Sunday, December 27, 2009

Midas Touch

Macaulay and Macleod – who are they? I didn't really know until I decided to buy a 2CD compilation called Buttercups & Rainbows: The Songs of Macauley & Macleod. I listened to the music and was thrilled. That was also when I learned that Tony Macaulay and John Macleod were, in fact, a British equivalent to the American bubblegum music industry – a winning songwriting team who scored many hit singles in the UK between 1965 and 1973.

The purpose of these songs was of course to get them to the charts and make as much money as possible but Macaulay, Macleod, the artists and musicians inrefutably created something truly wonderful in the process. The result was timelessness captured in dozens of beautiful pop songs – these two CDs contain fifty of them. It really seems that Macaulay and Macleod turned their ideas into gold in more than just one way. Their songs were golden even when the singles failed to chart.

This set is packed with awesome pop warmth. It is soulful, it is happy, it is sparkling… Just listen to the incredibly catchy melodies, excellent background vocals and superb string and horn arrangements and you’ll soon feel like celebrating. One of the most famous songs here is of course Build Me up Buttercup by the Foundations. You will probably also recognize Smile a Little Smile for Me, the great song by the Flying Machine. Besides these bands there are also numerous others and to me they were mostly new. Marmalade was familiar but I really had never heard of such bands as the Paper Dolls, Pickettywitch or Jefferson. Well, now I know and I couldn’t be happier!

I love the evil 60s/70s bubblegum music empire, no matter if it is UK or US. And it doesn’t bother me at all that those people are, in fact, taking my money.

Listen to some stuff from this compilation (YouTube):
The Foundations: Build Me up Buttercup
Pickettywitch: Same Old Feeling
The Paper Dolls: Something Here In My Heart
Marmalade: Baby Make It Soon
The Flying Machine: Marie Take a Chance
Jefferson: Baby Take Me in Your Arms
The Committee: Sleep Tight Honey

Tina Tott: Take Away the Emptiness Too

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Free Stuff from Locksley

A couple of days ago I noticed Locksley is giving out free music in EP form. This three-song EP is part of a MySpace campagne called “Wendy’s Fresh Faces”. Well, Locksley are definitely fresh (and beatlesque!) and I did enjoy their debut album Don’t Make Me Wait. The sophomore album Be In Love (cover on the left) has already been released in Japan and a US release will follow on January 26th. I will surely check this one out too.

This free EP contains two songs from the first album and one song from the new album (Darling, It’s True). A quick look at the band’s MySpace revealed that there definitely isn’t shortage of video material or streamable music there. Something to do for the holidays, perhaps...

Grab the EP (click the “free music download here!” banner on the right)
Locksley on MySpace

Opening Heaven’s Doors Again

I really want to mention this release. It has been too many years since there was a new album by Wondermints but that it about to change - sort of. A new CD has already been released both in the UK and US. This release is called Kaleidoscopin’ - Exploring Prisms Of the Past. It is a collection of rarities: demos, covers, songs from various compilations, etc. The CD comes with cool photo material and liner notes written by the band. I’m looking forward to get the CD. Didn’t find it in my mailbox yet but I’m hoping to get it for Christmas…

Wondermints and their wondrous psychedelic pop have influenced me very much. Their jangly, dreamy, melodic music has made a huge impression on me and guided me to the right direction in my search for the loveliest pop music. I found out about Wondermints in 2004 when I was listening to Brian Wilson’s SMiLE. Soon Wondermints became a very dear thing for me. I think they held the position of my #1 favorite band for some time… I listened to all their albums, including the cover album The Wonderful World of the Wondermints – loved that one too and slowly started discovering the original versions of those songs (many of which were new to me). The first album (Wondermints, 1995) is of course my favorite, pure greatness from beginning to end.

These Wondermints guys should really get back together. I bet they have some new material in their drawers already… It’s been years after all. I have heard they have had some problems with logistics – which is of course no reason to quit! Playing with Brian Wilson’s band must be extremely rewarding, but dear Wondermintitos, why not record a new album sometime? I know, there have been lots of interesting side projects and stuff but pop fans all over the world would be absolutely thrilled if you decided to record a new Wondermints album.

What if I ask nicely? Please…

Wondermints at MySpace

Light in Darkness

Some time ago I reported about a debut EP (Studies in Timing and Coincidence, 2008) by a band called Pinstripe 45's. Now this group has finished their debut album – it is called Through the Darkened Window. The result is a peaceful, melancholic singer-songwriter release with lovely, organic sound policy of acoustic guitars, piano and strings.

In contrast to the EP, on this debut full-length bandleader Marshall Hanbury Jr. expresses himself a bit more freely, letting his voice to be heard more directly. Expressed suitably in the theme of the album, this time Hanbury places himself behind a window that is darker and clearer at the same time. Now the influences behind this music are also revealed somewhat differently – more clearly, in fact. Bob Dylan is of course still strongly present. Another name that comes to mind is James Blunt. Hanbury definitely bears some vocal similarity to the British singer.

Bob Dylan’s folky influence also seems to lead Pinstripe 45’s to present some slightly country-tingled expression on the album. Hanbury’s interest towards country-ish rendering can be sensed in his vocals in some places. Due to this country/folk aspect an artist such as Langhorne Slim might also be a relevant comparison. Fans of the Byrds’ early material will most likely enjoy the jangliness of Because She Waits and Even When You Cry.

The voice of Hanbury and his songs is sincere, melancholic and carries both desperation and beauty. If I were to describe Hanbury’s vocal style with one word that word would certainly be bittersweet. No matter how you would like to describe him, one thing is for sure: many songs on this album contain a hook that will make them quite easy to remember.

The music of Pinstripe 45’s will probably paint different pictures to the minds of different listeners. I think this music could suit as a soundtrack for any tranquil, wistful moment. The hopefulness that lies in the melancholy can however make listeners see a bright landscape in their minds rather than a darkening one. Now, with the debut album released, it is to time for the band to keep discovering new approaches to its expression. Through the Darkened Window describes a dark period in life. The next thing I would like to see is obviously what kind of an effect a nice flash of sunlight would have in the world of Pinstripe 45’s.

Pinstripe 45’s on MySpace
Through the Darkened Window page

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Twist and Roll with the Boorays

Here is another cool band that I found while researching The Sun Sawed in 1/2. The Boorays were another talented early 90s pop-rock band from St. Louis. Comprising of Mark Stephens, Andy Thomson, Mike Hellebusch and Bob Kaemmerlen this band achieved something that might be described as a cult status and attention in indie rock circles all around the world. It didn’t even take long to discover a Finnish article about their 7’’ single Girl Repellent/You Move Me Like a Slug in the press gallery on Brickhouse Acoustics site. Now, here I am, writing about them to my own Finnish indie rock “magazine” - not in Finnish, though…

Three albums were recorded by this quartet: a self-titled The Boorays (1990), Pumpkin Pie Crustacean (1991) and Hollow in the Middle (1994). In the 21st century the Boorays have returned to play a reunion gig every now and then, most recently in November 2009.

