Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of 2010 - Part One

This is not a real year end top list. This is just a small non-numbered list of 2010 releases that I have enjoyed a lot. I am really slow when it comes to new releases. Therefore it might actually be more useful for me to write a best of 2009 list but that would be obsolete now.. So, here we go:

The Posies: Blood/Candy

A beautiful album by one of my very favorite bands. Gosh, I wasn't sure at all that they actually hadn't broken up – again.. Even though there aren't that many distorted guitar sounds, there is plenty of rock on this album, I think. Yes, the overall sound is at its cleanest since Dear 23 (which is actually probably my #2 favorite album from the Posies!) but does it really matter if the songwriting is absolutely superb? Blood/Candy is an album that doesn't wear out even with intensive, repeated listening.

Lemonator: Shake, Shake, Shake

A WONDERFUL album by dear, dear Lemos! Also my favorite band from Finland had been causing me to worry a bit if it was still around at all.. Relief came in the form of Shake, Shake, Shake: a fresh addition to the absolute high-quality Lemonator discography, and a very well balanced album. Shake, Shake, Shake can be seen as the first clearly ”happy” album since the debut effort Yellow (1997) but anyone who has paid attention to the band's music as a whole knows that Lemonator's music always comes with a dash of wistfulness. Sometimes the very Brian Wilsonesque melancholy remains hidden but it is still there – creating a big part of the magic.

Teenage Fanclub: Shadows

An album that I ignored at first (even though I had puchased it..). Then I received the gospel of Teenage Fanclub alive in front of me and I was made a whole new TFC fan! I ended up becoming a worshipper of Songs from Northern Britain rather than the new one but Shadows is a real beauty, of course. It was actually the songs from the new album that appealed to me the most in the live situation. Just like with Blood/Candy, one of the things that especially make me happy, is that TFC is also still going strong and maintaining its identity as the most cosy and charming power pop-related band of the planet.

The Apples in Stereo: Travellers in Space and Time

Yippee! The Apples made it: a more compact album than the previous one (New Magnetic Wonder) with the same lovely futuristic pop elements. The number of songs could have been smaller but I don't mind the album being the way it is either. Travellers in Space and Time is a cheerful, exciting, and fresh album that weaves some electronic dance music into power pop as if it was the most everyday thing.. The songs are catchy, and Robert Schneider sounds like a candy bar. That's the way it's done, friends!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vampires + Country Music = Cool!

A bit surprisingly, it's country music time. I have been enjoying the TV show True Blood lately, and the theme song, Bad Things by Jace Everett. It is a really charming country song. I hear rockabilly in it as well as a great dark psychedelic vibe. Everett's voice is also lovely. All in all, cool song, and really catchy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Finnish Girl Power

Gee! I just realized Stalingrad Cowgirls are not the only cool kick-ass girl band from Finland that I have missed/ignored lately. Barbe-Q-Barbies, another really fresh band, has even got some good attention in Finnish music magazines and TV, but I ended up paying zero attention to these "barbies"... Well, it was the band's name that killed my interest at first but hearing a short music sample made me change my mind very quickly.

Here is a song from Barbe-Q-Barbies debut album All Over You, released in October 2010. The video might be even too glamorous for my taste but.. well, it is the music that counts. The sound is impeccable, and style wonderfully straightforward. I have a soft spot for stuff like this.. I might end up going to the record store.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

People in Funny Animal Costumes, Part 2

Here is another mistreated bubblegum gem: the Banana Splits. Like most 60s/70s bubblegum artists, the Banana Splits starred in a Saturday morning children's TV show. An album called We're the Banana Splits was also released in 1970, featuring many of the songs from the show.

We're the Banana Splits album was even re-released on CD (added with songs from another children's show, The Beagles - a show that accidentally vanished entirely and therefore cannot be seen anymore). However, if I remember correctly, this CD was a limited edition (why, oh why?). If you want to buy a used copy, be sure to have at least about $60... It is not really for sale as mp3. And how come, the TV show is not really available either. All in all, this is quite bizarre, I think. Hopefully the situation will improve some day.

The music is timeless, though.. Many of the songs seem to have a very strong soul/funk vibe. Watching the video material is also hilarious! For a European kid like me, who never had the chance to see this show, getting to see the funny animal characters now is quite entertaining and a bit confusing.. The combination of killer 60s soul-bubblegum pop songs and funny-looking children's characters is almost surreal. It is a good thing to get confused at times, though – especially if the music is so good!

We're the Banana Splits
I'm Gonna Find a Cave
I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love with You)
You're the Lovin' End
This Spot
Wait till Tomorrow
It's a Good Day for a Parade

Breakfast Cereal Music

Talk about 70s bubblegum music that is in desperate need of a remastered release on CD... Introducing the Sugar Bears! I found out about this “band” while reading the Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth book. Bubblegum historian Bill Pitzonka has stated that along with Lancelot Link & the Evolution Revolution's album, Presenting the Sugar Bears is one the best bubblegum full-lengths ever released.

Songs by the the Sugar Bears were used to lure people to buy breakfast cereals (the songs were also released as a “real” album on Big Tree label). The material was recorded by faceless session musicians (including young Kim Carnes). The result: music that is so melodic, warm and gentle that it is easily among the most charming music made in the whole of 1970s. Bubblegum at its best, indeed – and rarest.

If there still was a chance to get music like that from cereal boxes, I would probably be constantly patrolling near the cereal section at the local supermarket. Getting music like this from a cereal box... That would be the best cereal box ever, regardless of what the cereals tasted like.

If this album was released on CD, I would buy two copies. It is SO good music. Why won't they release stuff like this? I mean, considerably more mediocre stuff is being rereleased all the time... Who should I contact to get it released? And would it really be of any assistance...

Happiness Train
You Are the One
Feather Balloon
Love, You've Been a Long Time Coming

The Genius of Mike Batt

Recently, I have been drawn to the Wombles – again! As I already wrote about a couple of years ago in this blog, The Wombles originally appeared in a series of children's novels by Elisabeth Beresford. These imaginary creatures were also made into a popular TV show in the 70s.

