellent female choir vocals, like many other songs on the album.

Tiny Goddess combines peacefulness with melancholy in an extremely beautiful way. The Touchables (All of Us) and Melanie Blue do approximately the same thing. Trapeze is probably my most favourite song of the album – you can’t go wrong with such a catchy, magical melody. Miami Masquarade is also really catchy, and the same is true of Girl in the Park, Frankie the Great, and practically every other song, too. The four bonus tracks are also very good.

This album is a true gem for anyone who likes symphonic pop with some psychedelia. I love this album so much that I think I’ll get more albums from the band!

Rainbow Chaser (YouTube)

Tiny Goddess (YouTube)
Show Must Go on (instrumental song, YouTube)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ho Ho Ho, It’s Magic

Here’s a most brilliant song that I discovered some days ago. It is a song by Scottish pop band Pilot and it’s called Magic. Pilot was founded by ex-Bay City Rollers members David Paton and Billy Lyall in 1973. This song is utterly wonderful, catchy and memorable. It sounds probably more like Electric Light Orchestra than Bay City Rollers but hey, we all love both bands, don’t we?

In a way this song is kind of Christmassy. It goes “ho ho ho” which I believe is something that Santa Claus says.. So, enjoy! This video is from the Top of the Pops show, year 1974. I’ve already listened to this song a couple of times too many. Maybe it’d be good to check other Pilot songs too..

This is the classic problem with perfect pop songs. You can’t get enough of them, they become an obsession and as a result stop you from looking for more perfect songs because you can’t stop listening to your previous perfect pop find.. This happens to me constantly. It’s fun, I have to admit.

THE Swedish Pop Wonder

Right now is the perfect moment to get to know Sweden’s pride: a globally successful 70s pop group, winners of Eurovision Song Contest 1974, one of the best pop bands of all times! It’s of course ABBA I’m talking about, and this band definitely is worth mentioning. They are the most famous Swedish band ever, and insanely successful commercially. They continue selling millions of albums every year, and combined with income from musicals it’s no wonder they are one of the most commercially successful bands ever.

Why now, then? First, you already know it’s always a perfect moment to be a pop fan. Second, everyone should be familiar with this group. So, if you aren’t, it’s about time! Third, there is now a complete ABBA box out, nine CDs containing eight most important albums of the group’s ten albums and a bonus CD. The box is called The Albums.

I haven’t really been that close to ABBA so far but I really intend to do something about that. In fact, I am a Nordist which means I’m supposed to familiarize myself with Scandinavian culture. Anyway, I recently proved myself that I’m much closer to this band than I thought. ABBA is actually as familiar to me as The Beatles, probably even more familiar. It’s actually really difficult to avoid hearing ABBA’s music here in Finland – not that it’s a bad thing, not at all (at some other occasions unavoidable music-hearing surely is unwanted). This means that I already have heard probably all of the group’s hits. I checked this with ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits collection that had 19 songs. There were only 1-2 songs that were unfamiliar to me.

So, now really is time to enhance your (and my) knowledge of ABBA! Although I haven’t ordered the new box yet, I intend to do so very soon.

Abba at YouTube

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Sweet Apples

It was a few years ago when I started listening to The Apples in Stereo. The band is associated with the famous lo-fi/indie pop collective Elephant 6 that I definitely wish to explore further. I’ve already checked out some material from Beulah and Of Montreal (I also remember listening to a couple of songs by The Olivia Tremor Control), but there are also many other interesting bands to listen to. The collective is big, so I believe there is a whole lot of fun ahead of me – fun and quirkiness. The bands that I’ve already listened to have all proved to be quite unique.

The first Apples in Stereo album that I properly listened to was New Magnetic Wonder (2007). At the time it was the group’s latest. Once I got around to listening to it several times it started showing promise, and it didn’t take long before I start enjoying Robert Schneider’s wild ELO-like backing vocal effects and energetic, upbeat songs. The vocal effects are airy and magnificent, and usually successful. There is a moment or two when the vocal effects are slightly OTT but it’s not such a big sin.

Can You Feel It? and Same Old Drag are examples of successful vocal effect experiments. Both songs are also very catchy. Energy is a hit. It sounds like a mixture of Oasis and Electric Light Orchestra, and probably something else too. Hilarie Sidney who has since left the group provided New Magnetic Wonder with a couple of good tracks: Sunndal Song and Sunday Sounds. Play Tough is a beautiful melody, definitely reminds of The Left Banke’s Walk Away Renee. In the end of the album there are a couple of very grandiose songs: Open Eyes and Non-Pythagorean Composition Pts. 3-4 – perhaps not personal favourites but definitely not bad either.

The album’s biggest problem is the huge number of instrumental interlude tracks. Many people have already stated how unsuccessful the idea of placing them all around the album is. I guess everyone would still agree on the fact that once you’ve removed the interlude tracks from your playlist or mp3 player, New Magnetic Wonder works well as an album. It’s probably best listening to those instrumental tracks separately.

