Yvonne and the No Regrets – Mark (Part 1)

The idea is neat: love letters in a punk rock envelope.

Using lyrics allegedly based on handwritten love letters Yvonne has received from all around the world, Yvonne and the No Regrets have recorded a collection of thirteen songs that form the band’s debut. The album is appropriately titled Communication through postal services and the songs, I believe, are titled after the admirers who wrote the letters: Demian, Boaz, Adam, David, Mark… 13 raw and high energy, punk rock blasts. Arid and abrasive, these songs will not be the first choice for a prom dance, but sure are a kick in the guts of any heartbroken lover.

Communication through postal services is available in cassette and digitally.

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Delay Trees: Ten Years Gone

A few days ago, a Facebook post reminded me this year marks the tenth anniversary of one of my favorite Finnish bands. Delay Trees turns ten! Hooray! Congratulations!

In this ten years, the band has played dozen of gigs across and published three full-length album and a couple of EPs, perfecting their melancholic dream pop with each release. A pretty solid career I must say. But the story does not stop there. A new album, Let Go, is ready and will hit stores very soon. So soon that you can already listen to a couple of advanced songs.

It’s been a long time since a copy of the band’s debut, the magnificent Soft Construction EP, hit my mailbox along a handwritten note presenting the band. A few days later, I had the opportunity to meet the band and interviewed singer Rami Vierula, right before one of Delay Trees first shows, back in 2009.

To celebrate this anniversary I dug into the blog’s archive to bring you that 2009 interview with Delay Trees. I can’t tell if we were much older then and we’re younger than that now, but sure there’s much more beard these days. Read the interview below.

 

Delay Trees 2007

Delay Trees 2007

Delay Trees 2016

Delay Trees 2016

 

They come in quietly, with modesty and not making noise, but indie pop quartet Delay Trees have just self-released what it could become one of the best debut records to hit the scene this year. The Helsinki/Hämeenlinna band escapes from loud noises to deliver gentle cinematic atmospheres with a subtle touch of sixties psychedelia.

A couple of weeks ago, Delay Trees presented the Soft Construction EP live in Tampere. Just a bit before the late night show, the guys spent some time to introduce the band. Guitarist and singer Rami Vierula acted as the spokesman and took the lead in the conversation.

How did you meet and start playing?

Sami, Lauri and me have a history together. We had another band before. It was sort of brit pop. That band ended, but we three kept on playing together. We tried different drummers and finally Onni came and stayed. He was the perfect fit. In any case, we all knew each other before. We have been friends for a long time.

When you started this project, did you have a clear idea of what type of music you would play?

At the beginning, we had several acoustic folk songs, similar to Love and that type of sixties folk music. Forever Changes was a very big thing for me at the time. When we started to rehearse as a group, we moved to something more electric. But still we liked to keep it mellow. Nowadays it seems that every pop band plays so loud. We don’t need that. We don’t use so much distortion, for instance. We just do what we like. That’s why there’s not much distortion or heavy stuff. We just don’t like it.

What are your main influences?

There are many because everyone in the band seems to have his own favourite. Onni might be more into the indie scene, for example. However, Pink Floyd might be a band we all like. Myself, for a long time I only listened to sixties stuff. I also like David Bowie a lot, but the other guys not so much.

How was the recording of Soft Construction EP?

It was a long process. We rehearse a lot and did some demos, first. Then we found some people to help us with the recording. It was through friends and family. We heard from friends of a friend and names were dropped, so we got in contact with Jarno Alho, Teemu Vilmunen, from Ultramariini, and Julius Mauranen. They helped us recording and mixing. Little by little, everything fell into pieces, but it would be nice if we could find a record label or someone with cash to do some promotion.

Was there a big difference between playing live and recording in the studio?

We were about to have someone to act as a producer, but in the end we thought that the songs were ready. The complete idea of the songs was in our heads. It was our intention to keep the recording fairly simple, so it would not sound like a total different world from our live act. If we ever have the opportunity of recording again, we will probably try to follow the same pattern, just playing live in the studio. It gives a better vibe.

Have you been in contact with record companies?

We are sending the CD to any record company we can find, although we don’t have that much believe in record companies. There are only a few in Finland that could do well with a band like us. It would not be very useful for us to sign with a big company like Sony, for example. A company like that would like to produce our songs more and make them smooth and easy listening. Maybe winning the lottery is a better way for us to succeed.

Why did you choose old photos to be the artwork?

Sami is a graphic designer and he mentioned the idea of using that type of photos. My family has some good old vintage photos so we ended up using those. It does not have any hidden messages or anything. They just look nice. Since our music is soft and cinematic, it fits well with these images. They look like movie stills. What is sure is that we won’t be a picture band.

Finally, what about the band’s name, Delay Trees?

We went through the worse band names ever, but here’s not a big story behind the name. When I thought about it I just went to Allmusic.com and check if there would any other band with that name. We did not want to have a name that have been used many times. It needed it to be unique. Delay Trees does not make much sense, but to me it brings a David Lynch type of image. Blurry moving trees or something. It felt good. But actually, if you google it, it is a programming term. We didn’t know about that.