Mike Batt wrote the theme song for the Wombles TV show. After that, Batt made four full albums of Wombles music which became very succesfull. Mike Batt (under the title ”the Wombles”) even ended up spending more weeks on British charts than any other artist in 1974. The attention was well-deserved. Batt's songwriting was very good and his range of musical styles varied from Mozart to surf pop. There were live concerts, performed by professional session musicians wearing Womble costumes. Batt also starred at the concerts playing the role of one of the Womble characters.

Mike Batt doesn't seem to be too enhusiastic about his Wombles music anymore. I read that this is why the gold-selling Wombles albums haven't been re-released on CD. Therefore they will probably not be released anytime soon... Such great bubblegum music would definitely cheer anyone up and be of great value in nostalgic sense... Not to mention how much people of younger generations (such as myself) would enjoy it! Great music for both children and adults... What else do you need?
Update (12/05/10): I'm so happy! They ARE going to be released after all!

Before the Wombles albums come out I'll get myself some of Mike Batt's later solo material... I looked at Batt's musical life story and it was really amazing. He has been all around the world, worked with symphony orchestras and million-selling artists – written some of their million-selling hits, of course... People seem to think Batt is a very underappreciated songwriter. I wonder if many people in general even have heard about him, considering how much he has achieved. One thing is for sure: writing four albums and eight hit singles for the Wombles doesn't look all that huge anymore when you think about all of the things Batt has done during his life.

But I still love those awesome Wombles tracks. Listen to some!

Womble Of The Universe
Nonstop Wombling Summer Party
The Wombling Song
Remember You're a Womble
Dreaming in the Sun
Banana Rock (Check out that accent...)
Minuetto Allegretto
Wombling Merry Christmas (Awesome Christmas song!)

Back to Bubblegum... Again!

There is definitely another big bubblegum mania coming... at least to me. I know, I keep going back to bubblegum music practically all the time. I love bubblegum music and I don't think I'll ever get tired of sweet guys singing about “yummy”...

To celebrate bubblegum music, here is the original theme song of the Archies TV show, known as The Archie Show. Now that's catchy!

Gee, just look at that psychedelic blinking! And whoah, Jughead is invisible! I highly doubt they would allow this kind of stuff be shown on TV anymore...

And how cool it is that the Archie comic still exists! I am so going to subscribe it! No, really, maybe not... But the music still kicks ass. And the TV show is cool, too..

Of course this is also still the real deal!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Britain's Psych-Folk-Pop Champions of 2010

The Coral's latest album Butterfly House (2010) is already being celebrated in the media as one of the best albums of the year. As usual, I have been too busy with other things to properly listen to this album... However, I listened to it today and was really, really delighted at it.

The Coral, founded in 1996, has already created quite a back catalog. Butterfly House is the band's sixth album. I got acquainted with The Coral's music when the band's 2007 album Roots and Echoes, had just come out. I spent quite a lot of time listening to that album... Well, it is certainly one lovely album. Just thinking about songs like Jacqueline and Cobwebs makes me feel warm and happy.

About Butterfly House then... The album definitely is impressive! The members of the Coral are masters of their own melancholic, soft-psychedelic folky, jangly pop style. Musically the band hasn't changed its ways all that much from the previous album but the Coral concept has been taken a couple of steps further. James Skelly's songwriting pen has been sharp, again, and writing most of the songs together with another band member seems like a good choice.

When it comes to the song order, Butterfly House is built in an interesting way. The first four songs are more like the stuff on the previous album. Then begins an almost uninterrupted row of songs with superb, very Byrds-like harmony vocals. Like diving into another wonderful mood.. The music is so atmospheric that you can practically feel the leaves falling down from a tree. Wow... Now that I think about it, I see all kinds of pictures in my head while listening to this album. Music that stimulates your imagination like that can't be bad.

There are jangly sounds and excellent harmonies, sounding a lot like the Byrds.. The general feel also reminds me of Surf's Up by the Beach Boys. Another band that comes to mind is America. Anyway, some of the songs here practically sound like immediate classics! Just listen to songs like 1000 Years, Two Faces, and Green Is the Color.

Humane, warm, atmospheric, wonderful organic (and jangly!) sounds, made by people who obviously love what they are doing.. That is what I call Music.

Here is a music video for 1000 Years.

The Story of a French Maestro on Silver Screen

This actually happened a couple of weeks ago, but I still want to mention this film I went to see: Gainsbourg. It is not just any music film, you see. It is a 2010 film about Serge Gainsbourg, the great French composer, singer, poet, actor... whose music I haven't been paying much attention to even though it is obviously great stuff.

The film was really entertaining and well-made. The acting was good, and I enjoyed the unconventional way of describing Gainsbourg's inner self. The plot followed Gainsbourg's life story nicely, concentrating on the main character's personality, scandalous love life (obviously), and the way he developed his visionary music. In my opinion, the makers of this film could have highlighted the music part a lot more but I enjoyed it like this as well. I am endlessly curious about how musicians get their inspiration, how they work on their music, and so on. That is why I probably couldn't be satisfied with a film about a musician if it didn't include (preferably a lot of) stuff about making music.

I don't often see films about musicians. That is why there aren't many film reviews/commentaries in this blog. I would love to see films about musicians more often – and not just documentaries! The strange part is that I actually found out about Serge Gainsbourg while doing research on a power pop musician years ago. Good thing, and now I think I should finally start listening to the maestro's work!

Gainsbourg IMDb article
Trailer for English-speakers (YouTube)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elephants... into...... SWANS!

Just when I thought live couldn't get any sweeter...

The waiting is over, it really is.. The first new the Sun Sawed in 1/2 track is here! The track appeared on Facebook about 30 minutes ago. I can't stop listening to it... It is the title track of the new album Elephants into Swans.

Listen to the song here.

Right now I can only think about two things:
2. I want more!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Belated Gig Reviews Part 4: On Volcano & Ultramariini

So, a couple of weeks ago I went out, once again, to see bands play live. The headlining act of the evening was a band called Ultramariini but at the end of the evening I couldn't help thinking that the warm-up act On Volcano was actually a lot more interesting!

Yes, I realize that I have recently been exposed to such ambitious music that it might affect my thinking and reactions quite a lot. However, this blog has never been much about objectivity..