The Boorays’ music is enjoyably danceable and straightforward and it clearly indicates influence from 70s punk. The music keeps reminding me of Buzzcocks and the Cure’s early material. It is very easy to develop affection towards the Boorays’ stripped down yet rich, crunchy sound and wonderful low-tone riffs. The songs are of course melodic and catchy. The overall mood of this music could be described as energetic and sweetly melancholic, an interesting mix of happy riffs and wistful melodies. All in all, the Boorays have an ear for fast-tempo rocking pop songs. They also love to twist. You will notice it soon when you put on their first CD. Well, twist is probably the grooviest beat there is… The twist can be seen as one of the surf rock elements of the Boorays’ music.

All three Boorays albums were remixed and remastered by Mike Hellebusch and released in 2005. They are available for purchase in a CD-R-type-of form. Two of the CDs contain 1-2 bonus tracks. I already grabbed the whole bunch and haven’t regretted it for a second. For music samples go to MySpace. Also check out the following video for Band of Gold.

The Boorays on MySpace
The Boorays Brickhouse Acoustics site

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dodgy in a Flying Van

Continuing in the theme of cool, more or less summery music videos, here is a video from UK band Dodgy. I wanted to share this video because I just saw it for the first time a little while ago and enjoyed it very much. There are not so many music videos that contain a flying van... Also, a piece of summery feel can never be a bad thing in December, the darkest time of the year.

So, here we have another tune filled with catchiness and sweet harmonies. Interestingly this video is a TV rip from a Finnish music show called Bänd-X that was shown for a couple of years in the early 2000s. There have been quite many different music shows on Finnish TV in the past 15 years but they have pretty much all disappeared. I used to follow those shows but now I don’t even have a television in my apartment anymore… Internet is all I need to find new music.

Enjoy Dodgy’s summery pop video! In case you're interested (and don't know it), klassikko means classic.

Dodgy website
Dodgy on MySpace

Monday, December 14, 2009

Webstirs Video “Wesley Station”

Check out this video from Chicago band The Webstirs. It was released quite recently – in September if I’m correct. It is their debut video and a really nice tune. Flowers, listening to vinyl LPs, power poppin’ hooks… It’s a combination of summer and the feeling of a great band playing live in your living room. Trumpets are of course very hip, too. Someone said that everything sounds better with horns. Can’t argue with that!

I really should listen to this band more – I intend to do just that. The material on MySpace sounds very good. I don’t know much about the Webstirs, except that there are some fabulous guys in the band, and that they have fabulous friends... Well, I’m already starting to get into the music as I’m listening to them now. Geez, I really dig the sound of Big Break. And What Do You Believe. Awesome!

The Webstirs website
The Webstirs on MySpace
The Webstirs Facebook fan page

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fear Me, December

The expression above would make a cool Facebook status update, wouldn’t it… It is taken from Mew’s song Apocalypso. So, what about Mew? To be honest, this band doesn’t have much to do with power pop. Still, they are one of my oldest favourites, older than almost any power pop band I’ve ever listened to. Mew’s music is melodic and wonderful, and because I am a melody freak, something should definitely be said about them. Plus, they have a cool Christmas song for us popsters... More about the song later.

Mew comes from Denmark, although the band members have been residing in the United Kingdom for quite some time, I think. The band was founded in 1995. Musically, they are usually described as an alternative rock band, playing music that is a mix of dreamy pop melodies, shoegazing and progressive rock. Lately they have even begun adding some experimental qualities which means there may be more challenge in the listening.

The band released their first two albums A Triumph for a Man and Half the World Is Watching Me in 1997 and 2000. Both were re-released in 2006-2007 due to the band's increased popularity and common interest towards the earlier albums. Frengers (2003, meaning “not quite friends, not quite strangers”) was their first international release and a huge success not only in Scandinavia but also helped the band to launch a career elsewhere. The album contains new songs and some rerecorded versions of old songs from the first two albums. The follow-up, Mew and the Glass Handed Kites was released in 2005. It was a considerably more challenging album but included some of the band’s best loved songs.

Here are Mew’s three latest albums:

Strange covers, right... I bet that is what they intended.

Mew’s latest album was released earlier this year and it has a quite long name. It is No More Stories/Are Told Today/I'm Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I'm Tired/Let's Wash Away. Not a world record breaking name but pretty long anyway… I bought the album but have only listened to it twice so far. It is definitely not enough. Well, I’ve been quite busy listening to 50 songs from a certain sun-related band every day… I am an addict, I’ll admit it anytime. I love it… But finding time for other bands can get a bit difficult at times.

However, there was a time when I was seriously addicted to Mew’s album Frengers. The year was 2003 and it all started when I heard and saw a video for the song 156. It was dreamy, yet rocking and extremely catchy in its own strange way. The vocalist also sounded quite intriguing… I got the album and found several songs that I have still found myself listening repeatedly six years later. I think I could listen to 156 dozens of times in a row and still not get bored of it… That is special, I would say. It is no wonder, however, that Mew’s melancholic, dreamy music has mesmerized loads of people here in the north. There is no denying that Mew has captured some unique melodies in their songs.

Try Frengers, for example. In addition to 156 there are songs like Am I Wry? No, Snow Brigade, not to mention the utterly beautiful Comforting Sounds – the title says it all... Also pay attention to Behind the Drapes, another favorite of mine, or perhaps check out the ear-melting duet ballad Symmetry. This stuff is just awesome... A lot of the magic comes from lead vocalist Jonas Bjerre. Bjerre, who according to some people, looks like a 16-year-old, sounds very distinctive. He has a broad vocal scale but on the other hand his voice has been described as fragile or even weak. I am personally not so sure about the weakness – his voice certainly sounds sufficiently strong to me – and having such a unique sound can’t really be a weakness.

After Frengers Mew have changed their sound. On ...And the Glass Handed Kites the guitars have a lot more cold, metallic sound but the songs are just as wonderful. Check out The Zookeeper’s Boy, for instance, or White Lips Kissed - those songs are just so pretty. I also adore Apocalypso and the surreal short film/music video for it.

Mew are known for their strong visual side. Band members focus a lot on the visual values and if you ask me that can never be a bad thing (as long as the music comes first, of course). There is a plenty of visual art expertise among the band, so the band’s singles and gigs are illustrated with very fine graphics and even short films. Mew’s music videos are a joy to watch. The band has made some of the most memorable videos I have ever seen. Some of the videos are a bit disturbing (which is of course not a bad thing in itself) but most of them are just plain beautiful.

Then, finally the Christmas song… It can be heard on Frengers and it is called She Came Home for Christmas. There are two different versions of the video but in both of them there is a ballerina princess waltzing with a bear in a magical forest. Then, a witch appears… Sounds like a fairy tale? Well, yeah! A fairy tale-like Christmas is the coolest thing I could hope for!