There was a long pause between New Magnetic Wonder and its predecessor Velocity of Sound (2002) which is also one sweet album. While New Magnetic Wonder is ELO-oriented Velocity of Sound sounds like Weezer. It’s clear right from the first moment of Please. Although the album easily brings Weezer to mind with its loud, distorted guitars, it’s not geeky – at least in the same way as Weezer.

One of the absolutely coolest things about The Apples in Stereo is Robert Schneider’s voice. There’s definitely some good nasal vibe there, and the way he makes himself sound like a 6-year-old.. It’s simply amazing - and really sweet. There are many moments on Velocity of Sound album when Schneider’s vocals blow my mind. That’s Something I Do and Do You Understand? are wonderful, as well as Please. Baroque is also brilliant. There is not much baroque instrumental quality but one melodic part definitely is baroque! Another really cool track is Yore Days, a song in which the album’s vocal style suddenly turns completely different.

This band has made many albums and EPs – I don’t even know how many.. They’ve also released a new creation quite recently. It’s called Electronic Projects For Musicians.

The Apples in Stereo at MySpace

Pop from the Dear Western Neighbour

Looking for some new 60s pop? Try Swedish! There was a lot of pop activity in this country back in the 60s. Pop such as instrumental rock (á la The Shadows) and beat music was adopted from the United Kingdom as well as American-styled rock’n’roll, pop, folk-rock and many others. There are, in fact, two excellent 2CD Swedish pop collections called Swedish Graffiti (Unfortunately, it’s probably very difficult to find those).

One of my most recent Swedish favourites has been Hep Stars. This band performed different styles of pop and rock. Their cover choices included Mike Berry (Tribute to Buddy Holly), The Kinks (So Mystifying) and others. The general sound of Hep Stars is quite mellow and includes Byrds-like feel and harmonies. Another strong point of their music is baroque melancholy. Check out Consolation and you’ll be mesmerized!

Hep Stars featured a future ABBA member Benny Andersson as a keyboardist. The band was active in years 1963-1969. During that time they released many albums and had numerous hits in Sweden.

Hep Stars at YouTube

Flipping and Melting

It’s time for some more The Sun Sawed in 1/2 praise! The group’s second full-length album Mind Flip came out in 1995, and it remains as their most straightforward record. It contains no violins, saxophones, trumpets, french horns or other fancy psych-baroque elements – there are some keyboards and one electronic beat though! This album proves that this band is capable of recording some very interesting powerpop music also with a bit more simple approach to arrangements.

The album is about 30 minutes long which is a perfect duration. There are way too many too long albums in the world, but I’ve never heard of a single album that would be too short. It’s always an advantage being economical – some people may disagree, but on the other hand I’ve never seen the point in recording minutes of buzz with nothing happening.. There should be action, energy, rock’n’roll, and melodies! It’s melodies where the magic happens.

This album definitely doesn’t lack excellent melodies. Right in the beginning of the album listeners are introduced to the sweetest voice on this planet. Yes, the one that gives a brand new definition to sweet! (As the previous one wasn’t even close to sufficient..) While Mind Flip is not the most mind-blowingly catchy song in the world it’s a perfect introduction to this album. Tim Rose’s magic never fails, and it surely doesn’t do it now.

For me, the whole love affair with SS1/2 started from Janet Greene. Now that I look at the song it sounds a bit surprising. It’s very catchy and original but I’m not sure if it really is the best way to introduce people to this band (for many people it probably has been). Now that I know The Sun Sawed in 1/2 better I don’t listen to Janet Greene particularly often anymore. I guess this is in fact a quite common phenomenon. You don’t choose the song that best represents the band to be the first single - instead you pick a song that has something more unusual, a hook that will get people’s attention. It surely worked with me, and it was good that it did! Janet Greene is a song – a fantasy - about the most divine girl there is, the one that looks like Monroe, Bardot and Fawcett at the same time. Basic pop thematic there.

Among the songs that I listen to most frequently are the following tracks. Fall is a beautiful and melancholic tune about not feeling alright. A lot of comfort is however added to the song in the form of upbeatness that is nicely embedded in the melodies – a representation of the exciting happy-sad –balance of powerpop that intrigues me very much. Life is another song about difficulties in life, melodically brilliant, a lot of soul there! Life is followed by one of the most magical moments in Sun’s catalogue, The Tops of Trees. The song floats in the air like a feather and is accompanied by an electronic beat that is transformed into acoustic drum beat in the end. There are also some very Pink Floyd-esque organ sounds in the end of the song. The vocals (so good!) and lyrics capture the delicate moment right before you close your eyes in the evening.. The lyrics also shed light on the true essence of love. What could ever be more wonderful?