Grandiose, epic, big sounds... Music created in the spirit of shoegaze/indie rock bands and something about it even reminds of such bands as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Rós. Those are the ingredients of post rock – and nowadays also On Volcano's music. With classy Christmas lights illuminating the stage, the skillful musicians of On Volcano played an amazing set. This wasn't the first or even the second time I saw On Volcano but now they had really found their sound and perfected their music – I am already waiting for a full album. Almost every song of the live set was longer than five minutes and there were long instrumental periods, but the music was still perfectly balanced... It is the magic of post rock! Also, you just have to love a band that concludes the set with a ”country ballad”. Definitely the best post rock band of my hometown Tampere!

Ultramariini plays pop that could be described as indie but it also has qualities to make it appeal to wider audiences. Frontman Matti Johannes Koivu has been doing solo albums during the past years and performing as a solo artist. I have seen him live probably three times and loved every gig. Now his old band Ultramariini has returned and released a new album called Ydin. I will probably check out that album at some point – and most definitely On Volcano's new EP New Blood which the band is giving out for free!

Free download of On Volcano's New Blood EP
Ultramariini at MySpace

80s Power Pop Moment

This video was linked to Facebook several months ago. I spotted it and listened to it and thought to myself: "Wow!" Indeed, this is 80s power pop at its finest. Chris Von Sneidern was in this band, Flying Color, which existed 1984-1990.

There was such a rich jangly, beatlesque power pop scene in the 80s. I should do more research in that area. The availability of a lot of stuff from that time can be a bit questionable, though.. But giving up doesn't help either.

My goodness... Gorgeous stuff!

Greatness From Sweden

Again, I have a million things to write about. I wouldn't want to keep it too brief but I may not have a choice. Better say things briefly than not at all...

First of all, something I have been wanting to mention for quite some time. If you already haven't, do yourself a favor and check out the latest from the Swedish power pop front. The Genuine Fakes is a new band and based on everything I've heard from them they are definitely worth some serious attention.

A couple of videos for starters. The first one, I Don't Want It: classic 90s power pop sound á la the Posies, or Popsicle. Loud, sweet, catchy as hell! Also, extra points for great dancing in the video.. Nice video, all in all.

Then, When Reality Hits You: another really catchy tune, featuring the guys... shaving.

The Genuine Fakes have also made a cover version of Beyoncé's song Irreplaceable. What can I say... It's really good! It can be heard at MySpace, for instance. The release date for the Fakes debut album, which is called The Striped Album, is very soon, December the 1st.

The Genuine Fakes at MySpace
Official website
The Striped Album site

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Teenage Fanclub Live – Larger Than Life

My musical relationship to Teenage Fanclub has been renewed. I feel like a whole new TFC fan – a lot more devoted one. More deeply charmed by the magic of the Bellshill Beach Boys than ever!

It is such an amazing thing to get Teenage Fanclub to Finland only a few weeks after the Posies paid a visit to this distant land. It is a real privilege... Besides, it never ceases to amaze me to actually see other people – lots of people – coming to see bands that I like really much. It is not all that common for me, you know... I have seen near-deserted clubs so many times. Although it is very difficult to be certain of it, experiences like witnessing one's favorite band with hundreds of other people might have some unexpected, positive effects on one's subconscious. I like to think that it does.

After traveling to Helsinki by train, arriving at Nosturi, and listening to Finnish warm-up act Delay Trees play a nice set, it was inevitable that I was going to see one of my all-time biggest favorites alive in front of me – for the first time.

Soon the gig started. There they were... Norman Blake, the most talkative guy, rhythm guitarist, a sort of lead character who was smiling sunnily almost all the time. Raymond McGinley, the absolutely sympathetic guy on the left who delighted the audience with his riffs and guitar solos. Gerry Love, the more serious-looking bass player, but still the sweetest-sounding guy of the entire band. Drummer Francis Macdonald, the current provider of the loveable TFC beats. Keyboardist/guitarist, multi-instrumentalist David McGowan. Together these guys made the Teenage Fanclub experience come alive.

It was amazing to see these people and what they look like while playing these songs. I have always thought that TFC has its very own special style that I respect deeply... Seeing TFC live felt almost like a pilgrimage, with the difference that the band came to Finland, instead of me going abroad to see the band.

The first song was Start Again. I was very impressed: only Norman and Gerry were singing but the sound was incredibly rich... Bang! The huge vocal talent of TFC suddenly became so clear to me that it was quite overwhelming. What an unforgettable moment! The current TFC line-up includes five guys, all of whom sing harmony vocals. Luckily most of the gig was very well mixed and the harmonies could be heard quite nicely.

Some of the most wonderful songs of the set were Sweet Days Waiting and When I Still Have Thee – both were songs from the new album (Shadows) and really fresh and new to me, who hadn't listened to them very much yet... I was also very charmed by I Need Direction, I Don't Want Control of You, It's All in My Mind, Verisimilitude, Don't Look Back, Sparky's Dream, and all the other classics! The gig was concluded with a great version of Everything Flows, as usual.

The warm atmosphere during the gig was, after all, just the beginning... During the next days after the gig I listened to a lot of TFC, mostly Songs from Northern Britain, and also other albums... I felt things I hadn't felt before this much: new, wonderful, warm feelings, as well as understanding. When I started listening to TFC years ago, I was generally quite new to pop/rock music.. or any kind of music. Since then I have introduced myself to many different types of music and therefore it is now much easier to see TFC in the context of power pop, or pop, rock, or any other music in general. Now I understand why some people regard TFC as the best pop band in the world. The people who don't appreciate TFC much... They just haven't been enlightened yet!

By the way... How I have missed listening to sweet power pop! I looked at my mp3 player and noticed there were practically only about ten power pop bands there. That is not much for a person like me, you know... Moments like this remind me of the fact that even though I don't wish to consider any specific music genres/styles better than others, I do like to amuse myself by placing sweet power pop above everything else. In a way I really think about power pop as my favorite music attribute. There is something very special about the combination of those features that tend to be present in the music called “power pop” by many people. Power pop often is sweet... I like sweet vocalists, most definitely I like sweet-sounding guys, who play sweet music with sweet sounds. I want more sweet guys into my life!

What a speech... Also, this might not really be the end of the subject ”TFC and me”. So, beware!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another Dream Come True

Nononononononono. I'm NOT talking about the very unfortunate and sad demise of Not Lame. This record company will be dearly missed. Thanks for everything, Bruce! I look forward to the new Pop Geek Heaven site.

