Red Carpet


photo #1 Ilkka Valpasvuo
photo # 2 Ilkka Valpasvuo

Here are the new reviews. New ones will be added to the top.
Old reviews are here.

Please note that I'm a music fan, not a music critic

Please note that I love music, but I don't know anything about it

Please note that this review section seems like a bad joke, but most of the music reviewed here sounds like heaven.

New Hasty Reviews (starting october 2008):

Neil Halstead: Oh! Mighty Engine (Brushfire Records, 2008)

Neil Halstead is a big hero of mine and I'm a huge Mojave 3 fan (yeah Slowdive was great as well, but nothing compared to Mojave 3). Oh! Mighty Engine is his second solo album and it kind of gives me the same feelings as the first one Sleeping On Roads. Really good music, but it isn't able to reach the same heights as Mojave 3. Oh! Mighty Engine makes Neil become a soft folkie who is singing really warm and gentle music. Well no news there I suppose. That beautiful voice would sound warm even if it was singing Ben & Jerry's adverts. The quality of the songs is actually really good, but in an album lenght that soft guitar playing and warm singing is almost starting to get boring even if individually each song would sound wonderful. Oh! Mighty Engine is still a must have album for fans of Neil Halstead, but perhaps either Mojave 3 or Slowdive is a better way to start for newcomers.

Neil Halstead at myspace

Sera Cahoone: Only As The Day Is Long (Sub Pop, 2008)

I can't say that I'm really passionate about Sera Cahoone's solo debut Only As The Day Is Long, but maybe I should be, because it's damn hard to find anything wrong with it. Sera Cahoone's songs leans strongly to country tradition and should go down well among music freaks because nowadays this indie folk thing seem to be hotter than Winona on Reality Bites. Only As The Day Is Long isn't a happy album, but thankfully it isn't completely devastating either. It's a sad & beautiful world like that Linkous boy used to sing. Sera Cahoone has created a good album full of beautiful country and folk songs. I only hope that next time the peaks will rise even higher, because eventhough this is all good material, there's nothing really earthshattering on the album.

Sera Cahoone Website
Sera Cahoone at myspace

Gary Louris: Vagabonds (Rykodisc, 2008)

Vagabonds is actually a really good album, but it's also one of the biggest dissapointments of the year. This is because former Jayhawk Gary Louris has been one of the greatest songwriters and vocalists of the last 15 years or so and I tend to expect much more than just a really good album from him. Basicly Vagabonds didn't have much chance, because if it wasn't the album of the year I would be dissapointed. There's only one song that I don't like at all and it's I Wanna Get High which might suit the producer Chris Robinson's band The Black Crowes much better than Gary Louris. Other than that, Vagabonds is full of good songs that circle around the areas of country, folk and americana. The big problem is that while it's all good it still lacks the greatness of his earlier material and isn't anyhow that remarkable or unforgettable. I suppose Gary Louris is another victim of his own glorious past and it's starting to be damn hard for him to please these hardcore losers that are not worthy of criticizing him.

Gary Louris Website

Gary Louris at myspace

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Sunday at Devil Dirt (V2, 2008)

Last night I didn't like Mark Lanegan that much, but now I like him a lot. This is because now there's Isobel's soft humming giving that much needed contrast for Mark's dark convincing voice. Eventhough this too gets a bit too scary and dark at times, beautyness is also around and you can breath easily. Still my favourite ones are the lighter ones like Who Built The Road that is somewhere between Nick Cave's murder ballad duets and The Walkabouts (hmm did I say light). Sunday At Devil Dirt contains dark & beautiful folk-blues songs and it sounds damn convincing all the time. There's one slight worry though. It does require a certain melancholic mood and often I just don't feel like listening to it. That is actually the only reason this falls out from the 4 1/2 category. Whenever I feel like listening to it I love Sunday At Devil Dirt, but I rarely do want to listen to it.

Isobel Campbell at myspace

Ben Weaver: The Ax In The Oak (Bloodshot Records, 2008)

I really loved Ben Weaver's previous album Paper Sky, but unfortunately this new album The Ax In The Oak doesn't evoke similar feelings. It's still beautiful americana and folk music with some electronic backgrounds, but somehow it feels that the experimental side is now taking too much space from the traditional songwriting. And when the songs and melodies aren't as wonderful as before, I'm starting to have much more doubts about the electronic elements. However, I still love his lyrics and the melancholic dark mood of the music. The only problem is that only Soldier's War and Anything With Words are really great songs. The Ax In The Oak is not a bad album, but my expectations were a lot higher.

Ben Weaver Website
Ben Weaver at myspace

The Quarter After: Changes Near (The Committee To Keep Music Evil, 2008)

The Quarter After ticks all the right boxes for me. It's 60's/70's influenced psychedelic pop/folk music, it brings The Byrds and Gene Clark's solo albums to my mind, there's great songs and pretty harmonies, "right" people like Matthew Sweet and Ric Menck feature as guests and Nelson Bragg even is/was a member of the band. So no wonder I really like the album. By big favourite songs are Early Morning Rider and Nothing Out Of Something. The first one is a perfect piece of 60's flavoured harmonic pop music and Nothing Out Of Something sounds like a lost outtake from Gene Clark's album No Other (this is not the only song where the vocalists sound a lot like Gene). There are plenty of other great songs on the album as well, but some also fall into that "pretty good but nothing spectacular" category. Totally my kind of music and part of me wants to raise the grade, but a guess I have to be honest..

The Quarter After Website
The Quarter After at myspace

The Gutter Twins: Saturnalia (Sub Pop, 2008)

The Gutter Twins aka Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli. Eventhough I haven't been as huge fan of them as some of my friends, hearing those names still means that I would really like to love the record. Therefore I ended up giving them lots of chances, but in the end I have to stop lying to myself and admit that I just don't love the album. It just gets too dark and depressive. Perhaps you can argue that I mostly listen to dark and depressive songs but I favour different kind of darkness. It's different to feel depressed because your dreamgirl is banging the next door neighbour than to feel depressed because an army of hungry bats is ready to eat your balls if you let your guard down for second. Therefore my favourite song on Saturnalia is Seven Stories Underground because at least it's musically lighter. The first two songs Stations and God's Children are really good though and recall The Afghan Whigs in a good way. Perhaps Mark Lanegan's vocals is a big reason why I don't love this. The man is too convincing and his gloomy voice makes this a bit too dark for me (because there isn't Isobel's soft humming giving much needed contrast).

The Gutter Twins Website
The Gutter Twins at myspace

Astrid Swan: Spartan Picnic (Johanna Kustannus, 2008)

Astrid Swan's second album Spartan Picnic was released in february 2008 and it's full of powerful piano-driven pop music. I have a bit mixed-up feelings about the album. I absolutely love these strong, energic pop songs like As Long As It's Not You and For Those Who Drown and I adore the last two tracks Sea/e Life that grows into a gorgeous duet and the beautiful ending Who's Gonna Hold You. On the other hand, some of the songs are a bit too ambitious and artistic for a fan of three chord pop songs and country whining. Basicly I mean that songs like What Does The Pink Mean and Come Slowly Home are too good for me and I should just go back to watching Idols reruns. In a nutshell I love about half of Spartan Picnic and I can understand the value of the other half but it just isn't my cup of tea. If you are looking for great piano-driven pop music, Astrid Swan is an excellent choice.

Astrid Swan Website
Astrid Swan at myspace

The Black Crowes: Warpaint (Silver Arrow, 2008)

The Black Crowes' latest album Warpaint has been one of the surprises of the year for me and it's mostly Kolibri Kasino's fault that I got into this mess. The reason why I started to like this record is obviously the country rock side of it, but soon I noticed that this blues rock isn't bad either. Ok, I admit that that a few times that endless boogie and too much of jamming starts to annoy me and I might love Warpaint more if all the songs were 30-60 seconds shorter. It's still a really good record with some fantastic songs like Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution, Oh Josephine, Locust Street and There's Gold In Them Hills.

The Black Crowes Website
The Black Crowes at myspace

Death Cab For Cutie: Narrow Stairs (Atlantic, 2008)

It was bloody scary to hear the first single from Death Cab For Cutie's new album. After all, that over 8 minutes long I Will Possess Your Heart single was incredibly boring and I fell asleep before the singing even started. All was not lost though, because the last four minutes of the song was pretty good music. The problem only was that basicly nothing happened during the first 4 and half minutes of the song (I know I'm in the minority and most reviews seem to praise this song much more than the whole album. Don't worry I just want to whine eventhough I should be happy that someone has the guts to release something like that as an single). Thankfully the rest of the album offers a bit more usual Death Cab For Cutie music and while Narrow Stairs doesn't contain their strongest songs, it's still pretty damn good. And with Ben Gibbard's voice you can basicly sing that phone book and I would probably buy it. Just remember to sing Ben.