There is no room for any sort of weaker moment on this album. Every song is good. Dashboard Christopher charms with its melodies and catchy riff, single track Green M&Ms deals with a boy-wants-girl theme and like Dashboard Christopher, shows Doug Bobenhouse’s lower vocals nicely. As I’ve already stated a couple of times before, based on the information that can e.g. be found on SS1/2’s music, every particle of air that travels through his vocal chords becomes something beautiful.. Remember that.

Head in the Sand Stan is also one of my favourites, a bouncy song with a catchy chorus and another low-tone melody that interestingly follows the guitar riff. Finally, there are Devil Fish and Wish, the most rocking two songs on the album – very nice work indeed. Devil Fish makes me wonder a bit what it would sound like if this band experimented with some more hardcore-like music..

When I think about the lyrics of this album I get the feeling that Tim Rose’s lyrics used to be a bit more metaphorical, more psych-themed in the past. There are definitely no shamans in his more recent lyrics. On Mind Flip, as usual, Rose’s lyrics are filled with dozens of lively expressions – and many, many words! Some of the songs (particularly on this album) are so packed with words that go forward so fast that I’m having problems with following the lyrics.. It’s my own fault, of course. I’m not a native English speaker, and my listening comprehension skills are still the weakest part of my knowledge of English. Even though I suck at understanding lyrics that I hear, I don’t feel I’m losing anything too important. I enjoy melodies so much. After all, I’m pretty convinced that if you concentrate too much on lyrics, you may not be able to hear and enjoy every bit of a brilliant, complicated melody – something that Tim Rose definitely masters.

Get this album now if you already don’t have it. You can find used copies of it quite easily – unlike the band’s first full-length or the debut EP. In my opinion, the entire catalogue of The Sun Sawed in 1/2 should be re-released as deluxe versions, but I know.. I’m just one person (who is slightly out of her mind due to this band’s utter brilliance).

The Sun Sawed in 1/2 at MySpace


Oh my.. This stuff is brilliant! While doing my usual bubblegum pop research, I came across a thing called The Wombles some time ago. These creatures do look a bit questionable to me now, as I never saw them when I was a kid.

The Wombles originally appeared as teddybear-like characters in children’s novels by Elisabeth Beresford, and in the early 70s they were made into a stop motion TV show – for children, of course. In the show these creatures were presented in a different form, with pointy noses. Music producer Mike Batt created a theme song for The Wombles TV show and then went on to write more music in Wombles theme, resulting in four full-length albums and chart success. A live act called The Wombles also played concerts, and the Womble characters always wore proper suits on stage.

The music of the Wombles is strongly associated with bubblegum pop, as well as novelty songs. I’m not really that familiar with the term novelty song, but it appears to have a lot to do with being funny and humorous. However, it’s not the same thing as humor music – on the other hand a humorous song isn’t automatically a novelty song. I don’t really know much about novelty songs but I guess I’ll learn as I do some more research..

Well, at least The Wombles’ music is definitely not all about sexual innuendoes, like 60s bubblegum pop sometimes/often is.. The Wombles’ 70s bubblegum music (as well as the TV show) contained a message about taking care of the environment – surely an important message for future adults! The music is catchy, rich soundwise, and like the most original bubblegum music, clearly influenced by nursery rhymes. Mike Batt, who was a clever producer, also added influences from many other cool genres: country, surf rock, calypso, and classical music among other things. The baroque-style string arrangements on several Wombles songs are really memorable – check out Remember You’re a Womble! What also needs to be said is that Wombles songs contain excellent vocals and harmonies.

Go ahead and listen to a couple of soundbites if you already haven’t! You won’t be disappointed. This stuff is easy-going sunny pop suitable for everyone – no matter if you’re a child or adult.

The Wombles at YouTube

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rollermania Rises

Well, the big news is that I’ve found myself a new craze and I’ve been enjoying it for nearly a month already. Bay City Rollers were the hottest Scottish teen idol boy-band of the 70s, and given my fondness towards bubblegum pop and well.. boy-bands.. it wasn’t such a big surprise I fell in love with this music.

These guys drove teenage girls wild 30 years ago, and I would be lying if I told they don’t look sweet when you look at their pictures. They were on the covers of every teen magazine, girls picked their favourite member.. That’s approximately what it was like when Backstreet Boys were on top of their fame and I was 12 and totally fond of them. However, their music doesn’t sound equally good compared to the Rollers’ music. Generally speaking, something about the late 90s boy-band/girl-band/bubblegum music was wrong. For me the most obvious thing is that it was too perfect soundwise - way too artificial. 70s bubblegum sounds much more pleasant even today.

Bay City Rollers came up with some excellent bubblegum pop. At first, they didn’t write songs and performed quite a few covers, but later they started writing their very own material, too. They scored a couple of #1 hits in the UK, Bye Bye Baby and Give a Little Love, and also succeeded well albumwise. The music pays a lot of respect to 60s bubblegum music, yet I sense some difference in the general sound compared to The Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Co. and others. The Rollers have a slightly more polished sound, and there are more violins than organ hooks in the music.