What I wish to say is that Teenage Fanclub, the heroes of jangly, cozy and warm, extremely charming (power) pop, are playing live in Helsinki, Finland, tomorrow. I will be there, of course. I haven't seen the Fannies before, so I am really excited!

These Scottish popsters were among the very first power pop bands I ever listened to. You could say they are an old favorite of mine, although there most definitely are loads of people who have followed the band much longer than me.

I have paid so little attention the latest Fannies album Shadows (2010) that I really feel embarrassed. I purchased the album when it came out but somehow it got lost when I was in the middle of some another 70s hard rock craze... Fortunately it's never too late to go back to being a big Teenage Fanclub fan again!

In any case, Shadows is a really beautiful album... Sweet songs, peaceful feel, and definitely a lovely atmosphere! Soundwise it is like Man-Made (2005) with everything made sound even better. Some people were not happy with the sounds on Man-Made but I am sure they don't have anything bad to say about Shadows. I LOVE Man-Made – the sounds, too.

Well... I am not going to start analysing this band and my experiences with it any further now. I might do that after the gig.

Some really good stuff from 1997:

TFC at MySpace

TFC website

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Love 'Em, Keep 'Em!

Guess what... I have discovered the music of KISS! And geez, what a great rocking pop band they are. Inspired by my friend, the author of One Chord to Another, I decided to check out KISS a few months ago. So, I got myself some early KISS albums and started listening. I noticed very quickly that the huge fame was well-earned. The albums were packed with gorgeous hard rock sounds with good melodies, even some really nice vocal harmonies...

According to some rumors, Gene Simmons has stated that there hasn't been much magic in making music with KISS. The band is a product and it sells well. Sounds familiar to me... A lot of music from the past decades was targeted to an audience that knew what it wanted – and the music was made by people who knew what the audience wanted. A good thing is that the product may still sound very good more than 30 years later.

Pictures of KISS still surprise me. That is because I haven't seen visual KISS material all that much.. I guess I have been kept in the dark (or something like that). The band looks goofy! And very goth-glam, I have to admit. KISS has also been known for spectacular live performances. The band's latest gig in Finland was last summer. I didn't go to see the show but the next time I just might do that...

So, I have been listening to KISS, Rock and Roll Over, Destroyer, and a bit of Love Gun. My favorite is Rock and Roll Over. This album also introduced me to the band's other lead singer, Paul Stanley... Well, he sounds really good. Nicer than Gene Simmons, at least. Paul Stanley is an important person also because he is the only other original member who is still in the band. He has also been credited to numerous big KISS hit songs.

To me, listening to KISS is a nice hard rock project. I often have use for groovy, hard-rocking, energetic music like KISS. That's why taking KISS to, say, the gym is simply awesome. You can never get enough of those hard rock riffs, catchy playing, and good songwriting!

KISS website

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

10 Reasons to Love Einstürzende Neubauten

Now that I have a new, extraordinary favorite I wish to share some of my thoughts concerning this experience. Here is a list of things I have learned to enjoy about Einstürzende Neubauten (EN) in a very short time. EN is an enjoyable band even thought it has little to do with traditional pop or rock music. It is a band for those moments when you want something completely different... Now, the things I love about Einstürzende Neubauten.

1. The Original Sound
Ever thought about the possibility of using random objects as musical instruments? Einstürzende Neubauten has always been known for custom-made instruments that are a big part of the band's sound. Throughout its career EN's sound has been composed of unique instruments made out of scrap metal, pipes, machinery, and tools - they even have an airplane turbine! Yeah, that sounds like a way to be recognized as avant-garde, doesn't it? But remember: if you want to start with something easier, try the newer EN material first. Leave the drilling machines and squalling Blixa Bargeld for a later time.

2. The Drums
I have always been a sucker for wild rhythms. I enjoy many kinds of drum playing styles and although I often stick to music that doesn't emphasize the drum section all that much, grandiose, ultra-energetic (non-electronic!) drums make me drool. When I started to get into Einstürzende Neubauten, one of the things that caught my ear were those intense drumming elements. It sounded so wild, like real African drumming. Einstürzende Neubauten also uses a lot of strange, wonderful things as percussion, such as pipes, canisters and barrels resulting in a sound different from almost any other drum kit in the world.

Well... Now you might just tell me start listening to music that only has drums in it. I love grandiose rock drums, jazz drum solos, and many other things, but I don't think I would be kept very interested for long with only the sound of drums. Another thing is that I have always preferred non-electronic drums, meaning drum sounds that were played by a real person by banging a drum or another drummable object. All in all, I want my music with both good rhythms and other instruments, with various sounds.

3. The Unexpectedness
Whenever I listen to Einstürzende Neubauten (especially those songs that I haven't listened much yet) I feel like anything could happen. There seems to be no way to know what will come next. And when the unexpected happens, you enjoy it. Then another wonderful phenomenon strikes in – that is listening to a song that you recognize having heard before.
I have always thought that the secret behind music is repetition and getting familiar with the stuff you hear. You can't easily embrace music that sounds strange and unfamiliar. Everyone needs time to adjust to music – that is why I don't recommend rejecting anything you haven't listend to properly and preferably several times.

4. The Dark Aesthetics
The gotchic aspects of Einstürzende Neubauten can be heard almost everywhere in the band's music. Especially in Neubauten's early material the industrial sound is the obvious gothic element but a certain darkness tends to be present everywhere in the band's music. Dark ambient sounds are obvious in EN's 90s and 00s material. I also like to describe some of the newer material as industrial - sounds created with metallic objects (other than the usual cymbals) are industrial to me.

5. The Nuances
Music benefits a lot from strong nuances. It is not to say that nuances are an absolute necessity but they tend to be a great asset. EN uses nuances so effectively that they probably couldn't be used in a broader scale. With the music varying from minimalism and even total silence to infernal noise Einstürzende Neubauten will fill your senses with the extremeties and everything in between.