Death Cab For Cutie Website
Death Cab For Cutie at myspace

Drive-By Truckers: Brighter Than Creation's Dark (New West, 2008)

Drive-By Truckers' latest effort Brighter Than Creation's Dark is quite an ambitious piece of southern rock with 19 songs and over 75 minutes of music. It still works suprisingly well eventhough a little bit of editing might have been in order, because if I could cut it down to more usual 12 songs it would rise into my top 5 albums of the year list. But why the heck am I complaining, because they probably would have edited the wrong songs out and I had missed out on some greatness. Can't I just be happy about getting lots of gorgeous songs like A Ghost To Most, Two Daughters and Beautiful Wife, The Righteous Path, Home Field Advantage And Self Destructive Zones. Drive-By Truckers is always an excellent choice if you're looking for great southern rock & with a bit of old-fashioned country music and a plenty of good old rock'n'roll. I really would like to throw in another half of a heart, but perhaps there's a bit too much filler for that. It's still damn brilliant album during it's finest hour.

Drive-By Truckers Website
Drive-By Truckers at myspace

Mudcrutch: S/T (Reprise Records, 2008)

It's been a year of Tom Petty here at the headquarters. Six months ago I had zero Petty albums, now I have over ten. I'm still not his biggest fan and I don't love everything his done. In fact I think only 3-4 of those album I own are really great while the rest are just good records. However, even the not that great albums have some fabulous moments on them and were therefore worth buying. During this sudden Tom Petty addiction, also a new Tom Petty album saw the light. Mudcrutch was actually Tom Petty's band before The Heartbreakers, but it took them over 30 years to get a debut album written and released. This self-titled debut is a good 70's flavoured country rock album, but there are too few of those great moments. For example Scare Easy and Orphan Of The Storm are fantastic songs, but there seem to be two indiffirent and boring rock tunes for every great song. Definitely worth owning because of those 4-5 wonderful songs, but I could live without the rest of the material.

Mudcrutch Website
Mudcrutch at myspace

Fleet Foxes: S/T (Sub Pop, 2008)

Fleet Foxes were on everybody's lips even before their debut album was released, but thankfully they lived up to the high expectations and totally deserved all the hype. For me the biggest charm of their music is obviously the singing and especially the vocal harmonies. Beautiful harmonies make even the not that great songs rise far above mediocrity and Fleet Foxes have learned this fact. They even have to use it a few times, because there are 3 or 4 of these not that great songs. Therefore I can't say it's a perfect album, but it does have a lot of magical moments and some really gorgeous songs. My big favourite is Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, but it's certainly not the only fabulous song on the album.

Fleet Foxes at myspace

Hayes Carll: Trouble In Mind (Lost Highway, 2008)

Hayes Carll is one of these highly-regarded country singer-songwriters and I probably should love him, but for some reason I just don't. I've really tried, but I can't force myself to love him. Lyrically he is doing a good job and is a good storyteller, but the compositions aren't strong enough. The fact that I don't like his voice that much doesn't help. However, there is one song that I really love on the album. It's one of the very few rock song and it's called Bad Liver and A Broken Heart. Like the title says it's almost a stereotypical country song played with an empty whiskey bottle in one hand and broken heart on the other. Bonus points for the wonderful or terrible guitar sound (jury is still out, but the side wonderful is winning at the moment). Other smaller favourites are Knockin' Over Whiskeys, Beaumont and It's a Shame. Trouble In Mind is not a bad album, but not exactly my cup of tea. If you like country singer-songwriters, give him a chance.

Carll Hayes Website
Carll Hayes at myspace

The Felice Brothers: S/T (Loose Records, 2008)

The Felice Brothers is a big favourite of mine and this is another great album eventhough I think Tonight At The Arizona is a slighly better album. The Felice Brothers is often compared to Bob Dylan & The Band, because the lead vocalist has a very dylanesque voice, but you really don't need to be into Dylan to love them. This is just convincing traditional american country/folk music. Sounds like some farmers had just decided to celebrate the harvest by picking up acoustic guitars and singing murder stories in beautiful harmony. You'll need to buy this one just for the song Frankie's Gun, which is one of the songs of the year.

The Felice Brothers Website
The Felice Brothers at myspace

Hundred Million Martians: Marseille (Plastic Passion, 2008)

Hundred Million Martians released their fourth album in the spring and they were back in excellent form. Marseille is on level with their first two albums while the third one Solid Rock Planet for some unknown reason isn't as highly regarded in this household. Especially the beginning stages of Marseille are on par with almost everything released this year. Excellent rock tune Backseat Of Your Soul kicks your door down, Life Ain't That Bad Girl reveals their (power) pop sensibility and the highly energic single Passed is another killer song. Hundred Million Martians aren't inventing anything new, but if you are looking for a whole lot of fun and good rock music with traces of punkpop and powerpop, a visit to Marseille is well in order.

Hundred Million Martians Website
Hundred Million Martians at myspace

Danny and The Champions Of The World: S/T (Loose Records, 2008)

Danny George Wilson has gathered together a new band collective that heads deeper down to the fields of folk and americana. I've loved basicly everything Danny has done whether it has been as a member of Grand Drive or as a solo artists and perhaps this is why Danny wants to see how far my love can stretch by adding several 7 or 8 minute long songs to the disc. Oh Danny, you should know that a stupid prejudiced boy will have hard time to get around that fact, but at least you made it easier by making the songs so beautiful, comforting and easy-flowing. The album is full of good folky material, but perhaps only Red Tree Song, The Ghost and Me and The Truest Kind (which was co-written by Neal Casal) rise as high as some of Danny's older material.

Danny and The Champions Of The World Website
Danny and The Champions Of The World at myspace

Dropkick: Dot The I (Taylored Records, 2008)

Scottish Dropkick has found a recipe of how to write really good country-tinged power pop tunes and seem to bake a couple of great pop discs every year. You certainly can't blame them for not being active and one has to admire how on earth they can come up with such a huge amount of great pop songs. Still I occasionally wonder that perhaps they should just release one really wonderful album in a year or two instead of several really good ones. I mean if you gathered the best 12-14 songs out of Dot The I and last year's releases and gave it a good studio treatment, the end result would be an absolutely stunning pop album. Okay, I really shouldn't complain, because as long as they can keep the quality of the releases this high, I keep on buying them and I keep on enjoying them a lot. Oh, I think I'm at the end of the review and have managed to write it without saying absolutely nothing about the album itself. Yeah, I'm a real pro. In a nutshell, Dot The I is a really good pop record and highly recommended to any fan of guitar pop. Harmony police doesn't have anything to complain about either.

Dropkick Website
Dropkick at myspace

Daniel Wylie: Car Guitar Star (Neon Tetra Records, 2008)

Daniel Wylie is one great pop singer-songwriter. He wrote lots of gorgeous songs as the frontman of Cosmic Rough Riders and after the split has continued writing great music as a solo artist. The second solo album The High Cost Of Happiness was a perfect album and while I don't rate Car Guitar Star quite as high, it's still an excellent addition to his catalogue. The biggest problem I have with Car Guitar Star is that I don't like the opener I Love America at all, but I shouldn't focus on that because the next trio of songs show that Daniel Wylie is still capable of writing wonderful pop music. These songs I'm A Machine, I Can Fly and You Go are my big favourites and they are all fantastic guitar pop songs. Well done Daniel.

Daniel Wylie at myspace

Boomhauer: River Run Deep (Stupido Records, 2008)

Boomhauer's latest album River Run Deep saw the light early in the year and it was certainly another great album. That one crazy goofball Saku had led Boomhauer to a steamy garage rock train that passed several blues swamps and crossed a few country roads along the way. River Run Deep equals a whole lot of fun and might be their most complete album so far. I admit that I don't love the early rock tunes (other than Elephant Stomp maybe), but slower numbers Long Long Way and Choo Choo Pendolino really kickstart the record for me and it's pure greatness after that. Horse Pressure, Lonely Rider and Do Snake Eat Bird kick your ass and slower tunes like Hard Luck Day and Ways To Feel Better (which reminds me of Luna) are full of charm. A great album.

Boomhauer Website
Boomhauer at myspace

Tindersticks: Hungry Saw (Beggars Banquet, 2008)

It's good to have you back Tindersticks. Eventhough Stuart's solo albums were really good, somehow on an emotional level it feels better to listen to Tindersticks (I know that makes logically no sense, but I never said I was a smart boy). Perhaps because of this I was first really into Hungry Saw, but unfortunately I've later realised that I'm not totally in love with the new album. The only song that really strikes me is The Other Side Of The World while the others fell to the "really good, but it doesn't have that same magic as the early works" category. Tindersticks are the victims of their own glorious past and me becoming a happier person. I think that the timing was right for Curtains to hit my heart back then. I was just out of high school, shy, vulnerable and lonely and Curtains was the perfect medicine against the anxiety. Stuart's gloomy voice and the beautiful orchestration easily went under my skin, gave comfort and encouraged me to feel. Most of the same elements that made such an huge impact on me are still here, but maybe I just don't need Tindersticks as much anymore.

Tindersticks Website
Tindersticks at myspace

Brent Cash: How Will I Know If I'm Awake (Marina, 2008)

Did I just went back to the golden age of sunshine pop. Brent Cash's debut album How Will I Know If I'm Awake could be mistaken as Rev-Ola's reissue of some long lost sunshine pop album, but a guess we have to believe that it's actually a new release. It's certainly a very 60's influenced pop album full of beautiful arrangements, lush instrumentation and gorgeous vocals and vocal harmonies. Something what folks like Roger Nicholls and Paul Williams might have created during their peak years. Well obviously Brent isn't as great as Roger and Paul were (because hardly anyone is), but he certainly has written a delightful and enjoyable sunny pop album. The highlights are Digging The Fault Line and Good Morning Sunshine.