I’ve found The Very Best of Bay City Rollers a very entertaining collection of the group’s most popular songs. Among my biggest favourites are Saturday Night, It’s a Game, Shang-a-Lang, Remember (Sha-la-la), as well as Give a Little Love (that definitely deserves to be mentioned twice in this article!). I Only Want to Be With You is a really cool cover that always makes me wonder: “Geez, how can McKeown sound so brilliant?” Another song truly worth checking out is Love Me Like I Love You, a great representation of the group’s own songwriting, and it’s a wonderful song.

When it comes to the lead singer of Bay City Rollers, I’ve once again proved my true nature. It’s becoming more and more clear. The thing is, if you want to create music that will stay on the playlists of yours truly for the rest of her life, start a band and, as your first assignment, find a singer who sounds exactly (or at least very much) like Les McKeown. On the other hand, I really didn’t expect to find such a brilliant British (or rather Scottish) version of my #1 favourite singer this soon. What can I say, anyway? It’s another dream come true..

Bay City Rollers music at YouTube

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bleu’s Had Me Goin’

Since I’m such a huge Mike Viola fan, I decided to check out L.E.O.’s album Alpacas Orgling (2006). The album was and is a big joy. It sounded good right away and only got better with more listens. Bleu is the main character of the album and many people join him by singing and playing. I’m not very familiar with Bleu’s other stuff yet, but I just might get to know it.. His work is very convincing.

This is one of those great supergroup projects that seem to pop up every now and then.. There are lots of visitors on this album, and I don’t really recognize them all at this point, but I do recognize Andy Sturmer and Bleu’s Major Labels bandmates Mike Viola and Ducky Carlisle, as well as Isaac Hanson from Hanson, my childhood favourite band..

Alpacas Orgling is a great album with pleasant songs and melodies. It’s also nicely produced with rich sounds that leave the songs air to breathe. I’m especially happy with the amazing space-psychedelia. Distracted is for me the song that always sounds even better than other songs on the album. It’s pure melody magic – simple, yet probably the most complicated thing there is.

I hadn’t listened to much Electric Light Orchestra before but L.E.O. sounded so good that I started taking first steps towards becoming an ELO fan.. As you might expect I immediately found several cool songs from ELO’s Greatest Hits. We’ll see what that evolves into.

L.E.O. at MySpace

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Irreplaceable Pop

I don’t know where exactly I found out about this cool Swedish pop band Popsicle, but it’s a good thing I did. So far I’ve only checked out their first album Lacquer (1992) but man.. It’s good. Popsicle was a part of the great Swedish indie wave of the 90s. Popsicle came from Piteå and was active from 1991 to 1999. The group released a total of four albums, one mini-album, and a 2-disc best-of collection called The Good Side of Popsicle was also released in 2005.

The group’s sound seems to be based on basic Posies-pop with an addition of jangle guitars and noisy shoegaze elements. The result is interesting and sounds brilliant - some songs on Lacquer are, in fact, very loud and fast, resulting in totally manic, hyper-energetic feel. The mania is balanced nicely by Andreas Mattsson’s calm, whispering TFC-esque vocals that, on the other hand, enhance the hypnotic feel of songs like Undulate (what a beautiful song!) and Pale Honey. The band’s two lead singers have quite different voices which makes the music more interesting. I enjoy both Mattsson’s and Fredrik Norberg’s vocals. Norberg sounds quite a lot like Sloan’s Jay Ferguson, I think.

It took a while before I was able to listen from track 2 (Popcorn) forwards – I just loved the song so much! Hey Princess is one of the group’s most famous songs, and it surely is good. Norberg sings generally more melancholic and bittersweet songs than Mattsson. She and Irreplaceable, in addition to Popcorn, are very nice songs. Everything on this album is good. It’s such a joy to listen to this kind of albums.

A quick check at YouTube revealed that Andreas Mattsson now has a solo career. There are some songs and videos there to be seen. Popsicle samples are also best found at YouTube.

Popsicle videos at YouTube

A Bit of Americana and a Touch of Post-Hardcore

The past weekend proved to be quite entertaining when it comes to live gigs, once again. The most wonderful experience was the live performance of Hi-Lo & In Between, a local Americana band. The band revived some very good feelings in the audience. One girl was even heard sigh “Ihana!” (“Lovely!”) as a response to the group’s tender, acoustic sound and melancholy. The sound of Hi-Lo & In Between was created with acoustic guitar, subtle drum work, double bass, violin, an occasional mandolin and Juha Timonen’s wistful vocals.

The group recently came up with a debut album called White Whale on Rocket Records. Get it if you like.. I already have one.

