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

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stockers! Release Debut EP

A young Finnish alt-rock band, Stockers! have released their first EP called Fuck Le Disco and it is available at Last.fm for free download. Stockers! was founded in Helsinki in 2007. The band has been playing gigs, recording original material and attracting potential listeners using modern channels (such as Facebook) ever since. The catch is that everyone in the band is less than 20 years old. Stockers! will however prove that age ain’t nothing but a number.

Despite the name, the EP is not completely disco rock-free. FLD makes use of modern rock influences. The first band that comes to my mind is Muse. Stockers! rely on catchy riffs and solid rock sound. Their music is melancholic but has other kinds of moods as well. Fuck Le Disco is definitely not bad for a band with all members still in their teens. This kind of activity requires enthusiasm, and with results this good I have to give credit to the boys.

Download Fuck Le Disco for free
Stockers! at MySpace

Tehosekoitin Back on Stage

This summer, one of the biggest names of Finnish 90s/2000s rock has been playing a six-gig series of reunion concerts, five years after the band broke up. Tehosekoitin returned for the first time in Helsinki on June 18th – I was there, of course. A few weeks later, I saw them again at Tammerfest. These gigs were my first and last time to see this awesome, legendary band live, and I wasn’t let down.

The two gigs were both good. The set lists were identical, I think, but there wasn’t after all a reason to alter them. The band played songs from all of their albums, except for the first, which was a bit disappointing. Still, I have to say that this band has a plenty of other good albums and songs as well.. But I would’ve loved to hear Syön sipsejä, or Ulkona.

There was some true rock’n roll fun going on the stage – and groovy dance moves! Otto sang really well and performed all his trademark maneuvers, including releasing his Marc Bolan-esque hair. That was a sight, I can tell… Otto didn’t seem to know what to say between songs during either of the gigs but he did talk, and so did the other guys. In my opinion, even thought it’s music, a gig, a band has to talk to the audience. If I were to find faults in the two gigs I witnessed, I would say I wasn’t completely pleased with the instrument solutions. I was expecting a more rocking sound but it was more keyboard-oriented and included only one electric guitar. However, the keys were really good so it didn’t matter that much. The gig at Tammerfest was a bit better soundwise. The band must have gotten their sound balanced by then.

You don’t often have the luxury of seeing your new favorite broken-up band live. I guess I got lucky - it was really cool. I wish other broken-up bands would do this as well.. Now there’s something more I’m going to blab about. As I was in the middle of this new craze a month or two ago, I of course had to find out some things about my favorites - the important being what these Tehosekoitin heroes have been doing since their old band disbanded. Levy-yhtiö’s forum revealed pretty much everything. Otto, in addition to releasing a poetry book, has been singing in a punk band called God Given Ass. I’m happy to know that Otto has continued with singing activities. He has surely made it to my gallery of favorite singers. Another thing Otto could do is sing on a solo album.

God Given Ass at MySpace

Checking out Tehosekoitin’s albums resulted in the band turning out to be more than just your average straightforward rock’n roll band - in many ways, actually. In addition to being energetic, Tehosekoitin is a true musical blender. Matti Mikkola’s knowledge led Tehosekoitin to record songs in a big variety of styles, everything from jazz to disco, punk to Motown-funk. After Tehosekoitin’s end, Mikkola founded a band called Saimaa.

Saimaa, named after Finland’s largest lake (a very national romantic name – although Mikkola’s Saimaa is not the only band with that name), might be the next big thing in Finland – at least in indie circles. Mikkola has convened a number of Finnish musicians to bring his latest vision to life. Some of the attributes that have been combined to Saimaa are symphonic/progressive rock, showtunes, and schlager. There are only a couple of samples of unfinished recordings at Saimaa’s MySpace but those clips sound really convincing. I’ve listened to them many times. The samples give evidence of big sounds and easy-going feel. Mikkola hasn’t lost his touch. On the contrary, he continues realizing his genius. I can’t wait hearing this music on a full-length album.