 

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The 10 best Finnish albums of 2016

Several outstanding new releases are around the corner: Astrid Swan’s return, the hard rocking new Them Bird Things album, Mikko Joensuu’s last chapter of the Amen trilogy, another Janne Westerlund dark blues record… However, as usual, I want to dedicate the first post of the year to the best Finnish albums of 2016. Here it goes.

Check out the best Finnish albums of previous years: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012.

 

10. The Hearing – Adrian

Ringa Manner, aka The Hearing, goes a long way with resonating beats and mesmerizing layers of vocals. I was taken aback by the intimate and dreamy, yet catchy, electro-pop presented with Adrian.

9. Is This Really Me – The Iron Door

There are days when I want to spend the evening with a well-crafted, heartfelt album. And, that’s exactly what Is This Really Me’s The Iron Door is: a superb collection pop songs with some comforting folk textures.

8. Matti Jasu and the Loose Train – Gone to the Dogs

Matti Jasu’s albums go often unnoticed, but it’s hard not to have a soft spot for his easy-going, guitar-driven, charming pop songs. Plus, the video for What Goes On is simply funstactic.

7. Oddarrang – Agartha

Agartha is the soundtrack of a film yet to be made. Brilliantly blending post-rock, jazz, classical music and some prog, Oddarrang have created a hypnotic cinematic experience.

6. Cats of Transnistria – Divine

These cats’ music might not be love at first listen. Give it time and the enigmatic soundscapes will haunt you forever.

5. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

No matter any X-Factor, Finland is a metal country. On their fourth album, Oranssi Pazuzu expanded its sound beyond the boundaries of black metal -but still the music is obscure and heavy as the darkest night. If you care about it, Värähtelijä got the attention of Pitchfork critics who rated the album with a well-deserved 7.9.

4. Seremonia – Pahuuden äänet

Seromonia’s music comes from a dark place, a very dark place, spooky and frightening. Rising from those spooky corners of the mind, Pahuuden äänet is raw, thrilling heavy psych-rock. A kick in the devil’s guts. It was released in 2016, but it could have been out in 1972 as well.

3. Talmud Beach – Chief

The minimalist blues and the laid-back boogie of this bearded trio was a great companion during the hot summer days. With some of the funniest lyrics this year, Talmud Beach could do no wrong after they sold their hair to the devil and the devil gave them the blues.

2. Black Twig – Blaze on a Plain

Throughout the year I returned to Black Twig’s Blaze on a Plain many, many times. Not only that. I did not get tired of recommending this album to anyone who would listen. Glorious fuzzy guitar pop and excellent songwriting. No filler. Maybe one day, it will be seen as classic Finnish indie album.

1. Mikko Joensuu – Amen 1 & Amen 2

According to most best of the year lists, critics prefer Amen 1, but I’ve listened to the second in the trilogy much more -mostly due to its grandiose rock sound and the epic There Used to Be a Darkness. The truth is that I find very difficult to separate both albums. Amen 1 deals with lost faith, and does it with intimacy and immediacy, using monstly acoustic instruments and folk songs. Amen 2 presents a fuller, brighter sound to reach acceptance, with fuzzy rock guitars, electronic elements, noise and lengthy songs. Both albums are they same album, really. They are part of a continuum which will conclude in a few months with the release of Amen 3. Only then we’ll see the full picture of this magnificent, relevant and beautiful masterpiece.

 

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Astrid Swan – A Long Time Running

astrid5-1-1356x1000Since the death of David Bowie, it seems it’s been all doom and gloom in the music world. Even positive news like Dylan being awarded with the Nobel Prize was met with a great deal of controversy. What happened to music as escapism? Anyway, to shatter negative thinking, I want to celebrate Astrid Swan’s return to music.

For those who do not know, Astrid Swan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in early 2014. A few months ago, she wrote a poignant essay about her struggle with cancer. It’s a brutally honest but inspiring piece of writing, so do yourself a favor and read it.

As she was getting better, Astrid started working on her sixth full-length. In the last months, she’s written, played, recorded, produced and mixed an album which reflects on the aftermath of breast cancer. On her own words “it is about the body; giving birth, becoming a mother, then becoming a patient – becoming a physical body that is defined by medicine, controlled and intervened, unknown and simultaneously more feeling than ever. It’s a pop record about loss, death, grief and hope.

A Long Time Running is the first track off this upcoming album. It’s a frail song seeking hope through gentle electronic sounds. There’s darkness, but not despair. Astrid choses hope.

 

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The unofficial Slush 2016 playlist

slush_2015_photo_by_jussi_ratilainen

Thousands of entrepreneurs, top-tier investors, tech experts, journalists and curious minds are gathering next week in Helsinki at Slush, one of Europe’s leading startup events. With more than 15,000 attendees from over 100 countries, a vibrant atmosphere, epic late-night parties and food trucks, the event resembles a music festival rather than your usual networking conference. Plus, this year, tech and music are meeting at the parallel event Slush Music.