Hi-Lo & In Between at MySpace

A somewhat opposite end of music came to me on Saturday when I went to Vastavirta-klubi, a club that is known as the punk Mecca of Tampere. The evening’s most popular act was the Kauhava-based rock/emo/post-hardcore group Novembersoundsbetter. I found this band already last spring when I was confronted with my yearly “oh no, summer comes, the sun is shining (I thought it was supposed to be dark to the end of the world), what on earth is this??”-reaction. And as you can see, the band’s name seems to have something to do with AFI, although I’m anything but sure about if it’s intentional or not. Their music definitely has something to do with AFI.

I can’t help it. I like Novembersoundsbetter, and some other post-hardcore bands, too. I like the energy, the angst, and the interplay of normal and shrieking vocals. There are some nice melodies, too. The band released their debut album earlier this year. It’s called The Air Is Heavy with Forevers.

Novembersoundsbetter at MySpace

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tips from the Past

Lost in Music Festival was weeks ago but I want to mention some of the most interesting acts. Some of these were new to me at the moment of the live shows, and I plan to check out every one more carefully.

On Volcano impressed me once again with their amazing shoegaze-pop. It’s amazing how interesting their music is even though it’s based quite a lot on instrumental sections. No wonder the band actually started as an instrumental trio. As we know, they have a singer now, and melodies, harmonies and emotion. At the moment they are touring Russia and Baltic States. Once they get back I finally might be able to purchase their EP.

On Volcano at MySpace

Janne Laurila
, one of the m
ost talented singer-songwriters in the country, has started working on solo material – for the first time with Finnish lyrics. Laurila’s melancholy meets nicely with Finnish language, although his new direction requires some getting used to. I’ve seen him live so many times that it’s a bit strange to suddenly hear him sing in Finnish. His songs are great, of course, and the melancholic folk/country influences are present.

Janne Laurila at MySpace

, alias Jukka Salminen played a great set with his friend who played flute and guitar. Tapes songs are really good and there are a lot of influences from the 60s and 70s in them. Tapes just released his second album. I will check that out at some point, since his first album was already really good.

Tapes at MySpace

Antti Westm
an from the disco-rock group Brightboy has recently released an album of Finnish pop/rock classics under the name Westman. He also performed them live at Artturi. Westman has such an interesting and distinguishing singing voice, and these versions are well worth hearing. At least I liked them very much.

Westman at MySpace

is definitely one the the most promising new powerpop bands in Finland. The band rose from the ashes of another pop group called The Dance, and it was a huge thrill to hear how excellen
t the band sounded even though it had only been together for half a year. Stylistically Waterloo sounded quite a lot like Teenage Fanclub, and they even had the most perfect harmonies present. I hope this band does some more gigs soon – a lot more gigs. Pop people will want to hear this beauty!

Waterloo at MySpace

The most big-sounding and emotional act of the four-day festival was Rödsögården. For a pop-rock band that good I was almost surprised I’d never heard of them before. It’s not like I follow every music media that carefully.. But Rödsögården played extremely well together, and they basically sounded like they could be the next U2. It was so beautiful.. I was in fact moved to tears. There was a whole lot of emotion and excellent, oh so excellent melodies. Gee, this band I won’t forget!

Rödsögården at MySpace

I never thought anything good would come out of the, in my opinion, ver
y unpleasant Finnish girl duo PMMP, but it happened anyway. The members of My First Band also play in PMMP’s tour line-up, among other things. At Lost in Music Festival the group played a set of excellent power pop tunes. Their music included great melodies and cool synth sounds. A very memorable thing was also their lead singer, who was just about the most confident frontman I’d ever seen.

My First Band at MySpace

The final act of Friday’s huge 12-band cavalcade at Yo-talo was the international guest, Estonian The Sun. To me the band’s name was already intriguing, but the music was good too. It was hard-rocking rock, and it made me happy that there were also many nice melodies. The music reminded me a bit of Foo Fighters.

The Sun at MySpace

Kotoisat sävyt played a wonderful gig at Dog’s Home. Their style is a combination of blues, classic rock and influences from bands like The Who and Pink Floyd. Kotoisat sävyt released their debut album back in August.

Kotoisat sävyt at MySpace

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Brain Teaser – Especially for You

The blog is not dead yet – although I’m not so sure about myself. However, just in order to get something new done, here’s a nice powerpop video from Green Day! You can check your powers of observation by watching this. Press play and try to follow what happens! Then tell me how it went, if you like..

I’m not sure if anyone is really interested in blogs that don’t contain links to free music, but I just have to remember the main point of this blog: the most important thing is that I am interested.

Here’s the video for Redundant. Very nice!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mike Viola’s Magic

There is something really exciting about Mike Viola. I discovered him and his band The Candy Butchers last spring, and now my listening activity just keeps increasing. This music is something that feels so genuine and alive. Viola’s melodies are wonderful (at times totally mesmerizing), his lyrics are extremely honest, and his singing voice is low and husky (quite sexy, you might say..). All this makes Viola’s music sound really personal and distinctive.