Brent Cash Website

Brent Cash At myspace

Robert Forster: The Evangelist (Yep Roc, 2008)

Few years ago the world lost a great man and a great songwriter when Grant McLennan passed away way ahead of his time. Thankfully his songwriting partner Robert Forster decided to carry on making music and created a wonderful solo album The Evangelist. Three of the songs are partly written by Grant McLennan and especially Demon Days is as strong as anything The Go-Betweens wrote and listening to it touches even hearts that only knew Grant through his music. In overall, The Evangelist seems very honest and emotional album full of warmth and acoustic beauty. It doesn't rock your body, but it might comfort your mind.

Robert Forster Website

Tyler Ramsey: A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea (Echo Mountain Records, 2008)

If that new Sun Kil Moon album feels a bit too challenging with ten minute long songs, but you would still like to hear something similar, it's quite safe to recommend Tyler Ramsey's debut album A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea. For example the song Ships sounds extremely lot like Mark Kozelek's song and even qualitywise it's up there on the same level. That comparison doesn't cover whole record though. There's a bit of blues and that cosmic country or whatever you wanna call it. Very beautiful guitar picking and sentimental, melancholic and dreamy music. Very detailed and thoughtfully arranged, but it does require a certain mood and does not fit that well into my everyday listening.

Tyler Ramsey at myspace
Tyler Ramsey Website

The Draytones: Up In My Head (1965 Records, 2008)

If you are looking for some good old 60's garage rock with a modern twist, this anglo-argentine trio The Draytones is bound to give you some good times. First full-length Up In My Head offers plenty of greatness eventhough it is a bit of a hit and miss kind of record for me. It could have been a killer EP, but now it's only a good album. This doesn't matter that much, because the tracks that are great are not just great, they are bloody brilliant. Songs like Turn It Down, After All, As High As I Can are definitely huge treats for retrolovers and basicly any lover of good rock music. The Draytones is a band that one should see on stage and perhaps 7" inch single would be the optimal format to listen to them. Despite all this Up In My Head easily ends on a positive side. If half of the tracks are worth 3 hearts and the other half are worth five hearts, then with my lousy mathematic skills the grade will be...

The Draytones Website

The Draytones at myspace

Ally Kerr: Off The Radar (Much Obliged Records, 2008)

A sweetness warning is probably in order. So if you have too much testosterone in your system, listening to this might cause sudden urge to to throw your stereo set out from the window. This scottish popster has an incredibly sweet voice and his indie pop tunes are as pretty as your girlfriend's eyes (not meaning in a glass jar by the fireplace). Anyway, if you are into sweet indie pop, Ally Kerr's second album Off The Radar is a really good selection. It's a bit stronger as a whole than the debut and contains also a (should-be) hit in the opener Could Have Been A Contender. Off The Radar is a really good pop record.

Ally Kerr Website
Ally Kerr at myspace

Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Lie Down In The Light

Me and Bonnie "Prince" Billy had lost touch and we were neglecting each other for a few years. Thankfully Bonnie "Prince" Billy was the bigger person and made the first move in order to get us back together. This move was obviously the release of his latest album Lie Down In The Light and it's warm beauty didn't give any alternative and I had to let Bonnie "Prince" Billy back into my heart. Now few months later Lie Down In The Light is my favourite Bonnie "Prince" Billy album and songs like Glory Goes, Missing One and I'll Be Glad are everlastingly beaufiful.

Bonnie Prince Billy Website
Bonnie Prince Billy at myspace

The Dutchess and The Duke: She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke (Hardly Art, 2008)

The Dutchess and The Duke is marrying weird dark folk tunes and good old 60's rock music who then have an affair with pop harmonies. It's a lovely a combination and the end result is full of life. One thing I like about this debut album is that it's not too polished. These rough sounds makes it all very much alive and give a good contrast to those vocal harmonies. A not so serious way to describe them could be that it sounds like Mick Jagger and some 60's folk girl getting little drunk and/or high and then picking up guitars and singing their hearts out. Especially the opener Reservoir park sounds a lot like 60's The Rollings Stones with a folk twist.

The Dutchess and The Duke at myspace

Johnny Flynn: A Larum (Lost Highway, 2008)

Johnny Flynn is young and very talented british folk singer-songwriter. His debut album A Larum sounds a lot like The Decemberists to me. Well perhaps a bit stripped-down version and without a rock gear, but still there are similarities. It's definitely a strong debut and perhaps only lack that killer song. Cold Breed and Brown Trout Blues get pretty close though. Johnny has a great unique voice and the band Sussex Wit flavours the cake with cellos, trombones, spoons. This might not be for everyone, but if you are interested in folk music it's worth it to check him out. A Larum is not yet a masterpiece, but it's really enjoyable and promises a lot for the future.

Johnny Flynn Website

Johnny Flynn at myspace

Ken Stringfellow: The Sellout Cover Sessions Vol 1 (Sell Out Music, 2008)

Ken Stringfellow's new release is a cover EP for norwegian label. It's obviously good stuff, but not really a must for other than the biggest Ken / Posies -fans. Several bonus points though for not picking too obvious songs to cover. Usually cover albums are guilty of playing it safe and mostly contain well-known songs. Ken on the other hand cover Judee Sill, Honey Cone, Bill Fay, Loretta Lynn and The Long Winters. The best cover on the EP is easily Ken's take on Judee Sill's beautiful Crayon Angels. Honey Cone's Girls It Ain't Easy is also a treat, but still you're left with a feeling that it could have been so much more with better production. The Sellout Cover Sessions EP is mostly just a little side project aimed to keep the fans satisfied until the next "five heart" album. It's not a must have item, but still if vol 2 sees the light some day, I will buy it.

Ken Stringfellow Website
Ken Stringfellow at myspace

Justin Rutledge: Man Descending (Six Shooter Records, 2008)

Justin Rutledge is a great canadian country troubadour and this is his third album. Like a real stereotypical indie boy, I still feel that the first one is his best album, but Man Descending certainly gets close. Justin is a master of creating these serene, easy-flowing and poetic country / folk songs. The only minor thing that sometimes bothers me is that in an album lenght it starts to get even too peaceful. Each and every song is marvellous and full of serene beauty, but a few rougher corners here and there might have given the album a small lift during the moments when the listener almost gets an overdoze of soft beauty. Despite this minor thing, Man Descending is one of my favourite albums of the year and full amount of hearts was very close.

Justin Rutledge Website
Justin Rutledge at myspace

Mando Saenz: Bucket (Thirty Tigers, 2008)

Mando Saenz is another good country singer-songwriter. There's not yet a place for him on the coffee table of the greatest modern country songwriters, but if Neal Casal is otherwise engaged, Mando Saenz can surely step in and do a good job. I know that sentence made as little sense to you as it did to me, but I suppose the point was that Mando Saenz reminds me of Neal Casal (Anytime Tomorrow -era perhaps). They have very similar voices and both know the formula of how to write lots of beautiful and melancholic country songs. Seven Dollars especially is a great song and there's not much wrong with the rest of the material either.

Mando Saenz Website
Mando Saenz at myspace

The Summer Suns: Greatest (House Of Wax, 2008)

This was certainly a welcome release. A comprehensive retrospective of The Summer Suns is like a dream come true for a fan australian power pop / jangle pop. I've been wanting to own these songs since I first heard them on Räkärodeo several years ago. Kim Williams was a really wonderful songwriter and songs like Thank You Holly, Another Carrie Anne, Honeypearl, Why Say So, Meltdown, All The Way, Why I Fell.. etc deserve a much wider recognition. They are real jewels (and unfortunately almost hidden gems) of jangly pop music. If I would hand pick a 10 song best of out of this comprehensive 22 song packet, it would have easily gotten a full five hearts. That's how great they were at their best.

The Summer Suns at myspace

Langhorne Slim & The War Eagles: S/T (Kemado, 2008)

This album is still the strongest contender for's album of the year award eventhough Old Crow Medicine Show is trying to challenge it at the moment. It's even hard to pinpoint why I love this man and his music so much. It doesn't really fit into one genre well. Maybe it's soulful country played with punk attitude by a folkie. I don't know, but I do know it's a stunning album and I love it to bits. Langhorne Slim is also a marvellous vocalist and even when he is whispering (he rarely is though), his voice is full of emotion. This passionate album is worth all the hearts in the world. Extremely and monstrously highly recommended.

Langhorne Slim at myspace

The Avett Brothers: The Gleam II -EP (Ramseur Records, 2008)

Before finding the shelter of a major label, the greatest band in the world The Avett Brothers released a second The Gleam EP. Just like the first one, The Gleam II focus on acoustic beauty and it doesn't reveal the rockin' side of The Avett Brothers. It does not matter at all, because it's easy to love everything they do. There's a lot of thought, heart and emotion in all of their doings and it doesn't hurt that the boys also sing like angels. If you are looking for great storytelling and beautiful acoustic americana, there's no need to look further than The Gleam EPs. I can hardly wait for that Rick Rubin produced major label debut.