6. Making interesting music with little emphasis on melody
Based on what I have found out about the band, Einstürzende Neubauten is more interested in sounds and, yes, even the verbal side of its music than melodies. Still, probably most of EN's songs have melodies – quite good ones, as a matter of fact. One of the band's strongest sides is making interesting music without those obvious, catchy pop melodies that I have grown so accustomed to. Sometimes I feel like some EN songs have too simple or monotonous melodies but... you get used to even those if you keep an open mind, perhaps even learn to see the melodic simplicity as a means of expressing something different.

Now, I can make a new statement about the most important thing in music. That is not necessarily melodies! Sound variation can be seen as an even more fundamental part of music, and the concept of sound variation does contain melodies as well. Of course any sound variation is not automatically good enough. The sound variation must be satisfactory to the listener or else it sounds for example bland or too complex.

From this perspective you can actually see that Einstürzende Neubauten just happened to cross paths with me when I was in a suitable state of mind: ready to learn to love new ways of musical expression. It could have been some other band as well... Or maybe not. There are so many special positive characters in EN's music.

7. The Persistence
Einstürzende Neubauten is currently on its 30th anniversary tour. 30 years is a good age for any band, especially for the ones that still have plenty of creativity left at that point. EN is currently unsigned but has operated as a self-releasing band for several years now, gathering supporters and giving out exclusive material to the supporting fans.

8. The Language
German is a great language, although not known for absolute beauty. However, if you think about it, softly pronounced German sounds a lot like French. German is also a good choice if you want to be particularly emphatic... I studied German in high school for two years and enjoyed it a great deal, but I don't understand German much.. It should be noted, though, that EN keeps changing the singing language in many songs. There are parts of songs or entire songs in English and French, even something in Spanish, I think.

9. The Artistic Versatility
Einstürzende Neubauten has never been limited to just performing music. There have been projects concerning film and theater and the live gigs have even been said to include elements from performance art. If I am not mistaken, everyone in the current line-up has released solo material. For instance, Blixa Bargeld is an author, actor and spoken word artist – some people have reported him being quite a stand-up comedian. He has also recorded an album of Bertolt Brecht's poetry.

10. The Inspiration
As a pioneer of industrial music and an icon of experimental/avantgarde music, EN has inspired numerous other music makers with crazy, inventive, revolutionary ideas. EN's music is just as enjoyable as it is difficult to categorize. After being exposed to EN's music for only about a week I started feeling like I should try to make music of my own in EN style!
To cut a long story short, I really like this band and the fact that there is sort of an intriguing battle between different aesthetical views going on in my head right now. In many ways I have already accepted these new musical beauty standards as my own. It's good to broaden the horizons. I feel like a winner.

Some (mostly live) videos from YouTube:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Ultra-Energetic Yellowcard Is Back!

It was annouced about a week ago that Yellowcard will play a concert in Helsinki, Finland, in February 2011. To me, Yellowcard has been one of those bands from which I like to listen to a couple of songs every now and then. Sometimes there is nothing like the energy in songs like The Takedown and Rough Landing, Holly!

Yellowcard took a couple of year's break from music but they are now back and recording a new album that will come out next year. I remember thinking a couple of months ago that if Yellowcard came to Finland I would most definitely go see them and mosh all through the gig. How come, my intentions are actually going to become reality!

Really, I'm not going to mosh all through the gig... But a part of it at least! To celebrate the great news here is a song from Yellowcard's latest studio album Paper Walls (2007): Light up the Sky.

Watch the video for Light up the Sky

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Dead

Here is a quick music tip for you. The Grateful Dead are doing an interesting 30-day campaign. They are giving out a new, unreleased, free mp3 track every day during November. I am definitely going to check this thing out. Also join the Facebook fan page for GD information and hints for this campaign - there is also a contest going on. If you are a GD expert, answer the daily question and you might win something cool!

When it comes to my personal interests, Grateful Dead is still fabulous. However, I have been spending a lot more time playing Grateful Dead on the guitar than listening to the band's actual recordings... It was some time ago when I did listen to Terrapin Station quite a lot, and before that American Beauty was THE thing. I think I fell in love with the absolutely sincere and haunting country songs. So, now I enjoy playing the songs on the guitar, and singing, too. My favorites are Friend of the Devil and Ripple (that riff!).

Also, to pursue my hippie urges I bought myself a Grateful Dead t-shirt last spring. It must be one of the coolest pieces of clothing I have ever put on.

30 Days of Dead website
The official Grateful Dead Facebook site

The Posies Live = Euphoria!

To see the Posies full-band gig again... To see a new Posies album was another thing that seemed unlikely to me mainly because it took quite a few years for it to be released. Well, obviously I hadn't been following the news too carefully because everyone else seemed to know about the album before me. So, the news came, the album was released and I went running to the record store. Blood/Candy is a superb album, definitely an improvement after the 2005 album Every Kind of Light. Soon it was time for a new Posies gig! I chose Turku due to the possibility of also seeing some friends there. The same day Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow even played an acoustic set in 8raita record store, which I of course went to see. It was magnificent – those gorgeous harmonies can be heard so much easier without all the other instruments.

The lasttime the Posies visited Finland was in autumn 2007, if I remember correctly, but Jon and Ken didn't bring their rhythm section with them that time. The first time I saw the entire nowadays version of the Posies was in November 2005. At that time I hadn't seen a lot of gigs (by any band) yet, and the Posies definitely gave me some real shock therapy! I still remember it as the craziest, wildest, loveliest, as well as loudest gig I have ever seen. Excellent work, guys! That is how I would summarize that show now.

This time Jon and Ken were a bit more calm... But they rocked and rolled nevertheless! Jon, Ken, Darius (Minwalla), and Matt (Harris) played a solid show presenting almost every possible Posies classic, including some excellent rarities, and most of the songs on the new album. As always, lots of incomplete cover versions were also played. This time the band seemed to get kicks out of The Who's material.. Gosh, they could play excellent the Who tribute gigs anytime!

I tend to enjoy Jon Auer's voice a bit more than Ken Stringfellow's but that composition always gets reversed in live situations. Ken's voice is better suited for hard-rocking live performances and his presence is more energetic. Jon Auer surely is charming as well and his angelic voice and intriguing stage personality could never go unnoticed. Together Jon and Ken are invincible.

Thank you so much guys and welcome back anytime!