So far I’ve checked out three Candy Butchers albums. Chronologically, these are the group’s second, third and fourth album. The first (self-titled) is out of print but available in mp3 form. These three following albums, however, are available.

Falling into Place (1999) is a very nice 14-song album with fresh sounds and catchy rhythms. Falling into Place and Killing Floor are really good, along with basically everything on the album. Break Your Heart is my favourite. It features very traditional powerpop instrumentation with outstandingly beautiful melodies.

Play with Your Head (2002) is even stronger that its predecessor, and contains very interesting arrangements. You really don’t hear powerpop songs like Ruby’s Got a Big Idea or My Heart Isn’t in It every day. My Monkey Made a Man out of Me is also hook-filled, and has a cool sitar riff. The even more tremendous side of this album are the beautiful slow songs You Belong to Me Now, Baby It’s a Long Way Down, and I Let her Get Away.

Hang on Mike (2004) is the most gentle-sounding creation of this album trio. There are no rock guitars but quite a lot of piano and peaceful ballads. Again, the album is filled with high-quality songs that are so strong that picking a favourite is difficult. Nice to Know You is beautiful, and Hang on Mike a nice, encouraging song. Sparkle! is interesting, and brilliant, of course. It deals with a very serious subject and is accompanied by some very happy harp sounds.

These following paragraphs that I spotted in describe Mike Viola’s essence so well that I’ll add them here (for once do some copy-pasting like everyone else):

“A worthy heir to The Beatles and Elvis Costello, Mike Viola blends catchy, creative tunes with clever, true to life lyrics and a hushed, desperate voice.
Viola is brutally honest with his listener; bearing his soul on the microphone, he reveals a man who, like ourselves, does not always have his emotional needs met, but in quiet desperation he fights through life to find happiness.”

Mike Viola has also participated in a couple of other projects in addition to Candy Butchers albums and solo material (solo album Lurch was released last year). He was a part of the pop supergroup L.E.O. with Bleu and many others. Earlier this year he released an album Aquavia, also made in collaboration with Bleu under the name The Major Labels. The album can be downloaded for free at Mike Viola’s website – you just have to tell three friends about the album (or alternatively pay anything you like). It’s a very, very nice album with awesome songs. Check it out now, as well as Mike Viola’s other music!

Mike Viola at MySpace
Mike Viola Website
L.E.O. at MySpace

Ego Tripping at the Gates of Heaven with The Trippers

Once again, I was made very, very happy by Egotrippi’s latest awesome live gig. They performed under the secret name The Trippers, which they usually do for a couple of times before starting an official tour. As usual, the gig was very long, and they played every song from their new album (probably except for Purple, a short instrumental interlude).

It was so amazing. The band plays extremely well together, and when they have so many wonderful, melodic, harmonic, and sentimental songs it’s such a joy to listen to them. It’s also always a huge thrill to see so many people enjoying melodic pop rock. Egotrippi is brilliant because they are one of the very few domestic powerpop acts ever to gain some sort of mainstream success in Finland. Thanks to Egotrippi there are thousands of Finns today listening to powerpop – not all of them probably realize they are listening to music called powerpop but it’s not much of a problem..

I’ve been a fan of Egotrippi for over five years which isn’t very long compared to the group’s age – they started in the early 90s. My enthusiasm level towards this band has varied quite a lot during that time, but I really feel I’m starting to get into the spirit of their music again.

The group’s new album is out now. It’s called Maailmanloppua odotellessa (Waiting for World’s End) and it’s their seventh and most folky album so far. Egotrippi used to be known for fun power pop songs that had clever, quirky and relatively tongue-in-cheek lyrics but they’re now making a lot more serious songs – with the high melodic quality and emotionalism remaining, or course. The album often deals with melancholic subjects but does it in a happy way, even a bit humorously.

Here’s Egotrippi’s latest music video Valssi, directed by movie director Aku Louhimies.

Egotrippi at MySpace

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bubblegum Is Back!

Once again, I've found myself in the middle of a huge 60s bubblegum craze (although I spent a considerable amount of time listening to Bay City Rollers today..)! I'm seeking new bubblegum bands and CDs and listening to the ones I already have although I'm supposed to be doing my homework. Good for me..

I also finally realized (given a hint) that The Archies, having being a cartoon band, can be viewed at YouTube - with relatively poor quality, but it's much better than nothing. Having a proper Archies DVD.. That would be something..

I'll give here one example of The Archies excellence. This is a wonderful song called Comes the Sun. I just found it.. Check out other Archies songs too, they're amazing! The graphics are also pretty cool.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Visual Music from Japan

Now here’s the MOST nasal band in the world. It’s Japanese Oshare Kei band An Cafe that has been very successful lately, also in Finland. At first I couldn’t believe how nasal a voice this band’s lead singer Miku had. Then, I thought it was already too nasal. Finally, I came to a conclusion: there is no such thing as too nasal…

An Cafe has been a small hit to me, although their music is complicated due to a couple of reasons. Oshare Kei is a subgenre of Visual Kei, a genre that could be seen as a Japanese version of glam rock. However, it’s a bit more that just glam rock, because it contains happy punk rock, hard rock, as well as even hardcore, and definitely some hints of new wave dance rhythms and funny keyboards.