Saimaa at MySpace

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Swedish Mod-60s Returns

Remember when I advertised a Swedish 60s pop band called The Hep Stars last December? Soon after I wrote that, I found some statements about what the coolest Swedish 60s pop band actually was. There were surely many awesome Swedish pop bands in the 60s, and I even might blab more about some of them later… Anyway, according to my sources, the best pop band of 60s Sweden was Tages (pronounced “tah-guess”).

The story of Tages began in Gothenburg area. The guys showed some real talent at a young age and performed some covers and a lot of original material written mostly by bassist Göran Lagerberg. Their work resulted in national hits (Sleep Little Girl being the first) and, in time, legendary status as one of Sweden’s most memorable 60s pop groups as well as one of the most respected 60s bands from a non-English speaking country. Their greatest moment may have been their last psychedelic album Studio (1967). Tages were even considered to be Sweden’s answer to The Beatles. However, Tages never managed to break into international markets. The group broke up in 1968 and a new short-lived group Blond was founded.

I checked out YouTube for Tages and found quite a few songs. I would've liked to find more stuff from their later, more psychedelic period more but these songs are definitely not bad. They are actually very good (and you will find the single She's Having a Baby Now from 1967's Studio album here). Catchy songs, sweet melodies, and great harmonies added with the right attitude – perfect stuff for any 60s pop moment.

Sleep Little Girl
Every Raindrop Means a Lot
I Read You Like an Open Book
She’s Having a Baby Now
Get up an’ Get Goin’
True Fine Woman
I’ll Be Doggone
Leaving Here
In My Dreams

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Enchanted by Darkness, Once Again

Last weekend it was again time for Lumous Gothic Festival, Finland’s biggest festival that presents gothic and other types of dark music without incorporating any metal in its program. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful summer festival there is if you look at the people. The traditional historical black lace style is of course the most popular. One of the most popular styles nowadays is cybergoth – a style that utilizes futuristic outfits and huge collections of neon-colored hairpieces. However, there are practically no limitations to gothic style. Lumous doesn’t even try to be a meeting place only for goths. The festival organizers hope to reach different dark subcultures by offering a variety of performers – from industrial music and dark electronica to neo-folk.

The word lumous, according to my Finnish-English dictionary, means ‘enchantment’, ‘charm’, ‘bewitchment’, and ’spell’. I think there really is some kind of an enchantment at hand when it comes to gothic aesthetics. It’s the sublimity, the wildly adventurous, seductive punk-meets-graveyard dresscode.. And the thing with black eyeliner! I love it. I would probably put (lots of) it on everyday if I already didn’t look scary enough without any makeup..

Even though I still haven’t turned into the most eager gothic rock listener (there was a time when I listened to it quite a lot, though), I will definitely not miss a good nearby gothic festival or its performers. I attended Friday’s main concert at Klubi with a friend and friend’s friends. The performers were all interesting. The first one was called Grunt, a one-man Finnish band performing industrial noise –type of music. I’m not completely sure if it should be called music, since it really doesn’t sound like anything I would characterize as music. The experience was refreshing. For some reason, I always seem to like hearing stuff that doesn’t sound a bit like anything I tend to listen to… I can’t complain. The second act was Deviant UK, from The United Kingdom, a band that performed dark, electronic, and danceable music. It sounded good, excitingly dark, and occasionally the melodies were actually quite catchy. The gig was memorable not least thanks to their demonic-looking frontman who definitely had a plenty of charisma and energy.

The main attraction of the evening was Inkubus Sukkubus, the world’s most popular pagan rock band. The band’s music sounded to me like a mix of rock, dark pop melodies, and machine drum sounds. The band performed a nice set of songs from their 20-year-old career and some graphics presenting European pagan rituals and imagery. This band I will probably check out some time later.

The festival was again a big success. All of this year’s main concerts were sold out. I and my friend even managed to get to the national media… Ilta-Sanomat, one of Finland’s two main tabloid magazines captured us onto an internet video that dealt with the festival. Lumous is always a great experience for me – this year was the third time in a row.

Positivity, Positivity!

Before I go on to blab more about bands and music, I hereby post another music video. It is a song by Egotrippi, one of my favorite Finnish bands (which I previously discussed last October). The idea of posting this just happened to cross my mind... And since it's one of the most hilarious videos ever made, you might enjoy it even if you can't understand Finnish.