Official website

Videos (YouTube)
She Came Home For Christmas
(version 1 – with the band) (version 2 – without the band)
Comforting Sounds
Behind the Drapes (not an official music video but too cool a song to skip here...)
Am I Wry? No
The Zookeeper’s Boy
Why Are You Looking Grave?
Repeaterbeater (new video)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

White Christmas?

Ahh.. Christmas is closing fast, so it’s time for pre-Christmas parties (“Little Christmas”, as we Finns say). The obvious music choice for pre-Christmas parties is of course Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You. Dubbed “the best Christmas album in the world” by numerous people the album is a perfect soundtrack for anyone who enjoys traditional Christmas feel and Christmas carols, as well as Phil Spector’s classic wall of sound.

No matter how you happen to be feeling, this album will make anyone feel Christmassy right from the start. The carols are of course performed by Phil Spector’s fabulous artists such as The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Darlene Love. This album is pure magic… Put it on and bang, it’s Christmas!

When it comes to the post heading, in southern Finland white Christmas has not manifested quite yet... Strangely, there was more snow in November than there has been in December. Looking out of the window I however just noticed that there was a thin layer of snow on the ground. Well, there’s plenty of time for it to melt… We’ll see how it looks tomorrow.

I wish everyone an optimistic pre-Christmas season! Here is another gorgeous Christmas carol. It belongs to my every Christmas.

Happy Xmas (YouTube)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Like A Fairy Tale

I have been going backwards reviewing (read: praising) The Sun Sawed in 1/2 albums. I started from Bewilderbeest quite some time ago and have now arrived in year 1993 and the band’s first full-length release, Hot Feet For Monkey God. The name is certainly a hint of what you are going to hear… Also, people who have only heard the band’s more recent work (like Fizzy Lift and Mind Flip) and like to label The Sun Sawed in 1/2 as a power pop band might be a bit surprised. In my opinion, this album is not very power pop-oriented. I don’t really consider it power pop at all. However, this fact doesn’t make the album any less interesting. On the contrary, Hot Feet For Monkey God is an excellent album of psychedelic jangle pop. It is also very, very interesting in many special ways that I’m going to describe in this analysis.

The AMG review is absolutely correct about this album being like a quirky soundtrack to a fairy tale. Tim Rose’s lyrical themes from 1993 are quite different from his more recent work, indeed a lot more storybook-like. The album opens with The Lemon-Lime Forest, a song that immediately shows quite of lot of what this album is about soundwise. The way the saxophone is used as a rhythm instrument makes The Lemon-Lime Forest sound quite funky. With lovely background vocals added the song is a real delight. Still, it is just a warm-up. Soon follows Annabelle’s Book of Hours. It is simply so great, probably my #2 favorite song from the band and, in my opinion, probably the most bubblegummy SS1/2 song because the melody is clearly in some way influenced by nursery rhymes. Pepper Bear is another great song, irresistibly bouncy and features both saxophone and trumpet sounds, irresistible also due to its psychedelia and excellent dynamics.

Hot Feet for Monkey God is also quite unique in the Sun Sawed in 1/2 catalog because of the many lead vocalists. Four different people can be heard singing lead, including Tim Rose’s brother Ken (June, Mesmerized) who does a wonderfully sweet job. Tim Rose himself also sings a few lines in three songs. Saxophonist/keyboardist Dave Farver provides vocals to Grace. Not only is he like the best sax player in the world but obviously he can also sing quite soulfully!

The fourth vocalist is of course Doug Bobenhouse, the most gorgeous, sweetest, loveliest singer in the universe. Remember, I’m not only talking about men, I’m talking about ALL singers! Believe it. What is also amazing about Doug is that he has such a natural talent. It didn’t take him long to become what he is today - on this album he is only a few years past 20 and he is already perfect. Even if you are not the biggest fan of his boyish, rich, delicious sound, you won’t find a single flaw in his excellent performance.

The Carnival Ride is another of my favorites. The song is driven by acoustic guitar, Bill Yaeger’s energetic drums, and, once again, saxophone. The wonderful interplay of sax and vocals is very memorable. At this point it also has to be stated that the drum work on this album is overall impeccable. Towards the end the album gets even more psychedelic when the title track begins. Hot Feet for Monkey God is one of the SS1/2’s most intriguing songs. It is almost instrumental and it evolves into quite a samba in the end! The song is likely to produce most interesting mental images. The album ends with Enlightened, which I seriously think is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful song this band has recorded so far.

Hot Feet for Monkey God is the most acoustic Sun Sawed in 1/2 album. The result is charming as well as elegant, and an album of carefully arranged songs. In some places the style leans towards minimalism and elsewhere more complicated arrangements.

The use of different instruments on this album brings out a great talent in the band’s 1993 line-up. In addition to acoustic guitars there are electric ones (with psychedelic riffs and solos) as well as keyboards and accordion but the woodwinds will probably steal your attention quite often when listening to this album. In fact, Dave Farver’s saxophone dominates some of the songs even more than the bright-sounded guitars. One of the most distinctive features of this album is also the use of china cymbal – to me it is not the first thing you would expect to hear on a pop album. The china cymbal, however, brings out certain edgy nuances that would not be the same if they were expressed in some other way. Talking about nuances, they have been taken good care of on this album. Every song sounds like it has been mixed extremely carefully. All in all, there are no unnecessary layers and every sound and every instrument has a meaning.

Another important thing about this album is the feel. Hot Feet is mostly quite melancholic which is clearly a part of the magic - although nothing could ever be too melancholic when Mr. Bobenhouse is singing. Melancholy and absolute sweetness are a winning combination. On the other hand, it is not just any kind of melancholy, it is a magical, mysterious feel that practically makes you want to turn off the lights and dance with the fireflies...

This album succeeds in capturing some of the most mesmerizing aspects of psychedelic music and it does it with style. Whether it is a moment of oriental mysterious feel, a gorgeous saxophone part, a sweet melody or a magnificent organ solo, you just might start developing a deeper appreciation towards the magic of psychedelic pop expression. That is at least what happened to me... Of course a lot of it is just indescribable – you have to experience it yourself!

The Sun Sawed in 1/2 on iTunes
The Sun Sawed in 1/2 Facebook fan page
The Sun Sawed in 1/2 on MySpace

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Other Wilson Brothers

I really like Dan Wilson and his former band Semisonic. However, I haven’t paid much attention to Dan’s brother, Matt Wilson. So, when I heard a song called Alone by Matt’s current band The Twilight Hours, I was impressed right away.

I’ve been enjoying Semisonic’s music already for a few years. It started from F.N.T., one of the grooviest songs I’ve ever heard. I also purchased Dan Wilson’s solo album Free Life some time ago. Many people already know that Matt Wilson founded a band called Trip Shakespeare back in the 80s and Dan also joined the band later. After Trip Shakespeare the brothers have had their own projects. I haven’t listened to Trip Shakespeare or those other Wilson bands/projects much yet so I guess I should do just that.