The Avett Brothers Website
The Avett Brothers at myspace

Justin Townes Earle: The Good Life (Bloodshot Records, 2008)

Being the son of Steve Earle and carrying the name Townes might open some doors, but it can become a burden as well. At least some finnish country idiots might think that he's probably not that good in the end. Yours truly was indeed this idiot and didn't pay attention until seeing a cheap used copy in some online store. The Good Life is actually a really good old-fashioned country album with one particular highlight. Lone Pine Hill is a really fabulous song and every country singer-songwriter would have been proud to have written it. Especially that Townes-like verse is pure magic. He is not yet ready for the hall of fame of current country songwriters, but he is young and he is already pretty damn good. If he keeps on improving, he might be able to write a really stunning album within a couple of years.

Justin Townes Earle at myspace

The Explorers Club: Freedom Wind (Dead Oceans, 2008)

If you already know every The Beach Boys album by heart, you should listen to The Explorers Club. I know that some might think they are too close and don't have their own sound, but if they are honest, they still have to admit that the music itself sounds brilliant. The songwriting and the harmonies are on an extremely high level. I could buy just the vocal track of the record. Do You Love Me? is one of the songs of the year and the whole album is a real pop delight. I can never understand one thing though. Why the hell they had to destroy the song Honey, I Don't Know Why, with that horrible rough vocal part. Absolutely beautiful song otherwise and than those extremely annoying vocals destroy the whole thing. It could have been a perfect song, but now it's just a reason why skip-button was invented. I try to to get over all this, because otherwise Freedom Wind is among the finest pop albums of the year.

The Explorers Club Website

The Explorers Club at myspace

Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher (Nettwerk, 2008)

The only problem I have with this one is that I can't stop listening to it. I bought five new albums last week and I don't know a thing about the other four because I'm mostly just stuck with this one. Tennessee Pusher is by far Old Crow Medicine Show's best album. The first two had a plenty of great moments, but in an album lenght they weren't anything spectacular. Tennessee Pusher on the other hand certainly is a spectacular effort on the field of bluegrass and americana. There are plenty of highlights, but perhaps the most striking one is Motel In Memphis, which is about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. If you are looking for good old time american music, make some room for Tennessee Pusher in your heart. A strong candidate for the album of the year award.

Old Crow Medicine Show at myspace

Old Crow Medicine Show Website

Matthew Sweet: Sunshine Lies (Shout Factory, 2008)

Sunshine Lies proves at least one thing. Yours truly is an ignorant fool. At first I was little disappointed with Matthew Sweet's latest album. I don't know what on earth was I thinking back then, but thankfully with further listenings even an ignorant fool realised that Sunshine Lies is actually one of the pop albums of the year. To be honest, I still don't love every song. For example Let's Love sounds more like drunken Ozzy Osbourne. But a few not that great songs is perfectly acceptable, when you get a huge slice of pop heaven in between. Songs like Around You Now, Burn Through Love, Daisychain, Feel Fear, Byrdgirl... are all pure magic and probably the finest pop music this year has offered. My humble apologies for some early criticism of pop god's new album. I was wrong, Matthew was right.

Matthew Sweet at myspace
Matthew Sweet Website

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin' Bones (Sugar Hill, 2008)

If you are looking for a good reason to move to Australia, a good one would be that the folks down under seem to have an excellent music taste. If I'm not mistaken this beautiful album reached the top of their album chart when it was released. Well to be honest, I know that this married couple is pretty famous down there, so it wasn't a big surprise but still it's great to see great music hitting those charts. Anyway, If you are looking for wonderful male-female country duets and are getting tired of listening to Gram-Emmylou duets all over again (yeah, sorry I do know a person just can't get bored of those), you should definitely let your heart become familiar with Kasey & Shane. I know it's virtually impossible to reach as high as Gram-Emmylou, but with today's standards they do reach pretty damn high.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson at myspace
Kasey & Shane Website

The Gaslight Anthem: The 59' Sound (Side One Dummy, 2008)

Hey, I know Sheena is already a punk rocker, but if there are more punk rock bands that are as great as The Gaslight Anthem, I would like to become a punk rocker as well. Where can I sign in. However, I'm not sure how much of this is punk. Sounds more like Bruce Springsteen meets The Replacements or something in that neighbourhood. Well let's not start arguing about that, because who gives a Razvan's ass what it is as long as its so damn brilliant. They do have one problem though. They are too good in this thing they do. I almost get exhausted with a similar kind of great song arriving after another all the time and because they are all equally great, none of the songs really stands up from the crowd and stagedives into your heart. Well perhaps I can't really blame them for writing too many great songs and I should just learn to live with it. If you are into The Hold Steady or/and Damn Seagulls, check out this great record.

The Gaslight Anthem Website

The Gaslight Anthem at myspace

Goodnight Monsters: Summer Challenge (Bone Voyage, 2008)

The second album by Goodnight Monsters is one of my favourite albums of the year. Summer Challenge was a great summer soundtrack and appears to be a great antidote against these dark and stormy autumn nights as well. Goodnight Monsters 1 - Weather 0. It's just so damn enjoyable record and it's impossible to feel down while listening to it. It recalls all kind of great things like The Beach Boys, Daryll-Ann, BMX Bandits, Popsicle every now and then, but their own vision is always on top. With their joyful approach and ability to write great pop song they've created a truly delightful pop album. Almost every song is a winner (I have small doubts about First One On The Beach, because I don't really like that "gotta be there" thing on it), but I suppose I should pick up the first single Drifting which is a perfect song.

Goodnight Monsters Website
Goodnight Monsters at myspace

Sloan: Parellel Play (Yep Roc, 2008)

This latest Sloan album has been playing an awfully lot at this household (ok, it might be questionable have I played any album an awfully lot in the last five years) and I rate it very highly. Parellel Play is not their greatest album, but would be on top half if I would start the impossible task of putting all those great Sloan albums to an order. This album would be worth buying just for the song Cheap Champagne. One of the songs of the year and again wonderfully shows that these boys certainly... can sing. And because they all are also ridicilously good songwriters, you can't find a reason not to love them.

Sloan Website
Sloan at myspace

The Disciplines: Smoking Kills (Voices Of Wonder, 2008)

I love everything Ken Stringfellow does and this one is no exception. The Disciplines is his new norwegian band and Smoking Kills is their debut album. I suppose one can say that this is nothing that remarkable or unforgettable, but I say that it's still an awful lot of fun and full of gorgeous rock songs. That's enough for me and should be enough for the most. You don't always have to invent the bicycle, just ride with the damn thing and don't waste your time adding all kind of systems and mechanisms to it just to realise that the main fuction has been lost in the making. It doesn't roll anymore. The Disciplines thankfully rolls and blows your mind away. Ken sings his heart out and the band keeps it all together. Me loves.

The Disciplines Website
The Disciplines at myspace

Daisy: It's About Time (Elements, 2008)

Daisy obviously doesn't want to play it safe. No wonder the former label decided to drop them. The whole idea of making a concept album around space theme (or Rock Odyssea Through Time and Space like they call it) sounds so bloody ludicrous and just plain stupid that I certainly wouldn't have invested my money on it either. This end result however proves that it was me who was being stupid for not believing that it could work out beautifully and therefore it was a blessing that they didn't change their minds and also managed to find a label who was crazy enough to release it. But let's not get stuck into this space thingy, because the main concept should be writing an album full of great songs and Daisy succeeds in this holy quest. This is a great collection of pop music. Think of Electric Light Orchestra writing a soundtrack to a 80's John Hughes movies.

Daisy Website
Daisy At myspace

Chatham County Line: IV (Yep Roc, 2008)

Chatham County Line is one of my recent love affairs. I've loved country music for years, but it took until last december to completely fall for bluegrass. Thankfully The Avett Brothers were kind enough to guide me towards the right direction back then and ever since there's been a little hillbilly playing banjo on the porch of my heart. Chatham County Line was quite an obvious next step after falling for The Avett Brothers eventhough I might have missed them if I hadn't heard this record playing at the greatest record store in the city/country/world, 8 Raita record store. Chatham County Line fits the bill perfectly because it has a fair share of bluegrass in the music, but not too much for a boy who is still learning and still has some prejudices towards traditional fast tempo bluegrass and fiddle playing. Chatham County Line brings a great mix of, bluegrass and pop melodies (and because this should be a pop website, let's add that the album was produced by Mr. Chris Stamey)

IV is not so surprisingly their fourth album and it's obviosly bloody magnificent. Well especially the first half of it is. During the latter half of the album there are for example couple of bluegrass instrumentals that only evoke yawns. But like I already said, the opening stages of the album are pure gold. The Carolinian is a candidate for the song of the year award. It's bluegrass for the popsters. It could be a pop hit. It should be a pop hit. Bluegrass melody carrying country aching and pop sensibility in the saddle bag and galloping forward in hope of finding the girl. Andiamo.. but unfortunately "I'm still down in Carolina / and she's in Richmond with my heart". A perfect song. I could listen to it dozens of times in a row and I wouldn't get bored. The Carolinian isn't the only great one. Also powerful Birmingham Jail, lighter pop song Country Boy / City Boy and the pretty opener Chip of A Star reach eight miles high and the whole opening half is truly stunning. This would easily make a five hearts minialbum, but 3-4 songs that are not exactly my cup of beer, makes the grade drop down a little bit. If you are like me and love, but have minor doubts towards banjo and fiddle, this is a great place to slowly start widening your musical comfort zone, because Chatham County Line jumps to the haystack that is located somewhere between the fields of bluegrass and

Chatham County Line Website
Chatham County Line at myspace (listen to The Carolinian)

The Avett Brothers: Emotionalism (Ramseur, 2007)

This was an instant love affair. I totally fell in love with them in early december and spent nights listening to their myspace songs and youtube videos while waiting for my copy of Emotionalism which I instantly ordered. Now few months later I'm a huge fan. The Avett Brothers is probably my favourite band in the world at the moment, Emotionalism was my foreign album of the year and The Paranoia in B-Flat Major was my song of the year. While buying their back catalogue, it's probably worth it to explain why they became so huge in this heart of mine.