Probably the most unusual thing about J-Rock bands in general is their incredible way of breaking genre boundaries. Japanese rock bands usually tend to explore many genres in their music – genres that may be very, very different from each other. Also, no western band performing hardcore music would ever have a completely nasal bubblegum singer! An Cafe vocalist Miku does sing in a hardcore style, too, but the first thing you’ll notice about him is that incredibly nasal sound.

Gokutama Rock Cafe (2008) is An Cafe’s latest full-length release. Its first half focuses on relatively melodic punk/alternative/pop-rock. Towards the end the album starts to show heavier sounds. It’s in fact a quite divided album. It’s as if the first half was designed for fans of melodic rock and the latter half for hardcore people. Perhaps the band couldn’t decide if it wants to be melodic or hardcore? I couldn’t say..

This band does have some really cool songs. My #1 favorite song is S*B*Y. I think it’s really brilliant! You can listen to it at YouTube.
I also adore a song called Hatsukoi from their Ademama Rock (2005) album. It’s a most wonderful song. Check it out too! You’ll see their crazy visual side there, too... I also recommend Nyappy in the World 3. There's some definite disco powerpop there! Finally, here's a link to my J-Music geek friend's (who introduced me to this band) favourite An Cafe song, Nyappy in the World. It's strange how they name these tunes..

An Cafe at MySpace

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monsters of Pop Sept 6th - Day Three

I just love writing when you don’t have a deadline – except for the final deadline, your own actual death. However, here’s the final part of my MOP report.

Ville Särmä is known from the Finnish rock band Kevin. This time Särmä performed his new solo material under the name Ville Särmän illuusio. While Kevin’s latest album was psych-garage-oriented, Särmä’s new material is more folky and melancholic and features careful arrangements and progressive song structures. It was actually very melancholic music. Särmä channelled his inner melancholy through his music, and the result was beautiful and organic.

Then came that moment.. Suddenly I felt like I was at the IPO. It’s not like I know what it’s like to be at the IPO, but this was definitely the band that would have suited to that festival better than any other act of MOP ‘08. The stage was taken over by Forest & Crispian, a Swedish trio that performed very cool garage-influenced music that the band calls new wave barber shop rock. The guys had practised their three-part harmonies carefully, and there indeed was something quite new wavey in the group’s exciting melodies and lead singer/standup drummer Adam Hjertström’s excellent vocals. Band members chatted with the audience in a lovely way. It’s really important, in my opinion, that the performer talks to the audience between songs.

After F&C’s gig, I thought to myself: “We have a winner.” Those songs, that energy.. Wow! Forest & Crispian’s gig was my favourite performance of the entire festival.

Joose Keskitalo performed at MOP together with Risto Ylihärsilä two years ago. Now it was time for a Joose Keskitalo show with his band Kolmas maailmanpalo. Keskitalo’s songs sounded once again really good, although they did sound quite dark right after Forest & Crispian’s happy high-energy gig. The audience, however, seemed to be even more excited about Joose Keskitalo than it had been during F&C’s performance.

The final act of the day, occurring at Klubi, was Swedish Familjen who had recently toured with another Swedish band, Kent. Familjen comes from Skåne, Southern Sweden, where people speak a lovely, incomprehensible dialect. Johan T Karlsson sang in Skånska, and along with the cool electronic beats it really sounded easy-going. A female guest vocalist was also a really good addition to the set.

All in all, it was a good festival. It wasn’t perfect this time either, but the majority of shows were top-class. If I just could decide which bands play next year.. Seriously, the number of powerpop acts was for the third time in a row ZERO. Gee, what kind of a pop festival is that?

A not so bad one, really.
But I have to do something about the powerpop statistics of MOP. Until next year..

Mosters of Pop Website

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monsters of Pop Sept 5th - Day Two

Day two of MOP started with a rather unusual performance by Credit - a very new group formed by My Lovin Martian of I Was a Teenage Satan Worshipper and Cute Pint of Pintandwefall. It was actually the duo’s first gig, and their first practise session had been held on Monday. Cute Pint and My Lovin Martian performed lots of good electropop songs, and I liked them all. My Lovin Martian is getting better and better at writing pop songs.

Le Corps Mince De Françoise was the next band. It was an all-girls band that performed energetic pop songs with electronic beats. It was basically good, but something about it bothered me.. It was those ultra cool beats that confused me. I believe those beats reminded me of the ones that are used in contemporary r&b – a type of music I spend considerable amounts of time trying to avoid at all costs. I couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling during the entire gig, but I’m willing to listen to this band again, see if my mind was just playing tricks on me.