Listen to this song by the Twilight Hours and then get the album Stereo Night. This stuff is simply magical – very, very good songwriting with tender melodies and lovely, organic sounds. It is great to hear how much alike Matt and his brother are. Both have a plenty of talent, write great songs and sing soulfully. To cut a long story short, that is real beauty!

The Twilight Hours on MySpace
The Twilight Hours Facebook fan page
The Twilight Hours Official website

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lost in Music ’09 Oct 22-24th

I really enjoy going to see gigs. Writing about them is also cool, although you have probably noticed a long time ago that I don’t tend to stay on schedule. Well, here is my report from this year’s Lost in Music, YleX Live concerts on Friday at Klubi and Pakkahuone. It was a wild variety of music but it surely was entertaining, just like it was last year. Click the band names in the headings to go to the MySpaces.

The evening was opened by Rödsögården, a young band that, according to their bio, originally had some serious logistics problems with band members being scattered all over Finland. I saw this band in this same Lost in Music event a year ago and was rather mesmerized. The band surely has a very Swedish-sounding name but their music is performed in English. This year Rödsögården played new songs from their debut album. I liked what I heard but for some reason wasn’t as impressed as last year. In any case, the band had found its supporters. The audience greeted the guys with loud applause. Rödsögården’s music is quite melancholic but also melodic, and it will probably appeal to many people who also like bands like Coldplay and Kent. A 21st century version of U2?

Them Bird Things
Now here’s something interesting! I first heard about this band from my friend – a friend from whom I only tend to get Japanese music tips. Later, I read an article about this band in Sue magazine. I was quite surprised to read that the band’s lead singer is actually a woman – I had thought she was a guy... Well, listen for yourselves, her voice is lower than most of the male singers I listen to. What a unique voice it is!

Them Bird Things describe their music as Americana/Pop/Folk Rock. The group was formed by American songwriters Steve Blodgett and Mike Brassard, and producer Will Shade who collaborated with Finnish singer Salla Day. This definitely doesn’t sound like the most common way of starting a band. At Pakkahuone, the group performed a very acoustic set. What I remember of the gig is quite different from the sound you can hear on their MySpace. In my opinion, the music has a very strong 60s pop vibe which is really no wonder when you think about who is behind the music. At the gig, the audience (who mostly didn’t even bother to applaud much) seemed to like Shame, Shame Shame the most. It is indeed a catchy song. Check it out!

Manna is a singer whose alternative rock is influenced by many music styles. It seems to me that one of the strongest influences in her most recent music has been shoegaze-styled rock due to working with one of the Joensuu guys from the band Joensuu 1685. Manna has received quite a bit of attention abroad lately, and she has been compared to such female characters as Nico and Debbie Harry. Manna seems to be doing what she finds musically most interesting, and that is certainly a good thing. Her gig was so crowded that I didn’t get to see much of it but she did a good job. I already saw her at Monsters of Pop quite recently and liked her style. Want to find distinctive female artists? Here’s one from Finland.

For one reason or another, I keep moving away from bands like this… Well, if you like grandiose rock that focuses on big, aggressive sound and, instead of happy melodies, creating a rather gloomy atmosphere, you might well enjoy Murmansk. This band also has a female vocalist. I admit it: sometimes it can be a good thing to listen to this kind of music for a while. Then maybe you’ll know, what you would really like to listen to more.

Perhaps a bit same problem as Murmansk – a lot of noise, not that much focusing on songwriting or melody. This band was more interesting than Murmansk, though. Their live performance was energetic and there were some quite nice hooks. I guess some people enjoy this type of music - they can freely listen to it if they want. I rather focus on more melodic music.

The Souls
Maybe the most refreshing, positive act of the entire day was The Souls, a band that I didn’t know anything about before they started playing… Oh boy, it sounded really, really good, honest, straightforward, positive hard rock. The Souls, a power trio from Kouvola, stole my heart with their rocking sound and excellent performance. They have apparently also received some attention in medias. Well, well… The guys also have a couple of gigs outside Finland booked. Good for them, there are already so many disco rock bands conquering the planet that some honest hard rock can only do good.

I spent a considerable part of last summer listening to hard rock – it was actually even progressive hard rock… Anyway, when I saw The Souls play live, it sounded like a perfect answer for this new yearning for hard rock. I am quite certainly going to listen to this band more, as well as other hard rock bands – melodic hard rock bands that is. What is the use of rock without wonderful melodies? Just show me some anti-melodic hard rock and try to explain why it is better than more melodic hard rock. You will fail, miserably…

Joensuu 1685
The most sensational psychedelic rock/shoegaze band of Finland relied on shoegaze aesthetics in their performance. They seem to be quite popular here in Tampere because I couldn’t see their last year’s Lost in Music gig due to the venue being overpopulated when I got there. This time I got to see them, and it was quite interesting – especially the part when there was a bizarre power blackout in the middle of the set. Joensuu 1685 have received attention even in foreign medias. The band’s music does sound quite international. There are three people with the last name Joensuu in the band but obviously all of them are not related to the others. That is quite strange, but strange is also the music they make…

Psychedelic... Yeah, but don’t expect to hear much anything like 60s psychedelia. Expect more shoegaze á la Ride or those other bands none of which I know well, and perhaps a bit of Oasis. Joensuu 1685 is a band worth checking out, not only because of the hype but because of nice melodies, really cool feel and interesting sound policy.

Miss Saana & The Missionaries
“The biggest soul band in Finland” – that must be true. My jaw didn’t actually drop but it was very close when I saw this band take the stage… If I remember correctly, I counted 16 people: rhythm section (five), background singers (four), horn section (three), string section (three), lead vocalist. The band WAS big and performed original material in real 60s soul style. Everyone was dressed really nicely and knew their instrument. Plus they were obviously having a great time. I never would have thought there are bands like this in Finland. I want to join one! I could be guitarist, bassist, background singer… perhaps even saxophonist – some day…

Zebra and Snake
A two-man band playing music that could have been taken from Joy Division’s catalog. I can still remember that pulsating rhythm. Could it be that there is too much bass when you can’t tell your own heartbeat from the music?... Well, I don’t have anything against any type of intense dance music - trance or similar - but too much bass is always too much bass. At those moments I sometimes end up wondering if I’m getting old. I guess it’s that I haven’t gone to vocational school, so I’m not used to listening to the so-called “amis-pop” (note that the term has nothing to do with amish).

Zebra and Snake’s MySpace says: “Healing and easy listening”… Haha, that is actually quite funny… I admit it anytime, their music sounds a lot more pleasant when you can control the bass level yourself. Zebra and Snake actually sound a lot like Boys of Scandinavia, another quite similar Finnish Joy Division–styled electro band. I like both bands – a bit of electro every now and then is good variation to the traditional band instrumentation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
All in all, Lost in Music was again a nice happening. What I described here was only about 1/5 of the entire festival. Klubi and Pakkahuone had a nice Friday evening with interesting bands, some of them very, very good. Maybe next year it is going to be even better!