The Avett Brothers are Seth and Scott Avett with Bob Crawford on stand-up bass. The core of the music is somewhere in the bluegrass, country, americana and folk area, but you don't need to be a hillbilly to fall in love with them. Punk energy and pretty pop melodies makes it appealing for everyone. Maybe it's bluegrass for the masses. It's unashamedly emotional music and The Avett Brothers sure sing like two angels.

I love the whole album, but my biggest addictions are the songs called Shame, Paranoia in B-Flat Major, Living Of Love and I Would Be Sad. I've listened to them easily over hundred times and never get tired of them. Well-written tales, full of emotions and so beautifully performed. Take Living Of Love for example. Just stunningly beautiful bluesy country ballad in the vein of Neal Casal. Perfect voice singing perfect words and the moment that leads to the chorus with words "When they ask you what you’re thinking of" / "where your coming from" / "what your living of" really grabs you and the answer "Say love, say for me love" then finds the core of your heart. These certainly are songs that go deeper than where any doctor could reach.

If you are afraid that this is too country-tinged for you, it's probably worth to mention that if you like pop singer-songwriters like Darren Hanlon you might love this as well. Especially The Ballad Of Love and Hate sounds so much like Darren Hanlon that it's hard to believe it's not Darren's song. And despite the fact that I'm concentrating on the beautiful and emotional side of the record (because that's the kind of music I love), this is certainly not some sad country whining. It's actually quite energic at times and I've understood that the live concert can turn out to be really intensive.

The only possible minor flaw I can think of is that the album is a bit too long. There's a couple of "only good" songs that could have been left out. Still it's impossible to give them anything else but the full five hearts. That song quartet I mentioned above would deserve hundreds of hearts and are easily able to compensate that minor flaw. Emotionalism is a stunning album and The Avett Brothers is my favourite band in the world at the moment.

The Avett Brothers Website
The Avett Brothers at myspace

Captain Cougar: Chapters (Pinetree Records, 2007)

Captain Cougar's debut took a long time, because some unfortunate events like record label backing out from the project delayed it. Thankfully Chapters was finally released in late 2007 and it's easy to say that all the effort they put into making it was totally worth it. In fact, it was one of the finnish debut albums of the year and probably would have made my top 10 finnish albums of the year if I I had written such list.

The first thing that strikes you is obviously the vocalist Eva Louhivouri. She is absolutely wonderful vocalist. What a voice. She is so fabulous that I'm almost starting to think that she is too good. I've spent my life listening to all kind of whispering bedroom pop or country singers who drink a gallon of whiskey before enterering the recording studio. I'm certainly not used to someone singing so beautifully.. so purely.

The second thing that strikes you is that Captain Cougar doesn't play it safe and Chapters turn out to be quite a versatile release. It's beautifully crafted and thoughtfully arranged album. Little bits and pieces inside the songs always keep the interest level high and the style varies from lighter pop songs to truly beautiful folk songs. There's also a fair amount of country and americana in the songs. And while we are at it I don't think it is too far-fetched to say that Captain Cougar could even appeal to fans of elegant female folk/jazz/pop singers like Sylvie Lewis etc. I think that's one of the great things about them. It can appeal to that stripe-shirted indie pop boy, but it can also appeal to a classy middle-aged woman.

Good To Know is still my favourite Captain Cougar song. Perhaps because that song is the reason I first fell in love with them. Stunningly beautiful song. Life Is Nothing is another big favourite of mine. The vocals and the song bring Aimee Mann to my mind, but that's only a good thing because I love Aimee. I think Eva even sounds like Aimee on that one. Which is a bit weird, because I don't hear that in any other song. Nature on the other hand is a lighter number and one of the great pop songs of the record. My Cage then adds a fair slice of country to the record. Most of the songs would be worth mentioning, but at the moment those are my favourites. To be honest there's also 2-3 songs that I haven't learned to love. That's probably because I'm so narrow-minded occasionally. For example the loud ending of Seasons always puts me off. I guess I prefer things to remain beautiful.

Chapters is a wonderful debut album and highly recommended if you are looking for beautiful and challenging pop music with truly marvellous female vocals.

Captain Cougar Website
Captain Cougar at myspace

Fireflies: Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Moon (Music Is My Girlfriend / Lavender, 2007)

Fireflies is actually just one man called Lisle Mitnik and Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Moon is his debut album. It's also a very strong debut. Or perhaps strong is a wrong word, because it's soft and gentle pop music where whispery vocals reveals wintery tales. When he sings he sounds more weak than strong, but for me that is a good thing. Weak is the new strong...(hang the reviewer please..).. and obviously the quality of the songwriting is far from weak. Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Moon is full of beautiful and hearwarming pop songs. If you've lost your heart to groups such as The Clientele, Trembling Blue Stars and Days you might try to locate a piece of it and give it to Fireflies. It certainly evokes the same feelings in my weak heart as them and bedroom tweepop version of The Clientele might be somewhere close to the truth.

The highlight for me is probably Summer Has Gone, because it makes me think of Bobby Wratten and Michael Brown discussing the end of the summer on a park bench somewhere while trying to combine pretty pop music of the 60's and the modern day soft indie pop. This is certainly a really lovely debut album.

Fireflies at myspace
Fireflies Website

The Star Spangles: Dirty Bomb (Tic Records, 2007)

I think it's time to have a bit of fun in between all these beautiful records and The Star Spangles is the perfect antidote against melancholy. Dirty Bomb is their second album and it's just magnificent. Especially if you enjoy a bit of rock'n'roll and/or love all those powerpop bands of the seventies. It's such a blast and full of killer songs. Great record for dementic DJs, because you don't need to remember which song was the great one. You can play anyone of them and it will be a great one. Current favourites are Tear It To Pieces Girl and 'Nother Weight To Hold Me Down, but the favourite change each time new song starts. Dirty Bomb is a wonderful rock'n'roll record full of great melodies, kickass harmonies and singalong choruses. Think of early Cheap Trick played by The Replacements and you might get somewhere close. Or better yet. Don't think anything at all. Just find some duck tape, tape a pillow into your ass and press the play button. Now you can just enjoy this album that is bound to kick your ass.

The Star Spangles at myspace

John McGregor: Maa ei oo pimee (Suomen Musiikki, 2007)

I should only write speechless and give five hearts. It's impossible to find words that can match the beauty of this music. I wish I could live like these songs live. Full of warmth and gentleness. I suppose it's very naiive to say so, but in a way this is music that makes me want to be a better person. Listening to these magical songs makes me want to stop writing and go and wake up my girlfriend just to say that I love her more than anything in the world and after that call my parents and say how much I love them and how much I appreciate everything they've done for me. It's music that shows what really matters in the end. It drifts away the clouds and selfish barriers to geniune compassion and reveals the sunshine and inner beauty of your soul. I wish I can learn to keep hold of these toughts and emotions even when John's music isn't around guiding me and showing me all the beauty that surrounds my everyday life.

Maa ei oo pimee is John McGregor's second album. The previous album Joki was an album of the year here at onechord two years ago and Maa ei oo pimee might do the same this year. Maa ei oo pimee is a beautiful folk album. It has a bit richer sound than its predecessor. For example some beautiful string arrangements. Banjo plays a big part and adds some american tradition to the music, but the core is still John McGregor's warm and gentle folk songs that hold so much magic inside them. Maa ei oo pimee is another perfect album from John McGregor. It might not be able to change the world, but listening to it certainly reminds that something will always make sense even during the saddest of events as long as someone somewhere is able to create something so amazingly beautiful as this.

John McGregor at myspace

Ben Weaver: Paper Sky (Glitterhouse, 2007)

Ben Weaver's Paper Sky has been a big favourite of mine during the fall 2007 and will definitely be among my top 20 albums for the year. I just love the bare, rural beauty of the songs. Sure it can get sad and really dark, but even then it has enough melodic beauty to carry your heart towards the hopefullness. It can be raw and bare or beautiful and hushed americana, but you might also hear some experiments and electronic backgrounds. And it all works beautifully.

Songs like Surrealism + Blues and Like a Vine After The Sun are basicly as good as anything released during the year. Perhaps Paper Sky gives me everything I wanted Shepherd's Dog to give me (not that Shepherd's Dog is a bad album, It's just didn't turn out to be as great as I hoped it would be). Paper Sky is a beautiful collection of rootsy americana with poetic lyrics. I suppose the vocals might not be for everyone but I love them. His vocals can be very quiet and hushed or kind of raw, kind of like Tom Waits. Prior Paper Sky I haven't been a big fan of Ben Weaver and therefore I'm surprised how much I've grown to love this one. Either I've gotten wiser or Ben has gotten better, but one thing is a fact. Paper Sky is a great album.