Acoustic live in 8raita record store:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Belated Gig ”Reviews” Part 3: Monsters of Pop

I don't like the word “indie” too much anymore.. You can place anything under that term and, worst of all, skip power pop completely! Monsters of Pop, organized for the fifth time in Tampere this year, is an “indie music festival” that presents even quite hard rocking artists these days. I think that is bit contradictory to the festival being called Monsters of Pop.. Anyway, this year's MoP had again some great performances to offer. Here are a few of the bands that played a gig.

Technique is a quite new band, I think, that performs dark, atmospheric, minimalistic, yet entertaining electronic pop music. The songs also tend to have a slow tempo.. It all makes a great combination. I always enjoy seeing this band.

Technique at MySpace

There were also some international guests at MoP this year, some of them from Sweden. Francis, a Swedish pop/rock band, performed fancy tunes at Telakka. It was a good performance from good musicians. I especially remember the soulfulness of vocalist.. whose name I wasn't able to find anywhere. Anyway, a soulful and energetic performance from a female-fronted Swedish pop band.

Francis at MySpace

The most memorable gig was Them Bird Things, a band that I now saw live for the second time. And what a great improvement it was. I read in an interview that vocalist Salla Day would have wanted to make the band's first album an acoustic-sounding one but it was made into more electric in order to give the audience an immediate hit album (Fly, Them Bird Things, Fly! 2009). This acoustic vision was then realised on the band's second album Wildlike Wonder, released earlier this year. So, the interesting part is, that the band had a lot more acoustic live sound during the first album gigs. Now that Them Bird Things have released a more acoustic album, the live sound was more electric nonetheless, and the band sounded better that way. And maybe they had gotten better playing together.

Luckily the gig was even mixed well enough so that you could hear vocalist Salla Day's amazingly distinctive voice over the other instruments. The song material is also a very, very strong asset for the band. The new album is a gorgeous Americana/pop album, check it out on Spotify, for instance. The album has received praising feedback which is really well-earned.

Them Bird Things at MySpace

Lastly, I will mention another Swedish band that was the last performer of Friday. The band, Bye Bye Bicycle, had had problems with getting to Tampere so they were forced to take the stage probably only minutes after arriving from Sweden. Despite all the trouble the band threw an excellently energetic gig and presented lots of catchy, danceable songs. That is the work of professionals!

Bye Bye Bicycle at MySpace

That was this year's MoP. In the future, I might give up my current boycotting habit and even go see all the performers. That way I would at least have better means of criticizing the things I consider to be wrong... Such as the excessive number of electronic music performers, very noisy rock on a pop festival and the total lack of power pop artists. I am still happy this festival exists, even though my most cherished memories from the festival tend to a few years old already. The things used to be better... Or maybe I have just grown more demanding when it comes to my indoor pop festivals.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Break from Prejudice

Oh my. How easy it is to reject anything, anytime. How difficult to embrace the new, despite how different or frightening it may seem at first glance. I rejected this band but then realized, once again, that I won't ever find my way out of the world of conventional, sugary pop melodies if I don't accept anything else. My latest interest is... You guessed it, gothic, and I have, of course, felt attraction towards gothic music and aesthetics before. But I haven't felt attraction towards a German band since I was about 10 years old. And I have practically never felt attraction towards a band that doesn't seem to place too much importance on traditional instruments.

Einstürzende Neubauten (meaning Collapsing New Buildings) is a German experimental band founded in the early 1980s. The band's music at that time was unconventional, noisy, and aggressive, probably quite disturbing to the ears of a non-accustomed listener. I find it interesting, though... That noisy music was real pioneer work in the field of industrial music. More recently Einstürzende Neubauten has given up the aggression and instead makes quieter music but still utilizes extraordinary sounds. Based on my first impression I would say that this band is more interested in any kind of unusual sounds that, well, the sounds of traditional rock instruments. Why use a regular drum kit, for instance, when you can bang different metallic objects? Then there is also Mr. Blixa Bargeld, the band's lead vocalist, an iconic goth character and real gentleman. Bargeld's voice is very low-tuned but that it definitely part of the charm. Add lyrics in German language (sometimes in English) and there you have it: something you most certainly haven't heard before (unless you already have...).

I haven't decided yet if missing Einstürzende Neubauten's Tampere gig last Thursday was missing a chance of a lifetime and if I am going to be miserable and bitter right until the band's next anniversary tour. In any case, I am already quite convinced about the fact that seeing a band like this is a unique experience, no matter if you agree 100% with the band's musical preferences or not.

I can feel this is only the beginning..

Einstürzende Neubauten at MySpace

Einstürzende Neubauten website

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Let's Dance

All of a sudden I felt like dancing! So I listened to The Feeling, a great British pop band which has released two albums. One of The Feeling's most danceable songs is I Thought It Was Over, a bittersweet but uplifting tune from the band's 2008 album Join With Us. Like everything I listen to, this song too has a human point of view, something that I have recently noticed to be one of the most essential things in music. In a way this song is almost too serious for dancing.. Anyways, it is a lovely song. Dance if you like!

Gees, I just love this song - and band! Dan Gillespie Sells is also a great vocalist and frontman. It has been ages since the last time I praised The Feeling. So, voilà, The Feeling!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Belated Gig ”Reviews” Part 2: Captain Cougar

And now... Something completely different. This gig took place already in the end of August but I still remember it like it was yesterday. So, I will share some thoughts concerning concert experiences as a whole.

On an August evening I went to Klubi see folk pop band Captain Cougar (as well as Jukka Ässä and Cry Bar) but I definitely have the most vivid memories of Captain Cougar's gig. What was it then? Perhaps the most well-planned concert I had ever seen. The core of every concert is of course music. Captain Cougar performed its latest, second album Of Dreams Long Gone in its entirety. And oh what a concert it was!

I have seen a few hundred gigs and very few of them included any kind of visual stimuli in addition to the band and the instruments. In the field of indie/underground/non-popular pop/rock bands there is rarely anything else on the stage than the band and the usual lights that the venue can offer. The ideal situation often is that there is no need for videos or anything else in the background – the music is so good and entertaining in its own right that extra props, video screens etc. are not needed. On the other hand, sometimes the music and the concert as a whole can greatly benefit from additional visual features. The most important thing is to think what the concert needs, what the band and the music have to say.