Lost in Music website

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hellogoodbye’s New Stuff

Hey ya’ll who love to get free stuff! Hellogoodbye is offering their latest two-song-and-one-video release free of charge to everyone who joins their email list. This release is called When We First Met. You can get it by going to the band's homepage or MySpace.

I haven’t really listened to Hellogoodbye very much. Maybe I should’ve. Well, there was indeed a time when I was quite hooked on their single Baby It’s Fact. Later I saw the music video and was very charmed… I also enjoyed Here In Your Arms. Strangely, it was a small radio hit in Finland and therefore I almost never really heard it. I don’t listen to the radio. Except Groove FM for soul and disco hits of the past decades.

When We First Met sounds nice – upbeat and melancholic at the same time. Not Ever Coming Home balances the song couple with a more peaceful feel. Melancholy is also present in that song.

The video for When We First Met is very entertaining. Recommended especially for fans of different hairstyles..

When We First Met music video (YouTube)
Hellogoodbye - Official website
Hellogoodbye on MySpace

Friday, October 16, 2009

Farrah & New Album

Farrah, a brilliant UK powerpop quartet, have finished and released a new album. It’s their fourth, a self-titled album, and so far it has only been released in Japan. A release for western citizens will follow later this year. I’ve been following the band’s activity but obviously haven’t been able to keep myself completely up-to-date as the Japanese release came out in July…

This band has a nice back catalog. Especially their first album is superb but I will mention some things about the second and third album as well. Go ahead and comment if you have more experience on the subject.

Moustache (2001)
Farrah’s debut album is a great collection of songs, to me a true classic. The album came out as god knows how many different versions, different song lists and even different album covers and colors. Anyway, the songs are magnificent, the sounds are great, the sounds (I love those percussions) are absolutely cheerful. And then there is of course Jez Ashurst’s voice… To cut a long story short, to me his voice is highly addictive as it is one of those incredibly boyish, sweet, bubblegummy powerpop voices. He is not my #1 favourite but he is definitely one of the best.

The album isn’t addictive just because of Jez, however - the songs are addictive. I will always remember Tired of Apologizing, a song that deals with relationship hardships of with such delightful peacefulness that it actually turns negative things into good. Terry is another song about a certain type of hardships. The song is really nice, catchy, sympathetic, and well... sort of psychedelic. There is also a Rubinoos cover of I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, as well as a lovely ballad in Superman theme, Lois Lane. Living for the Weekend and Seventies Superstar are very charming, those songs I also tend to listen to when it's summer and the sun is shining, and even if it's not shining. Seriously, everything on this album is awesome! Some people might think there is a filler or two here but I wouldn’t do that. I like all the songs equally much. Great sounds, great songs, cool arrangements - indeed, a classic.

Me Too (2003)
The band’s sophomore effort is not quite as coherent as the first one was but it’s still very good. It begins with a fabulous song couple, Tongue Tied (check out the video) and Daytime TV. These songs reveal more about Jez’s geeky vocalist persona. I never get tired of the wonderfully silly drum sound of Daytime TV… A drum sound must be good if it brings a smile to the listener's face every time the song starts. This album also contains a cover song, this time it’s Joe Jackson’s It’s Different for Girls – sweet, really sweet. As a whole, Me Too is another collection of charming, slightly melancholic powerpop songs. Wake up is one of my favourites, as well as The Last Word.

Cut Out And Keep (2007)
This is also a nice album. It remains as the most distant of Farrah's albums to me, but the reason is simply that I still haven’t found the time to listen to everything on it properly. On the album there are of course again some really sweet tracks. It is impossible not to enjoy the Weezer-ish Dumb Dumb Ditty (can be heard on MySpace), and No Reason Why that has a cool horn arrangement (also on MySpace). A fancy music video was made for Fear of Flying. Check it out if you like, the song is as sweet as power pop can get - typical of Farrah.

Farrah takes care of the PR. The band likes to keep a video diary and they are even on Twitter. When it comes to their new material, it obviously sounds good. However, I’m not entirely convinced yet, so I’ll wait to hear the new album in its entirety. A part of me certainly thinks this band will probably never reach the greatness of Moustache again… Well, I shouldn’t ever say never. We’ll see.

Farrah on MySpace
Farrah on Twitter
Farrah – Official website

From the new album: Can’t Kick the Habit
From Cut Out And Keep: Fear of Flying
From Me Too: Tongue Tied
From Moustache: Terry

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Devoted to Don and Phil

The Everly Brothers rock. I had known about their existence for quite some time but it wasn’t until last summer when I finally started to realize their true greatness. I call it “a personal breakthrough”: that moment, those one or two days of your life when you feel you’ve finally found the essence of a band/artist and suddenly enjoy listening to it more than ever. The artist has become more familiar to you, which enables you to enjoy the music more and more... I found the essence of the Everly Brothers thanks to a release called It’s Everly Time & A Date With The Everly Brothers, a CD that contains the duo’s third and fourth album. The albums were originally released in 1960 and 1961.

These brothers are a perfect answer to anyone (like me) who hungers for sugary 50s/early 60s teen idols – and harmonies! Although the Everlys aren’t regarded primarily as teen idols, almost everyone knows that they are probably the most ear-melting male duo ever. Something about them is in fact different from most other harmony singing groups and duos…

The Everly Brother’s roots are in rock’n roll and country music. Therefore many of their songs have a slightly country-tingled rock’n roll feel, and the steel guitar has an effect, too. The Everly Brothers are, as far as I know, probably most famous for gentle and absolutely stunning ballads like All I Have to Do Is Dream. Love songs form a considerate part of the duo’s catalog. The Everlys sing a great deal about girls. As we all know, girls usually lead to either bliss (You Thrill Me (Through and Through); Always It’s You) or misery (Sigh, Cry Almost Die; Love Hurts). While the brothers sing happily about happiness, in the sadder songs they express themselves melancholically but not bitterly. The peacefulness of this music makes it suitable for relaxation, and of course for those moments when you hunger for sweet...

Being one of the most delicious vocal duos ever the Everly Brothers influenced many groups that sang harmony vocals, such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The Everly Brothers’ harmonies differ from the usual harmony singing, where the different vocal parts would sound strange if they were separated. However, when listening to the Everly Brothers, you might notice that both Don’s lower and Phil’s higher melody line could stand on their own.

The Everly Brothers had their biggest hits around 1957-1964. During that time they recorded dozens of songs that became Billboard hits. When the British Invasion hit, it became significantly more difficult to reach audiences with traditional American pop. By the end of the 60s the Everly Brothers lost their hitmaker status to Britpop bands and other new phenomena. Don and Phil split in the early 70s and pursued solo careers but were reunited in 1983. More recent years have brought the Everly Brothers various awards, such as Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and introduction to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the musical situation of 21st century… People just don’t make a lot of music like this anymore. Sometimes I feel like I’m 70 years old. None of my friends really listens to this kind of stuff. Can you blame me for enjoying classic, traditional pop songs that focus on melody, songwriting, vocals and vocal harmonies? I guess you can’t. I bet you enjoy the exact same thing, and so would also my friends if they gave the early 60s a proper chance.