Ben Weaver Website
Ben Weaver at myspace

Michael McDonald: Finally (Rhythm Barrel Records / Plastic Passion, 2007)

Michael McDonald's Finally was already my album of the year 2006 and I'm still completely in love with this beautiful pop album. Now the album has been officially released and therefore it's time to re-publish my amateurish review and praise this perfect album again. The following is basicly an updated version of the earlier review:

Michael McDonald is an american who has lived in Finland for several years. Finnish pop fans already know him as a member of Treeball and Montevideo, but he is also a talented songwriter who has just released his first solo album. And what an album it is. Michael and Nick Triani (producer) have done a great job.

Michael McDonald perfectly combines the two things I love in music. Wonderful melodic pop tunes and heartwarmingly beautiful ballads. The first half + I Go Blind is a perfect pop heaven. If comparing to someone, the closest match is definitely Teenage Fanclub. Songs like Only In My Mind, Carmelina, I Go Blind certainly reminds me of Teenage Fanclub, but that is never a bad thing. On the other hand, another wonderful tune called Crush is closer to Josh Rouse. Obviously this namedropping is not important, because while listening to these beautiful songs, they don't bring any other artists to mind. Only thing they bring to mind is the fact that pop music can sometimes be truly stunning and memorable. Softly floating melodies and perfect harmonies filling your heart with warmness and kindness. Songs becoming a part of you. Sharing your laughs or bringing shelter when you are vulnerable. Kind-hearted tunes containing more healing power than a truckload of painkillers. It doesn't get much better than this. Unless you count the latter half of the album, which is at least equally amazing.

After those perfect pop treasures, Michael brings some sadder and slower tunes to the table, but the quality remains the same. Grandmother, And So the Story Goes and especially the ending song entitled A Song to Sing are all just brilliant. Gentle guitar playing, melancholic moods and caring vocals in the vein of Mark Kozelek.

New: Sometimes opinions might slightly change and a record I praised a year ago doesn't seem as perfect anymore. However, this is certainly not the case with Finally. It still sounds as perfect as it did a year ago and the only thing that might stop it from being's album of the year 2007 is the fact that I already selected the cdr version as the album of the year 2006. This really is a perfect pop album.

Michael McDonald at myspace

The Rollstons: Song Folks (Brunamosse IF, 2007)

The Rollstons are back where they started years ago, but that is not a bad thing. For several fans, the first cdr albums are the finest The Rollstons releases. Yeah I know, for indiewankers such behaviour isn't very unfamiliar, but especially when listening to the previous album Taping Trees, one might think that they have a point. Eventhough I still love most of the songs, nowadays the album does seem a bit less inspiring than the earlier material. Sometimes even a bit boring. Same can't be said about the new album Song Folks. It's colourful, versatile and refreshing. Lo-fi weirdness, witty wordplaying and carefree approach are back in the game. The core still lies somewhere in the indie rock field. Lots of short highly melodic songs that all end too soon. The GBV-formula one could say. Guided By Voices played by some weirdo like Karl Blau might be close to the truth occasionally. But that's not the whole truth. It might not even be part of the truth.

It's a versatile album. First you have instrumental Horror Yacui that could be a TV-theme song from the eighties and after that the second song Desert for Dessert makes you realise that Paul Simon's Graceland vinyl probably survived the death of Tourula commune and still brings happiness (or pain) to their saturday evenings. Before the last track Birds Of Bourbon scares you with electronic beats, you'll also get several short melodic indie rockers like I Was Sailing and Blue Oyster, eight minute long Something Precious that makes you worry that they start gazing their shoes or stars on the next album and almost fragile beauty of At The Grandparents. If you're looking for lo-fi indie rock album that doesn't play by the normal rules and where anything can happen Song Folks is a good selection and will be able to leave lots of more high profile releases to the substitute bench.

The Rollstons Website
The Rollstons at myspace

Ben's Diapers: Life & Times Of Benjamina -The Highlights and Sidetracks of Ben's Diapers (Rhythm Barrel Records, 2007)

Ben's Diapers celebrates their 10th anniversary by releasing a career spanning collection that contains their finest songs + rare tracks from different compilations and previously unreleased versions of some great tunes. As a flavour of the record, there's also one new song The Good Life. This is a limited handnumbered edition of only 120 copies and might be a bit tricky to find, but at least Notlame has carried it.

The compilation runs chronologically backwards from a brand new song to the early singles and demos. It also shows that Ben's Diapers has just gotten better during the years. Surely the first songs they ever released (Warriorette, Frankfurt Am Main and Las Vegas) will always be the most important songs for me on emotional level and still sound perfect today. After all, It was the time I got into this pop thing and finding the original Popatak label trio Ben's Diapers, The Sugarrush and Cartoon Tree was a big deal for me. But despite all that nostalgia and love for their early singles, I do believe their latest effort Little Pilgrims is their finest full-length album. The start of this compilation proves that the band is still going strong. The new song The Good Life and three songs from Little Pilgrims are all great. Especially Bleeding Heart is just one perfect country-flavoured pop song and the new song The Good Life is almost equally stunning.

The best part of this compilation for a long time fan like me are the rarities The World According To You and She's So Fine. First one is a Ben's Diapers original from japanese Wizzard Brew pop compilation and the latter one is a Stems cover from The Stems Tribute with australian gentleman Joe Algeri on lead vocals. There's obviously great tracks from the other Ben's Diapers albums Laughter Tracks and Celebrate The Cliche. I might have made a few different choises, but only track I really miss is Frankfurt Am Main, the b-side of the first single Warriorette. But there's plenty of my early favourites. Warriorette, Gift, Las Vegas, Blinded By The Sun and Thinking Platonic are all included and it still feels damn good to listen to them. It kind of shows that I've taken the same path as the band. Ten years ago it was all about sunny and sweet guitar / power pop for me, but during the years country-flavoured pop has become equally significant. Therefore the early sunny guitar pop hits sound equally wonderful than the newer beautiful country-tinged numbers.

This is a great collection of songs from a great finnish band. Ten years and still alive. Ten years and all original Popatak bands are still alive. Against all odds one might say. Who would have believed that back in 1997. Power pop / alt. country might not be the wise choise, if you want to hit the charts. That's the reality and Ben's Diapers are totally aware of that. They are just following their hearts and writing the kind of music they love. They've done it for ten years now and long may it continue.

Ben's Diapers Website
Ben's Diapers at myspace

Tink: Northern Hemisphere -EP (Tink Unc, 2007)

Tink is a finnish singer-songwriter who made a wonderful self-released ep trilogy a few years ago. It had been quiet for a while, but in the summer of 2007 Tink returned with his first official release.

I don't think he has gotten significantly better during these years, but thankfully there was no need for that either because I loved those little releases back then and I love Northern Hemisphere now. This is a little improved, detailed and better sounding effort, but there hasn't been any big changes. That same warmness is still present. That same flow of beautiful melodies is still around. And thank God so. It's always so comfortable to listen to Tink. The melodies take care of you and the soundscapes bring warmness to your heart. It's classic pop craftmanship. Being able to create something simple that still holds so much magic underneath.

The biggest treasure on the record is a stunningly beautiful ballad called True To My Word. Starting with almost whispering vocals and slowly growing into something truly captivating. Another jewel Youth Against Tolstoy is a lighter pop song, but almost equally wonderful. Actually all of these five songs are really good. I would like to give this ep the whole five hearts, but perhaps that would be an exaggeration. It's just that the mood and the style of the music is a perfect match with my heart. However, Tink is definitely already a really good songwriter and this EP is a great addition to every record collection.

Tink at myspace

Sweeties: S/T -EP (Aisti Records, 2007)

Sweeties charmed me earlier this summer at One Big Holiday club. Unfortunately there weren't many people around, but they didn't let it bother them and certainly were able to win my heart over. I'm first to admit that I had doubts. This sort of dancable, rhythmic and dare I say the curse word.. trendy.. rock music is always somewhat scary for indie pop wankers like yours truly. Thankfully I'm not completely lost and when I hear lots of really good songs in a row, I can forget my silly doubts and just enjoy what I'm hearing. The concert also showed that while they might not be totally my cup of my tea, they are certainly close enough. Heck, at times it isn't even that from that power pop / new wave thing of the late 70's / early 80's and I certainly love that dearly. They certainly were excellent live band.

This debut EP contains five songs. Unfortunately only two originals Magazine Lassie and Mayday! and remixes from Regina, Boys Of Scandinavia and Tigerbombs. Unfortunately because honestly I just don't get remixes on a general level. All of these remixes are obviously made by truly skillful and talented people and are probably wonderful remixes if you happen to like remxes. However, I frankly couldn't give a shit about them and would have prefered if there had been one new Sweeties original instead of these three remixes. But then again, I'm a shy boring loser who doesn't dance. So if the remixes fill the dancefloors and get more people excited about the band then there's a purpose for them.

Moving on to the good things. I might have heard even greater songs at the concert, but both of these originals are definitely really good songs. Mayday! is my favourite. The chorus sounds extremely familiar though and a lot like Tigerbombs. Maybe they've played it too. Anyway, there's a very addictive melody and a truly catchy chorus. Especially that last minute and a half is a little pop heaven. For me this is a great two song single. I don't need those remixes at all, but nobody's forcing me to listen to them either. So I shut up and keep enjoying these two really good songs.