Captain Cougar had a good reason to decorate their concert with video screens. The band's latest album has a historical theme: it tells stories that mostly take place in the 1910s Finland. On the screens there were different old photographs and texts that looked like letters or poems.

However, the visuals didn't steal the show. That role belonged to the band and gorgeous lead vocalist Eva Louhivuori who I think must be one of the best and most expressive female singers in the whole country. I also loved to see many wonderful instruments being played: violin, horns, woodwinds, piano. Everything the band did on the stage showed deep respect towards the wonder of beautiful, touching music – music that matters and takes you to a whole different place. It is a good equivalent to reading a good historical novel but with less text and more audio temptation.

This world needs music like Captain Cougar. Music that is down-to-earth but utilizes effective nuances with style. Music that conveys real human emotions, organic instrumentation and stories that shouldn't be forgotten.

Captain Cougar at MySpace

Captain Cougar website

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Belated Gig ”Reviews” Part 1: Stalingrad Cowgirls and Sweatmaster

There are several past gigs I would like to tell something about.. At least mention the bands, because I always love a good gig that encourages you to check out new music.

Well, well.. First of all, let's say that on September 23rd I discovered the best Finnish all-female powerpop band. They are called Stalingrad Cowgirls and probably like to label themselves primarily as a punk rock band. Well, they do look very punk.. Black leather, black hair, definitely not too girly! These women were also the best female rock'n roll players in this country I had seen live: a wonderfully energetic gig, melodic songs and loud guitars! Geez, there's nothing like a good-looking melodic punk/pop band with good songs that also can play really, really well.

Stalingrad Cowgirls come from Salla, a small town called Salla, north of the Arctic Circle. These northern girls – Enni Kivelä (vocals and guitar), Riina Kivelä (drums), Henna Vaarala (bass) - debuted in 2007 with Somewhere High. Kiss Your Heart Goodbye followed in 2010. I will check out these albums. They can be listened to on Spotify.

Stalingrad Cowgirls at MySpace

Stalingrad Cowgirls website

These cowgirls in black weren't the headlining act on that night, though. The stage was also taken by another hard rocking band, Sweatmaster, from Turku. Sweatmaster is said to be the most underrated rock band in Finland. That might very well be true, although this country surely is packed with other talented, unnoticed bands as well.

This time Sweatmaster came to Tampere to promote their new, fouth full-length album Dig out the Knife. So how was the gig? Sweatmaster kicked ass, and the musicians were just as surprised by the roaring applause as always.

Check out the video for one of my favorite Sweatmaster songs: Good Looks, Big Deal. It was released on the band's second album, Tom Tom Bullet (2005). Now that's rock'n roll!

Sweatmaster at MySpace

Sweatmaster website

Hot Blooded

Now that I am on holiday, it is time to write more than usual (which isn't much..). I have practically dozens of topics I would like to blab about, so let's see how many I end up writing about during this week...

Styx was the band that introduced me to magnificent, theatrical 70s rock music. Following the recommendations of Last.fm I soon discovered Foreigner and picked up the debut album from 1977. Musically speaking this band appeared to me as a sort of less grandiose but just as catchy little brother of Styx. In the summer of 2009 I spent many nice moments listening to Foreigner's self-titled debut album. No wonder I was drawn by such songs as Feels Like the First Time and Cold As Ice – they are great, melodic, rocking songs and contain really good vocal harmonies.

Given that one of Foreigner's founding members was the ex-King Crimson Ian McDonald, it might make you wonder why Foreigner's music is not all that progressive. Instead, any song by Foreigner I have heard so far sounds quite straightforward – there are no ultra-fast, complicated solos and the songs tend to be shorter than five minutes. On the other hand, it is quite understandable that by the end of the 70s bands started rather downplaying the progressive elements than still keeping them in their music. Maybe the progressive was slowly going out of style?

The other two founding members of Foreigner were Mick Jones, another British musician who had formerly served in Spooky Tooth, among others, and American singer Lou Gramm, who would soon charm the masses with both his excellent voice and songwriting talent. Together with drummer Dennis Elliot, bass player Ed Gagliardi, and keyboardist Al Greenwood, this British-American combo was ready to conquer the world. Unlike Styx, Foreigner managed to sell multi-platinum already with its debut album. Several more multi-platinum-sellers followed in the footsteps of the self-titled album.

I have taken it slow with Foreigner. So far I have only listened to the first two albums (the debut and Double Vision, 1978). Both albums are definitely good. The overall feel of Foreigner's music is very much like Styx: magnificent melodies, superb vocal harmonies, good energy, catchy hard rock riffs, added with a melancholic edge. Listen to a song like Blue Morning, Blue Day and you will immediately think about both Queen and Styx. A certain bittersweetness also gives Foreigner a lot of soul. Well, I guess I just described the ultimate pop song pattern, once again... Nowadays I call anything melody-oriented music “pop”. Foreigner is, in fact, pop in two different meanings.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marvellous! Perfect!

I can't help posting this everywhere I can... It's a music video by my favorite Finnish band Lemonator, from year 1996. For the first time ever this video can be seen online from this day forward.

This was the band's first music video. The song is called Superb. It was released on an album called Yellow (1997). The song... is superb, of course! The video is also really cool.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good to Be Here Again...

Yeah! The new album Blood/Candy by the Posies just came out. I went straight to the record store and got myself a copy. So far I have listened to it three times. It is good!

This indeed seems to be the most successful comeback of the year. (Although I'm still waiting for another band's comeback album..)

More about the Posies and me later.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Oh my. I really want to see Groovie Goolies. The characters look like so much fun! Groovie Goolies was an animated TV show that aired in the early 70s. The show had a lot of references to old horror movies and there was also a pop song in every episode.

Yeah.. Sounds like it was made for me. A happy cartoon with horror movie characters. Gee, I really have to check out the show and the soundtrack.

Here is the theme song. Actually, it sounds quite a lot like the Archies.. Catchy, isn't it?

Like the Summer Never Ended

It is time for some updating. Getting around to doing that seems to be way too challenging for me these days. I do think about writing almost all the time. The problem is that I have schoolwork to do and writing extra stuff doesn't feel appropriate very often. I need to relax sometimes too! However, I have also noticed that writing to this blog may be the perfect means of relaxation and therapy.