The Everly Brothers at YouTube
The Everly Brothers Fan Club - The Beehive

Three Musketenors

I don’t really know any Finnish pop musicians personally. Well, to be honest, my dad used to be a rock star in the 80s but that is another story… During the few years I've been over 18 (and able to get into clubs) I’ve probably seen more than 100 Finnish indie bands play live. The truth is, however, that I don’t know any members of those bands personally, not a single one. The closest contact I have is a second-hand contact. For instance, a friend of mine has a big brother who has played with a couple of bands (which I’ve also seen live).

Today’s topic is my friend’s boyfriend’s band, Wedding Crashers. I heard they chose the name intentionally so that it could be abbreviated “WC”, something that people will remember easily. When it comes to the music, I’ve seen different attributes appear on their MySpace. Once I saw something like “Happy hardcore / Pop” which I though was pretty fun… The last time I checked they described themselves as “Rock / Powerpop / Surf”.

In fact, I saw Wedding Crashers live in Tampere about 1,5 months ago. I liked the gig a lot. I remember the guys were really sympathetic, played well, and had fun stuff to tell between the songs. The band was happy, everyone was happy… That is the way to do it - this miserable, dark country needs more positivity, positive attitude! Wedding Crashers played catchy pop/rock tunes as well as more folky, acoustic material. One of the most memorable things was that they actually ended the gig with a Beatles cover, Please Please Me. I think it was the first time ever I saw a Beatles song played live. What is wrong with this country?..

Go ahead and check out this band. According to my source (the friend I mentioned), the guys wanted to perfect their music before making it public as they intend to be the next Oasis. That is what I call ambition! Wedding Crashers are unsigned at the moment and I don’t think they’ve released much music yet but they’ve been successful in band contests. Last summer they even got to play at Provinssirock, one of the most legendary summer rock festivals in Finland. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their stuff. The guys have talent, they simply have to put it on record.

Wedding Crashers at MySpace
Wedding Crashers Facebook fan page

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Doo Wop, Baroque, Girls - and More Girls

It was about time that I got familiar with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons! Being a huge Beach Boys fan, this was, of course, a very natural thing to happen to me. Still, it wasn’t automatic, I think. Or maybe it was. Frankie Valli and his magnificent harmony singing friends are in every case a must-hear for all Beach Boys fans. I approached this group by listening to Anthology: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (thanks to Tampere City Library).

Everyone knows there was some form of a rivalry between the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. Both bands became popular at the same time, around year 1962 and performed music that was stylistically quite similar – but not completely similar. While both groups incorporated a great deal of multipart doo wop vocal harmonies and nonsense syllables, Frankie Valli’s group concentrated even more on doo wop. Brian Wilson’s Boys might also be described being more straightforwardly rock’n roll oriented, especially in the early stages of their career. On the other hand, The Four Seasons didn’t sing about surfing or cars, but they surely shared one interest with the Beach Boys: girls. The Four Seasons, who were originally from Newark, New Jersey, released their first album in 1962 (as did The Beach Boys), and their first hit song was Sherry.

After a small getting used to period I found myself enjoying The Four Seasons very, very much. Frankie Valli is of course both similar to and different from Brian Wilson. Both have performed absolutely lovely falsetto vocals but their singing style is somewhat different in lower areas. While Brian rarely used his voice to anything else but pure prettiness in the 60s, Frankie Valli wasn’t afraid to show different aspects of his voice. Frankie Valli resembles Graham Nash a lot, and (perhaps a bit confusingly) has more rock’n roll angst in his voice and singing style than Brian Wilson.

The songs… Ronnie! I love, love, love that tune! Marlena, Dawn (Go Away), and Rag Doll are not much less excellent - not to mention Silence Is Golden, a song of which The Tremeloes made a hit. The Four Seasons’ most obvious bubblegum connection is Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye), a major hit for Bay City Rollers in the 70s. I give Four Seasons extra points for that one but the absolutely bubblegummy BCR version, in my opinion, is more enjoyable. I know, I’m totally blinded and enchanted by bubblegum and bubblegummyness... I can’t help it, bubblegum is sticky (=impossible to give up).

Back to the Four Seasons.. Save It For Me is already beginning to sound very sophisticated, á la The Association, and Today!/Summer Days (And Summer Nights) Beach Boys. Other lovely hit songs from the mid-60s include Girl Come Running, Let's Hang On!, Working My Way Back to You, Opus 17 (Don't You Worry 'bout Me), I’ve Got You Under My Skin, C’mon Marianne… The list is almost endless. A special case is Can't Take My Eyes off You, a magnificently superb song that was released as a Frankie Valli solo single in 1967. The song is ear-melting, and I love playing it myself too.

The Four Seasons survived pretty well in the middle of the British Invasion and remained as a popular live act. The end of the 60s was however a hard time for the band. Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons signed onto Motown Records and released new material with modest success. In the mid 70s Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (as separate acts) returned to scoring million selling hits. Since then the group has gone through dozens of personnel changes. Their latest North American tour apparently took place as recently as in 2007. Jersey Boys, a musical play about the Four Seasons has been around for years and it has even been taken to Melbourne, Australia. A quick look to YouTube revealed that there is/was even a “Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons Tribute On Ice". Everything really is on ice these days…

Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons are irreplaceable. I’m sure they will always have a place in my heart – there right next to the Beach Boys.

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons at YouTube

Official Frankie Valli Page

The Wonder Child

There is one thing about me that I don’t understand (not that it really is the only thing..). I listen to music and have a music blog. Obviously, you might assume that I also write about the music that I’ve been listening to. But the thing is, I don’t. The problem seems pretty clear. That is why I’m going to do something about it.

I think I’ve always been aware of the existence of Stevie Wonder. Still, it took more than 20 years for me to find out that he is more than just a soul musician: he is in fact a pop music genius and shouldn’t go unnoticed by anyone who has a devotion to pop. A good thing is that he will not go unnoticed by anyone who has ears: Wonder's classic hits are played everywhere. Many of his most wonderful songs however might go past your ears if you don’t dig a little deeper.

Stevie Wonder had his first hit at the age of 13 with Fingertips (Pt. 2). That is just amazing! Stevie was a real wonder child. Since his first hit Wonder has no doubt become an American soul music icon and won amazingly many Grammy Awards. Some of his 60s Motown pop hits included Uptight (Everything’s Alright), I Was Made to Love You (that I had previously only heard performed by the Beach Boys), Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (a song also covered by numerous artists), and For Once in My Life.