Sweeties at myspace

Sister Flo: The Healer (Fullsteam Records, 2007)

Sister Flo is a huge favorite of mine. I love them to bits, but I was still a little bit dissapointed when I first heard their latest effort The Healer. At first I thought it was only a good album, but further listenings proved that the magic was still there under a few layers. If you are struggling with same problems, give some time to The Healer. It's definitely a grower. For me, it's still not able to reach the same hights as the previous masterpiece Tragician's Hat, but nowadays I do love it a lot.

The greatness of Sister Flo still lies in the colourful and beautiful arrangements. They have their own sound, but they are always inventing and evolving. It's apparent also during their live shows where old tunes might have taken a new shape, but sound still as exciting as the version on the record or the version you heard on their previous live show a year ago. One of the best live bands there is Finland and almost every Sister Flo live concert I've ever heard deserves all five hearts.

The overall quality of The Healer is again impressive. Everything on the record is well-crafted and beautifully played. Then why don't you ignorant twat and want-to-be-reviewer than say it's the best album ever. Well because there are no Guillotines or White Noises. Songs that you end up loving with all your heart. Songs that become your friends and give you comfort and shelter during the rainy days. Perhaps it's Sister Flo's problem that they once created something that I love so wholeheartedly that there doesn't seem to be enough room for new ones in this heart of mine. But mind you. I'm not saying there aren't lots of great songs on the album. There certainly are. Hyvinkää, Departure, My Weakness (I'm Not the One You're Looking For), No One Is Perfect and especially astoundingly beautiful The Virtue are all wonderful songs. If you're looking for beautifully arranged and fascinating pop music, Sister Flo is still the right answer to your call.

Sister Flo Website
Sister Flo at myspace

Aksu: OIOIOI (Jokamies, 2007)

Aksu's first album was enjoyable and naiive pop album. This second album follows the same path, but it does seem to be a bit more serious and thoughtful effort. And certainly a better album. Well at least if you could remove the first song and the first single of the album Ei sen niin oo väliä. It's extremely annoying and drives me insane. Those talking bits where some girl praises Aksu are just so freakin annoying. If everything would have been similar on this album, It wouldn't have gotten more than one heart and even that would have been a broken heart. Thank God, that single song is an exception and the only horrible song on the album.

The rest of the album is actually really enjoyable electro pop. Kaikkien aikojen matka, No johan nyt on kumma, Aaveilu and Satuprinsessa (and especially that Leevi & The Leavings influenced chorus on this one) are especially great and show that Aksu can write wonderful pop music and that he can be more than just a refreshing antidote against the horrors of everyday boredom. Not that there's anything wrong with that either and I'm fairly sure that the Alphaville cover Jangsteri vain have brought some delight to work/schooldays of finnish people during the recent months. Aksu is getting better and without the horrible crimes of the first single OIOIOI would deserve even four hearts.

Aksu Website

Snow Coloured Kid: S/T -EP (Anorak Records, 2007)

Snow Coloured Kid aka Anssi Konttinen is a young finnish pop singer-songwriter. His first EP came out few months ago on french indie label Anorak Records. It's a really delightful and enjoyable little release. The sound of the recordings might not be the greatest, but it's still adequate. After all, it's the songs that count and therefore such bedroom pop release can sound as enjoyable as major label backed albums.

Snow Coloured Kid is capable of crafting really good pop songs. I Hope You're On My Side is a great Weezer-like pop song. Mellow Snow Flakes on the other hand starts like a stripped down version of some song from Dinosaur Jr's Where You Been and then adds a little bit of Wojciech atmosphere and The Beatles melodies. Now that probably didn't make much sense, but it's a lovely song. Slower Snow Flakes is a bad example of the material though. Mostly this 6-song ep contains sweet and melodic guitar pop and it's again showing a lot of promise. Anssi is improving as a pop songwriter all the time and everything he does is already truly enjoyable. If he keeps going, we might get some really great things from him in a few years time. This delighful little EP is a damn good start. Of course better sounds would have been nice, but it's not that important. Good pop songs are important and there are five of them on this lovely release.

Snow Coloured Kid at myspace

The Bishops: S/T (1234 Records, 2007)

A whole lot of fun. Young London-based group The Bishops plays 60's influenced rock'n'roll that is bound to make you dance. There's killer hooks, tight playing, bouncy rhythms, pop melodies and some harmonies. Sounds like a perfect formula if a band wants to win my heart over and The Bishops easily succeeds in that. They are not inventing anything new, but it's all so well-crafted and passionately played that I don't mind at all. I think it would be just wonderful if even more bands would get inspiration from 60's pop and rock a'la early Stones, Kinks, Who..

Especially The first single The Only Place I Can Look Is Down is truly stunning. Short but strong rocker with a pop sensibility. But it's not the only one. The album is filled with incredibly catchy two-minute rock tunes. There's at least 6-7 killer songs on the album. Most retro rock groups would give their vintage amplifiers, if they got songs like The Only Place I Can Look Is Down, I Can't Stand It Anymore, Breakaway and Will You Ever Come Back Again? in return. All the material isn't equally wonderful, but everything on the record is enjoyable. The Bishops is extremely promising new band. No.. forget that. This is much more than just promising. They are already wonderful and this record is a whole lot of fun.

The Bishops Website
The Bishops at myspace

Valley Below: Running Rites (VB Music, 2007)

Valley Below is a new finnish pop group. Well actually they've played concerts since 2003, but it took until april 2007 to get this debut full-lenght Running Rites out and available. During the years. their partners in crime have been another great finnish pop band Bookends and nowadays they also share a drummer.

Valley Below's debut promises great things, but it is not entirely faultless. In Gratitude is a beautiful harmonic pop song in the vein of early-Posies and Souvenir, Absence and Jukeboxing are great guitar pop tracks with a killer chorus. Besides these songs that take influences from 90's power pop, there's plenty of slower beautiful folky pop songs. At first I didn't care much about them, but further listenings made me discover the beauty of Selling Down The River and Capel Curig. The best part about these is that it shows how great vocalists they can be. During the guitar pop songs I always keep hoping that there would be more strength and guts in the vocals, but their clean, angelic vocals harmonies fits perfectly to these beautiful songs. Running Rite does the unthinkable and manages to be over 7 minutes long pop song and is able to keep me interested the whole time. A really beautifully arranged pop song.

All of the above seems very positive. Then what's the problem. As said before, the vocals could be stronger in the guitar pop material. I suppose it's funny that in a way I find the singing both best and worst part of the record. During the faster material it doesn't seem to be that convincing, but on the contrary, the album also contains lots of geniuslike vocal arrangements and angelic harmonies. One worry is that some of the lyrics let the songs down. For example Absence is one hell ofa pop song (especially that last minute and a half is a pop heaven), but It doesn't hide the fact that lyrics like "This is your Moor, once more / You enter the door" aren't that good and certainly can't match the beautiful arrangements of the song. This lyric problem is also apparent in the song Handyman. However, I'm not saying all the lyrics are bad. It only affects 2-3 songs. There are also some great lyrics like In Gratitude for example. Another worry is that the overall sound of the record seems a bit lackluster at times. But in the end it's the songs that count and Valley Below certainly have enough great ones.

Valley Below Website

Damn Seagulls: Soul Politics (Fullsteam, 2007)

It took me a long time to fall in love with them. Then in july 2007 I finally saw the light and bought my first Damn Seagulls album Soul Politics. Soon after that I became mildly obsessed and few weeks later I bought the debut as well. Perhaps the debut One Night at Sirdie's didn't make as big impact on me, but I still feel that Soul Politics is one of the finest finnish releases of the year.

Soul Politics is a wonderful record and there's not a bad song on it (well the last song Kings of Fool is a bit boring though). There are these fantastic soul-flavoured rock hits like Human Torch, but also lots of slower material that is equally stunning. Opener Once We Were Thieves might even make you think that you've accidentally inserted some great country/folk singer-songwriter album in your cd player. The biggest treasures for me are The Beat and Something About It. The Beat is a slower Springsteen-influenced and soul-tinged rock tune with pop sensibility. Something About It is a faster rocker that might hit the right nerves of some US indie rock fans too (think of stuff like Replacements, Jesse Malin played by E-Street Band). If you try to compare them to some groups, the first name dropped is usually Springsteen and E-Street Band. Besides that there are traces of similarities with groups such as Afghan Whigs, The Hold Steady, The Replacements. Basicly this is just gorgeous big sounding rock music with hints of soul and punk thrown into the mix. And it's not too big sounding. I usually prefer things to be small, but this time I don't want to remove the saxophones and horns from the album because everything sounds so delightful. Too much would obviously be too much, but Soul Politics is a well-built album where you can ease your mind during the beautiful slower tunes before getting sunk into the world of gorgeous soulful rock music again. A great album.

Damn Seagulls Website
Damn Seagulls at myspace

Ferns: On Botany (Fruit Records, 2007)

Incredibly sweet pop music from Malaysia. It also must be one of the most weirdly packed albums. That green thing you see on the cover is actually a piece of fake grass that's been glued to the case. Perhaps not the best idea, but certainly you'll notice it at the record store. And because of it we didn't need to buy rairuoho this easter. We just put the case on the middle of the table and then added some little bunnies on top of the grass. Anyway, the way it has been packed isn't really that interesting. The important thing is that it contains some really good indie pop.