To soundtrack the event, Nordic Playlist is heading to Helsinki and setting up its famous Radio Bar with live performances and DJs playing the official tunes of Slush. In person or online you can tune to specially made broadcasts exploring the rich musical landscape of the Nordics.

Alternatively, I have a compiled a bunch of songs to present the finest music produced in Finland at the moment . So here it is, the unofficial Slush 2016 playlist. Enjoy!

Delay Trees – Brightest Days

Since the release of their first EP, I have a soft spot for the melancholic pop songs crafted by Delay Trees. Nearly ten years into their career, the dream pop foursome is ready to release their forth album Let Go, sometime in early 2017.

Villa Nah – Spy

On their sophomore album synth-pop duo Villa Nah pay tribute to the 80s with some retro beats. The lead single Spy is based on the theme music by Nicholas Scarim for the 1984 computer game Spy vs. Spy. This is the ultimate anthem for a tech conference.

Talmud Beach – Ain’t So Young

Beer drinkers and hell raisers. From the heartlands of Finland, tongue in cheek, trio Talmud Beach play swampy boogie and lo-fi blues. Facial hair is what counts.

Black Twig – Sunday TV

With a love for end-of-summer melodies and fuzzy guitars, four-piece band Black Twig construct crystalline guitar-driven pop songs. They remind me a bit of Teenage Funclub with a little bit more of noise. Their newest album, Blaze On A Plain, is one of my favorite indie albums ever to come out of Finland.

Mikko Joensuu – There Used To Be A Darkness

If you lose your religion, you might as well go to a cabin and write songs until you have three albums worth of materials. Mikko Joensuu’s solo debut is a trilogy of albums, Amen 1, Amen 2 and Amen 3, composed in the aftermath of losing faith. There Used To Be A Darkness is the centerpiece of part two, an 11-minute epic of guitar noise and steady groove that carries the singer’s emotive voice. Simply brilliant.

Teksti-TV 666 – Silmät Kiini ja Kädet Ristin

Teksti-TV 666 could be the most extravagant band you’ve ever heard. Combining punk and krautrock (krautpunk?) and armed with four, five and at times, six guitars, the band builds a deafening, mesmerizing wall of sound. Hard stuff or as Finns say… kova!

Cityman – Hold On

Electronic pop duo Cityman combine 80s synth pop and modern dance music with the Scandinavian minimalism sensibility. The duo never loses sight of what pop songwriting is and the tunes are tremendously catchy.

Oddarrang – Mass I-III

Led by the genius of drummer Olavi Loihivuori, Oddarrang explores uncharted territories in the intersection of classical music, post-rock and jazz. Cinematic expressions which remind me of other Northern sounds like Sigur Rós.

The Hearing – Backwards

The Hearing is the moniker of singer Ringa Manner, who creates hypnotic loops and harmonies to make your head spin.

Lake Jons – Didn’t Know

Lake Jons play a modern take on folk-rock. Birthed in the Finnish woods, the vocals and harmonies might make you think of Bon Iver’s early work. I’m looking forward to the trio’s debut album, which should come out sometime next year.

Jess and the Ancient Ones – In Levitating Secret Dreams

If you are wondering… yes! There are still plenty of dark hard rock and metal bands in Finland. Jess and the Ancient Ones built on the tradition of 70s psych rock with the purpose of exploring the magical realms beyond the mundane.

Mopo – Beibe

Drawing inspiration from both jazz and punk, Mopo are a pretty funky bass-drums-saxophone trio. The music follows the free flow of jazz, even though things might get a bit anarchic at times.

View – Coldest Season

There’s a strong generation of Finnish rappers nowadays. Many rap in Finnish, but Juuso Ruohonen aka View uses English language and adds a dark tonality to the music that set him apart. Catch him at the Nordic Radio Bar during Slush Music.

K-X-P – Space Precious Time

Like a trance version of Motörhead, electronic rock band K-X-P deconstructs a mind-bending sonic world. Unsettling, dark, their intense live performances push the limits of reality.

Seremonia: Kuoleman planeetta

Heavy psych rockers Seremonia dive deep into the occult with fuzzy guitars, proto metal jams and Finnish lyrics around spiritual cult practices. Spooky and dark as the Finnish November days.

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Is This Really Me – The Iron Door

Is This Really Me - The Iron DoorAs the dead leaves fall off the trees and darkness stretches for the most part of the day, I find myself longing for some mellow, heartfelt, folky tunes. This why I’m so pleased to stumble upon The Iron Door, the debut album by Helsinki band Is This Really Me (yes, this really is the band’s name).  The clean guitars, the soft melodies and vocal harmonies are a ray of sunshine and a warm breeze that will help you through these cold nights. Add to that a few songs tinged with flowering psychedelia thanks to acid organ and spaced-out sounds and it all makes a very compelling album.

The Iron Door is already available on a nice LP/CD combo, featuring a beautiful cover. Listen to a couple of tracks below.

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