During his most commercially successful period in the 80s Wonder scored hits like Happy Birthday, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Part-Time Lover, and Ebony and Ivory (with Paul McCartney). Those songs are obviously nice to hear but there’s more to Stevie than just those songs they play on every adult radio channel. Let’s see.. Never Had a Dream Come True is a real gem. It includes a heavenly melody, violins, happy feel – that’s it, a perfect pop song. Here are some other tracks I enjoyed last summer: I’m Wondering; Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday; If You Really Love Me; Heaven Help Us All...

In 1976 Wonder released Songs in the Key of Life, a double LP that is probably one of his most ambitious creations. I still haven’t paid much attention to it but you can bet on that I will check it out sooner or later… The album contains Sir Duke, a tribute Duke Ellington and several other jazz legends. Songs in the Key of Life was a part of Wonder’s so-called classical period in the 70s – a period that is most definitely worth listening.

When it comes to the vocals, Wonder is one of those, in my opinion, very intriguing guys who don’t seem to go through much of a change during the transition of from childhood to adult age. Wonder doesn’t sound like a child but his voice is still much more boyish and has a higher pitch than, say, Barry White’s voice… That means extremely suitable for pop music and catchy melodies!

To cut a long story short, Mr. Wonder is my first favourite soul music artist. To be honest, he just might stay in that position for quite some time, if not forever! Last summer was (among other things) a soul season for me. I focused on Wonder but also listened to some Four Tops, Supremes, and Otis Redding. Anyway, whatever type of music you prefer, there is no denying the catchiness and undefeatable charm of Stevie Wonder’s music.

Stevie Wonder at YouTube
Official Stevie Wonder website

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fab. Very, Very Fab.

As you already know (or at least should know), The Sun Sawed in 1/2 is back and going to release a new album next year, one new song every month. And since I don't seem to think about anything else these days (well, almost anything..), I'll give you bloggers something to do while waiting for the new Sun stuff. First of all, you can go to iTunes store and listen to the band's music. It's all there, including many rarities.

The band now has a nice Facebook fan page where you can get all the latest news about this magnificently talented group as well as watch some videos and pictures. New stuff is downloaded nicely often. Anyone can join this site by clicking Become a fan. If you are at least a bit interested in this band, do it now!

I will probably start a tradition of celebrating the 17th of March as the day when I actually saw this band for the first time (see my post from that day, Overjoyed). I had seen a couple of pictures but a 2D view is only 2D. Sometimes adding color to footage will also bring out some cool surprises…

So, check out these following tunes from the band’s 1997 album Fizzy Lift – my favorite album of all times, gorgeous material! Denny’s Girl is a music video the band made in the late 90s, other songs have been illustrated with live material and some other interesting stuff…

Denny’s Girl
Starting to See

Here’s a clip that includes excerpts from some of the band’s greatest hits. In the end you can hear a sample of a brand new SS1/2 song (It is a demo but it sounds very finished already, if you ask me…)!
The Sun Sawed in 1/2: Now on iTunes

Some earlier stuff - a lovely interview from 1991 with performance of a song called Tangerine Queen

And DON’T forget Come Sail Away!

The Sun Sawed in ½ on iTunes

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Even More Overjoyed

THEY ARE BACK AND I JUST FOUND OUT! Who, you ask. Well, of course The Sun Sawed in 1/2. The band's entire discography has now been released on iTunes, as well as other material, including live tracks and rare recordings. SS1/2 is also going to record a new album and release it track by track in 2010. This means there is going to be a new song every month. Wow.. What a year. I can't wait!

I feel dizzy.. Still, I already listened to samples of several Sun songs I'd never heard before. Suddenly there is new old stuff and soon new stuff available... There is really no doubt that they are my number one favorite band.

Tim says he has written his 12 best songs ever. THE BEST songs. My goodness, I just might be listening to this band every day even in 2070 and drool as much then as I do now..


The Sun Sawed in ½ on iTunes

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

All That Jazz

Finally, here comes my report from Pori Jazz festival. I don’t even remember how many times I’ve been at Pori Jazz. It’s become a tradition, and it surely is the best Finnish summer music festival I know.

Jazz started already before arriving at Pori. My dad introduced me to Chuck Mangione, a flugelhorn player whose song Feels So Good was quite a hit back in 1977. This wonderful, melodic piece of jazz is influenced by pop, r&b, and funk.

Chuck Mangione: Feels So Good (YouTube)
Another artist was The Crusaders, a group that has worked in the area of jazz-funk fusion. The band (originally called The Jazz Crusaders) made a long career releasing more that 30 albums. Their most successful song was Street Life from 1979.

The Crusaders & Randy Crawford: Street Life (YouTube)
The Crusaders at MySpace

Pori, an idyllic town on the west coast of Finland, has been known as Finland’s jazz town for decades. Pori Jazz festival has taken place every year since 1966, and based on the ticket sales it is the biggest festival in Finland and one of the biggest in Europe. Pori Jazz has always had international artists involved – artists such as James Brown, Sting, Paul Simon, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie have performed at Pori Jazz.

The thing about jazz in general is, that even though jazz is considered to be one of the two forms of art music (the other being classical music/opera), it receives very little financial support from Finnish cultural funds. Savonlinna Opera Festival gets a lot of money, and smaller sums go to folk music festivals, for instance. It seems that jazz is expected to manage on its own, like pop, rock, and heavy metal. Well, looking at Pori Jazz list of performers, it’s clear that jazz does not manage on its own – it seems to require heavy support from soul, funk, r&b, and a range of other genres many of which actually have very little to do with jazz. Last year’s megastar in Pori was Santana. Sly & The Family Stone also paid a visit to Pori quite recently, and so did Ziggy “Bob’s son” Marley. A couple of years ago Pori Jazz even lured audience to Kirjurinluoto arena with hip hop – Jay-Z performed.

The sad truth is, all this results in thousands of people coming to Pori to listen to anything but jazz. That is probably not the original purpose of this festival, but it may be the only way to keep the Jazz alive – and alive it is, although you are not going to see jazz bands as main performers in Pori very often. Luckily, you can still hear a plenty of jazz at the festival, and you can even hear a plenty of jazz for free. Pori Jazz grants every year numerous free admission concerts to anyone who’s interested. During the festival, there are 2-4 free concerts every day. Those concerts include several international artists and the best of Finland’s jazz talent which means you don’t even have to pay to see virtuosity.

This year’s headlining artists were Erykah Badu, Duffy and The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Booker T. Jones was also one of the big names. When it comes to these artists, Pori Jazz is a great place to go camping because you can hear the main concerts quite well to Pormestarinluoto camping site. I only managed to hear one song from Duffy, but from Raphael Saadiq’s gig I heard many songs. Saadiq’s soul/r&b music sounded really good. It even made me want to check out his records. There was definitely a lot of Stevie Wonder in Saadiq’s material.