If you look at the outer appearance of the members, Jesse is probably the unsexiest band you could imagine.. The guys wear denim with leather vests, sunglasses, and caps. Their music, however, is very interesting. It reminds me a lot of Aavikko, a electropop group that played live at last year’s MOP (what an amazing gig it was – I probably lost 2000 kcal during the performance…). Compared to Aavikko, Jesse is a lot more 80s-styled, and all their songs seem to be about cars, or driving fast in cars.. It’s probably the band’s unusual image that has gotten them a lot of attention, but their music is well worth checking out.

Then, it was once again time to move to Klubi. The second international guest of the festival took over the stage. The Deer Tracks played music that probably could be described as a form of post-rock. It surely sounded like Sigur Rós, though it was more electronic. The music was very beautiful and surely required some patience since the songs were sometimes quite long. The band had some reinforcements on the stage, including a trumpetist and a clarinetist. In addition, it was quite confusing how much lead singer and keyboard player David Lehnberg looked and sounded like AFI’s Davey Havok..

Regina played at MOP for the second time. In a bigger club environment the band’s sound was a lot different than what it was a year ago at Artturi. This time Regina also performed songs from their two albums, and new tunes. The songs sounded good and Iisa Pajula’s vocals were lovely, but the overall performance somehow felt.. slightly cold. Maybe the lights weren’t blinking as colourfully as I’d hoped for.. Or perhaps I just have a lot to learn about the nature of electronic pop. However, it was cool that their drummer had adopted a standup playing style..

The only non-electronic band of the entire day was the final act, Swedish First Floor Power that used to have Jenny Wilson as a member. The band seemed to enjoy performing their songs. However, honestly, I expected more from a critically acclaimed Swedish pop band. Their songs had potential but somehow they felt a bit faint. I also felt I’d heard a lot more interesting melodies before - that’s surely not a good thing to happen when you’re trying to find new favourite bands. Have I gotten myself used to so extremely catchy and complicated melodies that I now find it hard to appreciate a band that isn’t melodically so.. sparkling? I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll find out.

When I hear music that doesn’t immediately sound good, I never blame it on the music. It is my fault, my flaw if I can’t see the beauty of some specific music. This way of thinking does get problematic in many ways sometimes, but I won’t discuss it now.

In the end, it’s art. Who can really say the final word about it being good or not?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Monsters of Pop Sept 4th - Day One

Ever since Monsters of Pop indie festival was launched back in 2006 I’ve attended every concert. Last year it was quite difficult to see all gigs from beginning to end because at some points there were two bands playing in different venues at the same time. This time it was much better. You could easily see all bands and the festival had been moved to Klubi and Telakka from Yo-talo and Artturi.

The obviously well-named indiepop band Goodnight Monsters started this year’s festival and played a set of great pop tunes, mostly from their new album Summer Challenge. I had never listened to this band before and I noticed I totally loved the stuff and the gorgeous hooks. This type of twee-ish music is exactly what you might assume I listen to all the time, but I really haven’t really gotten into the genre yet. I’ve checked out some material from twee groups but usually ended up thinking: “This stuff kinda lacks rock’n’roll riffs.. and it could use some additional power and intensity, too.” I guess I’ll learn to love twee music as I listen to it more – a lot more.

Kastor was the second band. They played quite original alternative rock (which made me wonder why they chose rock bands again to this festival when it’s supposed to be pop) and it was really good. I might check out the band later. I still remember vividly how serious Kastor members seemed to be about their music. They really put all their energy and skills to the performance. It was almost scaringly intense.

Kiki Pau ended the first part of day one. This band was probably the most confusing thing of the entire festival. It was catchy and wild alternative pop-rock with very groovy rhythms. The confusing thing was the band’s lead singer, he looked and sounded somehow familiar.. I felt like I watching and listening to Janne Laurila’s brother who had made a bit different choice about his musical career – a bit more groovy and aggressive choice.

At Klubi, the opening act of the evening was Last Calls, a group that played very peaceful and melancholic music with film music and country qualities. It wasn’t the most exciting gig I’d seen, but it was quite suitable after two very loud, high-energy gigs.

Then, it was time for the first international guest, Russian post-rock group Everything Is Made in China. Post-rock was one of this year’s new themes in Monsters of Pop, and EIMIC gave a nice introduction to the subject. Very sympathetic, curly-haired Fedorov Maksim sang and played guitar while Zotov Aleksey banged the drums and cool graphics illustrated the silver screen.

Risto was the last performer of the day one of MOP. Risto Ylihärsilä’s anti-melodic pop was once again a big success, and having seen two Risto gigs before, I have to say Mr. Ylihärsilä’s performances just keep getting more and more demonic.. Risto creates entertaining pop/rock songs out of dead serious topics, performs them manically (scaringly intensive gig of the day #2), and makes the audience dance - Diskopallo being the biggest hit, of course.

More blabber to come..