Anyways, my favorite band from Finland, Lemonator, released a new album on September the 1st. What can I say? They did it again: made the sun shine right when I needed it as the leaves started falling down from trees. The album carries the name Shake, Shake, Shake.. What a good indication of the lightheartedness it represents! It is the band's least rocking album yet but it is just as good as the other albums.

Lemonator is, in fact, one of my dearest and also oldest favorites (if you don't count childhood favorites). This magnificent Helsinki band made its way to my heart in 2003 when I saw the music video for a song called Broken Record on TV. Lemonator had just released a new fourth album Grandpop. I bought it and was instantly very impressed. Now that I think about it, Grandpop was the album that introduced me to power pop as a music style. It was a great introduction because of its great songs, rock & roll edge and capability of also showing the fabulously atmospheric and melancholic gentler sides of the band. In 2010, they are still my favorite Finnish band.

Well, yeah, there was that thing with Tehosekoitin and whether I might like them more than Lemonator. Tehosekoitin is (was) also very, very good.. But I still think Lemonator has the #1 spot in my heart when it comes to the loveliest Finnish bands.

It is easy to fall in love with bands that have made excellent albums - and if they also happen to sound like the Posies and the Beach Boys there is really no escape! So far, Lemonator has only released excellent albums the first being Yellow (1997), a happy, fun, fast-paced and loud album - perfect music anytime when you wish to hear high-energy pop rock (to me that is often...). The second album, Maison Rilax (1998), was a clear response to Yellow's overflowing happiness. Maison Rilax was a slower-paced album that dealt with lost love. The album included more complex song structures and various influences signaling that there was much more to Lemonator than just fun, rampaging rock'n roll. Maison Rilax was an impressive sophomore effort. The biggest hit, however, was yet to follow.

Most Lemonator fans probably consider the third album, The Waltz (2000), as their favorite. I do, too, of course... The Waltz is the culmination of Lemonator's best sides: it has an amazingly heartfelt and comforting mentality, spectacular songs that all have something important to say melodically, emotionally, soundwise and as well as lyrically. The album also shows Lemonator's sense of the dramatic. Even though the album presents a pretty broad variation of themes and moods - quite a few dark or melancholic ones too - the result as a whole is an album so deep, loving and touching that I still regard it as the Finnish Pet Sounds.

Following Grandpop (2003) came out At the Presence of Great Beauty (2006), the fifth album by Lemonator. This album was another really heartfelt effort. It had the heart of The Waltz, the rocking edge of Grandpop and the melancholic shades of Maison Rilax. All this made the album a simply unforgettable listening experience. The song material is gorgeous. Also, the string arrangements are a pretty good match for ELO's best work.

As I said, Shake, Shake, Shake is the latest album. It is lovely, of course it is lovely.. California Fun and I Always Wanted to Be a Drummer are some of the catchiest songs of the year and Hold Me Now is clearly the loveliest song of the year... At least to me.

Thank you Lasse Kurki, Risto Eskolin, Antti Karisalmi, Kelly Ketonen, and Mikko von Hertzen (former drummer). You always make my day!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Serving of British Bubblegum Sunniness

While going through my massive piles of CDs that I haven't had time to listen to yet (at least not very much), I came across a release called The Best of Vanity Fare. I spotted this band on a bubblegum website several months ago and decided to give it a try.

Vanity Fare, originally called The Avengers, were a lot like the other British 70s bands like Edison Lighthouse and anything else connected to Macaulay and Macleod - sunny, soft-sounding, baroque-tingled, melodic, and often absolutely gorgeous.

This band released some really wonderful melodic pop singles such as I Live for the Sun (a minor hit for a Murry Wilson-managed American band The Sunrays) and Early in the Morning already in the late 60s. Vanity Fare actually hit it big with I Live for the Sun – it was a huge hit especially in America. Vanity Fare wasn't just a cover band, though. The band also wrote original material right from the start. For instance, check out You Made Me Love You from 1969, written by keyboardist Barry Landeman.

To be honest, one of the reasons I am writing this is to get myself to listen to this band more. Music with such great harmonies, lovely melodies and optimism is always a winner – and so is anyone who listens to it.

Enjoy Hitchin' a Ride, from Top of the Pops, 1970! The band is understandably misspelled by the uploader here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Ultimate Guidebook

I would like to introduce you, readers, to my bible. And, with its help introduce many great bubblegum artists and phenomena. I bought this book about two years ago to satisfy my enormous curiosity towards bubblegum music. The book is called Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth. The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears (Feral House, 2001), edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay.

Well, yeah, Britney Spears being mentioned in the book title is somewhat unappealing. However, the writers of this book surely couldn't know what was going to happen in the near future. Don't worry! This book is mostly about considerably older stuff than just late 90s and the 00s.

Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth is exhausting even for a bubblegum maniac like me. It is 300 pages long – and believe me, the pages are large and the font small. There are lots of black and white photos and pictures but they are mostly very small. The book, with its numerous writers, goes to great lengths describing, reviewing, criticizing, and, of course, admiring and advertising dozens and hundreds of bubblegum hitmakers and bubblegum-related things.

The book contains loads of detailed descriptions of obscure and well-known bubblegum acts, real bands and the imaginary ones, too. Just browsing the book is entertaining and every time you find yourself amazed of the incredibly detailed work that doesn't leave one rock unturned. There are articles about artists, record labels, related genres, the international aspects of bubblegum, people reminiscing about the subject, bubblegum merchandise... This book deals with even the most questionable, money-thirsty, x-rated aspects of bubblegum music.

I went crazy reading this book.. It is well-written and interesting and really not just about bubblegum music but also lots of other things that have something to do with bubblegum. Although sometimes things don't even seem to have a relation to bubblegum and are more like descriptions of obscure and/or great 60s/70s pop records or something similar. It seems that a lot of things are somehow connected to the bubblegum scene..

So, what is the essence of bubblegum music? It varies, of course, especially through different time periods. In its original meaning bubblegum music is music made for children in the purpose of selling records, breakfast cereals, toys, anything, but bubblegum music is at its best also so catchy and well-written music that it appeals to children as well as adults. A real bubblegum song is something happy that plays in your head all day – and the next day too. A piece of cheerfulness stuck in you head... Things could be worse, don't you think?