Egotrippi had been around for more than ten years before they really started to draw attention in Finland. Nowadays their albums sell well and they attract big live audiences. All in all, they are the most popular power pop band in Finland. Curiously, the band never really became popular with ultimately happy songs such as this (the song is from 1997). That says something about what kind of music Finns seem to like to hear.

And, by the way, Se on tosi jees means approximately "That's Very Cool" (In fact, "jees" means "yes", but a word-to-word translation "It's Very Yes" wouldn't sound that good..) . The song is very happy and it's about things like making the clouds disappear from the sky and not being worried.

Egotrippi at MySpace

Thursday, July 2, 2009


It wasn’t an instant love affair, but I must admit - it’s getting more and more difficult for me to keep my ears off Flight of the Knife (2008), the latest album by Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears. It was recommended “extremely highly” (or something like that…) by Bruce Brodeen, so I listened to a few soundclips. When I was finally able to find time to listen to the whole album properly, I felt like I had begun a new exciting journey.

Based on the photographs I’ve seen, Mr. Scary and his Tears’ live performance looks like a scene from an old horror movie – a pretty good reason to end up being characterized as a cinematic pop act. However, most of the people I know would probably understand the expression psychedelic rock better as a description of Scary’s psychedelicious pop-rock. You might hear echoes of Queen, ELO, XTC, and The Beatles (and I bet there are many other influences too) in the fascinating mix of psych-rock, melodic pop elements and lyrics that are practically science fiction. Personally, I have to admit that Scary’s sweet voice is also something that most certainly appeals to me (and will get me addicted to this album, I bet..).

Flight of the Knife utilizes a fairly traditional set of instruments – one of the highlights being Scary’s powerful piano work - although the experience definitely comes with many psychedelic effects, intriguing tempo changes, unpredictable song structures and other cool tricks. Thanks to those, listening to the album will certainly not get uninteresting. It is actually quite suitable to call Flight of the Knife an experience. Listening to the album is an audial adventure.

The songlist is awesome. Venus Ambassador, being good all the way, has an absolutely delicious melody part that is heard in the beginning, and then again in the end of the song. The wild rocking chorus of The Purple Rocket is another favorite moment – here you can really hear the psychedelic rock, not to mention the awesomeness of the ELO-influenced layered vocals. Imitation of the Sky rocks too: “This is the mourning of the Susie High” – Scary’s melodic genius is clear here. That phrase, along with numerous others, may actually get stuck in your head, and you'll love it. Also one of my favourites is Mama Waits - an obvious should-be hit single. It is extremely catchy, somewhat Sgt. Pepper-like, and one of the most traditionally-constructed songs on the album. The Zero Light is happy – uplifting, I’d say. The Curious Disappearance of the Sky-Ship Thunder-Man (what a title!) is a completely delicious ballad that won’t go unnoticed. Heaven on a Bird is another ballad, totally wonderful.

This album gives me an impression that Mr. Scary has found a way to realize his musical potential to the fullest. I believe it will be difficult for him to make an album even better than this one. Will he succeed anyway? Someday we’ll find out… If only his music got the attention it deserves, the world would be at least a bit better place.

Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears at MySpace
Flight of The Knife site (listen to the album here)

[Hooray, my 100th post!]

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Best Day of Summer

As you might have guessed, I wasn't so much liberated from schoolwork after all.. Well, now I'm feeling a lot more free - no deadlines tomorrow.. In order to celebrate the current heatwave and the fact that I don't need to wear woolly socks, here is an awesome summer hit by my newest Finnish mega-favourite Tehosekoitin. This song was released in 1999 on the band's Freak Out! album. It is a song about the best day of the summer. The asphalt is really hot and the mood summery, even though the beautiful girl seems to be (curiously) missing..

Asfaltti polttaa is a perfect song for summer. The arrangement is excellent and has a lot of 60s/70s vibes. You just can't go wrong with those saxophones... This video was filmed at the Mediterranean. More about Tehosekoitin soon.