Raphael Saadiq at MySpace

Speaking of Stevie Wonder… Mr. Wonder seemed to be everywhere at Pori Jazz, even though he certainly wasn’t there personally. During the time I spent at the festival, I heard about five different acts perform Stevie Wonder’s music. Motown’s 50th anniversary had certainly something to do with this. Stevie is of course a musical genius in his own right. I’ve recently come to like his music very much, and I’m just getting started…

This year isn’t only a celebration of Motown’s 50th anniversary – it is also the year of swing legend Benny Goodman’s 100th birthday. American clarinet virtuoso Ken Peplowski performed with some talented musicians under the title “Ken Peplowski’s Benny Goodman Contennial Celebration”.

Ken Peplowski at All About Jazz

Another wonderful moment was seeing Tuuli Taul and Eyolf Dale, winners of Nömme Jazz contest, perform a set. Norwegian Dale played the piano and Estonian Taul took care of the vocals. Taul’s performance was delightful. She performed some cool scat singing, and it was really interesting to hear her sing many songs in Estonian – several of which she had translated herself. Estonian language sounds really peculiar to any Finn. You see, Estonian is the closest relative to Finnish language which causes some words to be exactly the same in both languages, but the overall impression of Estonian being somewhat strange...

Tuuli Taul at MySpaceEyolf Dale at MySpace

Dutch tenor saxophonist and flutist Andy Declerck played some really good modern jazz with Finnish guitarist Kari Antila. Together with an a-class rhythm section from Finland, these guys form a band Andy Declerck & Kari Antila Group. Virtuosity is an important part of any jazz experience. As you might guess, Declerck and Antila are some of the most well-respected musicians of their home countries.

Andy Declerck at MySpace
Andy Declerck homepage
Kari Antila at MySpace

For some reason, the Pori Jazz organization wanted to add some Finnish indie pop to the cavalcade this year. The idea sounds excellent, of course. Regina and TV OFF played a concert, although I didn't see it. When another Finnish pop band, Belle Who (previously unknown to me) played their set on Radio Nova stage, I recognized one song. I had heard it in the Finnish TV commercial for Grey’s Anatomy. The performance wasn’t bad but the music didn’t quite impress me. I read somewhere that Belle Who intends to be Finland’s Lily Allen. In my opinion, that can’t be very good… Well, I bet many people will like that stuff. Belle Who released a debut album earlier this year.

Belle Who at MySpace

One of the most memorable artists I saw on Radio Nova stage was Hazmat Modine, a group from New York. Their music wasn’t exactly jazz, although many of the traditional jazz instruments were in use. Hazmat Modine’s music was best described as ethno. There was a lot of blues influence, some oriental sounds and even reggae there. The most distinctive feature of Hazmat Modine was the masterful use of different harmonicas, including diatonic and chromatic harmonicas. There was also a tuba involved. Tuba is a fun instrument - it looks like it just landed from outer space…

Hazmat Modine at MySpace

Helsinki Pop Jazz Conservatory showed some of its coolest talents by presenting its Motown band, Par Avion. These young men, wearing Blues Brothers costumes and sunglasses, performed Motown’s greatest hits, other soul/pop classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s, including hits from the Blues Brothers movie. The guys (and one girl) put on a great show with a lot of fun. OMG, I wanna be in a band like that too!

I think I’ve pretty much been swept away by jazz now. I’m not saying I’m going to abandon my endless bubblegum, power pop and 70s semi-progressive hard rock listening activities… Still, I think I’ve realized something important about jazz, as well as soul and r&b, and the use of jazz, soul and r&b instruments in other genres. First of all, I want to learn more about this area. Also, there is a reason why there are many Charlie Parker and Phil Woods CDs on my desk, and a beginner’s DVD that introduces a certain woodwind instrument… It seems that I’m actually going to realize one of my musical dreams/ambitions – sooner than I ever expected, I might add. And that’s not even all. I can’t begin to guess what I’ll be doing a few years from now…

Wanna join an r&b band? Psychedelic rock band?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Twenty Ways Amazed

Oh... This one goes deep. Not only is this album extremely touching, it bears some truly special meaning for yours truly who personally finds Tim Rose, the man behind the title Fresh Mowed Lawn, greater and in many ways more important than most musical legends. Something about Rose’s songs appeals to me big time. I believe the simple explanation is melodies, and Rose’s phenomenal ability to come up with them (although I can’t deny the meaning of a sweet voice that delivers the melodies either…). Whatever the ultimate reason is, something about the music of The Sun Sawed in 1/2 (and Fresh Mowed Lawn) has been enchanting me ever since I found these titles.

Tim Rose, who had a few years earlier recorded tracks for The Sun Sawed in 1/2's latest album (I refuse to say “last”!) Bewilderbeest in Kyiv, Ukraine, now went to Austria and recorded the entire album in Vienna with the help of talented local musicians. The result is fresh and clear, although Rose hasn’t completely abandoned the dark shades of psychedelia. The general sound is in fact rather dark than bright, but I would preferably describe the album’s mood as atmospheric. Rose chants and the band plays through the album in the spirit of Wondermints and The High Llamas. The absolute sincerity and positive mood of Watching the World Turn Slowly/From This Day Forward gives some really strong loving vibes pretty similar to Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds. I think it would be quite suitable to call this album Tim Rose’s Pet Sounds.

The Fresh Mowed Lawn album (2005) is not much about rock or electric guitars – I’m still not saying that there wouldn’t be any rock in Rose’s performance. Gently sweeping drums, acoustic guitars (and some electric ones too), flutes, lovely female background singers and charmingly dramatic piano playing make the sound of FML. There are also some trumpets and steel guitar that add a nice shade to a couple of songs. In the end of the album Rose even gives the floor to his son Luca.

Wish It All Away is a sort of personal favorite, although it is very difficult to pick faves from an album like this. Sometimes these songs make you feel like you’re looking straight into Rose’s heart – check Once Upon a Summer, The Rest of Your Life, or the title track. Fresh Mowed Lawn that probably gave a name this entire solo project (I guess Rose didn’t want to use his own name because of the other Tim Rose) is epic and has many parts. In the lyrics Rose paints a heavenly picture of lying on a fresh mowed lawn in the summer. Again, I have to refer to Pet Sounds. Rose’s lyrics are like a lovely poetry collection that deals with the ups and downs turning the hardships of life into comfort.

Now, for the first time (that I know of), Rose uses his own voice to perform complete songs on an album. His voice is considerably different from his Sun Sawed in 1/2 bandmate Doug who used to sing most of Rose’s songs. The change of lead vocalist changes the mood of the music, turning it more personal and, well… a lot less bubblegummy. More than butterscotch Rose sounds like Elvis Costello. In his solo material, Tim Rose doesn’t hold back and therefore he has to squeeze out some vocal parts. Part of the magic is definitely in the effort. Rose gives his best possible performance here.

Fresh Mowed Lawn doesn’t contain a second that wouldn’t have a meaning or that at least wouldn’t be entertaining. Tim Rose knows the secrets of melody, and that a good melody sounds even better when you use forceful vocal nuances, emotion and highlight the whole thing with a gorgeous arrangement.

Fresh Mowed Lawn at MySpace