On Botany's only slight problem is that it all sounds a bit too similar. Okay there are lighter pop songs and then there are tunes that dwell in sadness. So everything doesn't sound the same. And in any case, the lack of versatility is not a huge worry, because they certainly do that one thing so wonderfully. Maybe it could be said that it's somewhere between sweeter side of indie pop (The Clientele, Days, Postal Blue etc) and dreamy sadcore stuff (Arco etc). I had no expectations beforehand, but I was instantly captivated by it's beauty when I listened to it for the first time. If you are looking for some sad but sweet twee pop, it might be worth it to give them a chance to charm you. I'm confindent they are able to succeed in that. After all, if they were swedish, everyone in the indiepop world would love them already.

Ferns at myspace

Ryan Adams: Easy Tiger (Lost Highway, 2007)

I love almost everything Ryan Adams has done. He might not be the kindest boy on the planet, but he certainly is a marvellous songwriter. Easy Tiger is one of his strongest albums. Sure it's quite clean and perhaps this is Ryan Adams playing it safe. But who cares if it doesn't affect the quality of his work. And when it comes to overall quality, this might the best Ryan Adams so far. Some of them may have higher peaks, but this is probably the first time I can say that I love each and every song. The rocker Halloweenhead occasionally raises some question marks, but usually I enjoy it too.

At first, It might not seem to be so, but Easy Tiger is a rather versatile album. You'll find Gold-like clean radio-friendly tunes, country ballads, pretty acoustic numbers and the rock of Halloweenhead or the bluegrass of Pearl on a Sting. The highlight and the real heartbreaker of the album is saved for last. I Taught Myself How To Grow Old is one of the songs of the year. Basicly it would be worth to name all the songs, because all of them are wonderful. At the moment Easy Tiger is the strongest contender for the #1 spot on my album of the year 2007 list. It seems that in terms of overall quality, nothing compares to Easy Tiger. It's such a great album full of gorgeous songs.

Ryan Adams Website
Ryan Adams at myspace

Wilco: Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch, 2007)

I've been a long time fan, but a few years ago my love affair with Wilco faced some difficulties. I did love Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but after Ghost is Born I was almost ready to be unfaithful and focus my love on more traditional americana bands. That whole experimental side of Wilco wasn't my cup of my tea, but Sky Blue Sky seems to be the counsil that will rejuvenate my Wilco relationship. While they haven't completely abandoned their will to experiment, Sky Blue Sky is still a step back towards the good old days. Soft and moody tunes like Either Way, Sky Blue Sky and Leave Me (Like You Found Me) are worth all the hearts in the world. Actually the whole first half of the album is perfect, but unfortunately the latter half brings some songs that I don't care much about (especially Shake It Off and Walken) and therefore I'm not able to give more hearts. Despite that, Wilco made a happy boy with their new album Sky Blue Sky and showed me that they don't deserve a place in my heart only for nostalgic reasons. They can definitely still write wonderful albums.

Wilco Website
Wilco at myspace

Trembling Blue Stars: The Last Holy Writer (Elefant, 2007)

Hearing new Trembling Blue Stars album is always a remarkable event in my heart. In a way, Bobby Wratten is my own personal psychiatrist and might be a threat to the whole psychiatric profession if his songs have as significant effect to others as well. There's been nights that would have seemed endless if I hadn't been able to share them with that beautiful, quiet voice that fills the room with honest emotion-filled words that manages to wrap all my melancholic thoughts inside the beautiful floating chords of the music. To many others, Bobby Wratten's songs might seem sad, but for me they are only therapeutical. I need to get that sadness out of my heart and there just isn't a better way then to let Trembling Blue Stars capture it and drift it away while showing that even the longest night leads to daylight.

The Last Holy Writer is the sixth Trembling Blue Stars album and it's another really good one. It doesn't compare to the previous masterpiece Seven Autumn Flowers, but that's mostly because that was such an amazing album. Or perhaps I'm just nowadays a happier person and TBS isn't as vital to my well-being anymore. The love and affection towards their music haven't faded away with the sadness. Idyllwild is the should-be hit of the album. What a fantastic moody pop song sung by Beth.Lighter songs The Tenth of Always and Say Goodbye To The Sea work beautifully. Especially The Tenth of Always is such a great one with soft female harmonies backing Bobby's vocals here and there. Sacred Music, A Statue To Wilde and Pale Blue Rosary are perfect examples of that wonderful melancholic side of Trembling Blue Stars. It's just so achingly beautiful music. There are some less interesting stuff like the opener By False Lights or This Once Was An Island that makes the grade down a bit. Therefore I can't say this is one of Bobby's finest albums, but it surely is another strong effort.

Trembling Blue Stars Website
Trembling Blue Stars at myspace

The Broken Family Band: Hello Love (Track & Field, 2007)

The Broken Family Band is a great band and make totally my kind of music. They are mostly known as one of uk's finest & americana groups, but they also deliver loads of gorgeous pop melodies and they certainly aren't afraid to rock.

Hello Love is a third really good album in a row (there could be more, I don't own the earlier ones), but it still leaves me waiting for the perfect The Broken Family Band record. As I've said before, at times they sound like the greatest band in the world to me and therefore I have these unrealistic expectations and keep waiting for the day when they release that album of the decade. It may not ever happen, but I shouldn't let it bother because they always give me a quality album.

The first single Love Your Man, Love Your Woman is a decent rock tune, but it never starts to roll and gets a bit boring. Leaps or Dancing On The 4th Floor could have been better choises as far as I'm concerned. After all, with that pop sensibility they might drive pop trendsetters to the dancefloors before they could realize that they are dancing to jangly americana. Hello Love is certainly more pop then the previous album Balls, but they haven't abandoned those great country-flavoured ballads either. Hello Love share the same problem as previous The Broken Family Band albums. Only about half of the material is pure class. Eventhough the rest is definitely enjoyable too, it doesn't yet warrant a higher amount of hearts. However, as long there are songs like So Many Lovers, Don't Change Your Mind, Leaps, Dancing On the 4th Floor and Give and Take I will surely keep buying their records. And perhaps one day they will hit the jackpot and release that perfect album. With this kind of music and with that singing voice, It's bound to happen eventually.

The Broken Family Band Website
The Broken Family Band at myspace

The Ronelles: Motel (Neon Tetra Records, 2006)

Back to basics. This album is full of short but incredibly catchy rock'n'roll tunes. Motel already came out in 2006, but I found it a couple of months ago. And because this is a whole lot of fun and perhaps isn't too well-known, it deserves a quick praise.

Like many of my favourite bands, The Ronelles comes from Scotland. However, this is not scottish pop ala Teenage Fanclub. Motel is fabulous rock'n'roll album and I love it. It's true that usually I don't listen to such music and probably wouldn't have found The Ronelles either if the album had been released by some other label than Neon Tetra Records (they've released lots of great pop albums). Perhaps there's a little bit of rock'n'roll in me after all, because it feels so damn good to listen to this. This is entertainment. Perfect mixture of rock'n'roll, blues and country. I've been especially addicted to the songs Bolt The Doors, She Said No and To See You For The Last Time, but the whole album is definitely a blast. It makes me wonder why I've never paid enough attention to good old rock'n'roll. Is it time for me to start buying Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis records..

The Ronelles at myspace

Ilona V: Good Morning 7" (Bracken Records, 2007)

Finally an official Ilona release. If you are a regular visitor of this website, you already know that I'm completely in love with her music. She is the greatest folk chanteusse at the moment and deserves a wider recognition. Thankfully Bracken Records saw the light and decided to release this beautiful seven inch single. If onechord gave culture awards, Bracken records would get one just for releasing this.

The a-side Good Morning already appeared on her self-released EP, but it certainly deserves an official release. Such a beautiful piece of music where the warmness of the music makes the sadness of the lyrics fade away. A perfect song. There's two new demos on the b-side that I've never heard before. These are Universe Arms and Who Can Tell. Needless to say that both are truly magnificent. Universe Arms is even up there on the same level as Ilona's best songs Neverever, Fall Song and Good Morning. I'm just totally in love with Ilona's music. I just find her soft vocals and the gentle instrumentation of the songs totally irresistable. How can something so small, evoke so much warmness. The closest comparison I can come up with is still Sibylle Baier, but one can assume that fans of people like Keren Ann and Rose Melberg might fall in love with Ilona as well. Actually for me it's impossible to think that someone wouldn't love music as amazing and warm as this. Therefore I suggest you pick up this single before it's too late. There are only 300 copies available and if there's any justice these will be worth a lot when the world falls in love with her. My romantic heart hopes it will be only a matter of time.

Ilona V at myspace

Jason Falkner: I'm OK... You're OK (Noise McCartney, 2007)

It was about time. It had been eight years since the last solo album. Thankfully much have not changed during those years. I can still feel the greatness of Jason Falkner's music. I'm OK.. You're OK was born in various home studios during the years and is therefore" intentionally mid-fi" as Jason describes on his myspace. The days of major label deals are perhaps over for Jason, but I don't really mind. Jason Falkner is able to write great tunes that don't need crystal clear production to become enjoyable.

I'm OK.. You're OK was released on japanese label Noise McCartney (a US/Europe release will follow later, but I just couldn't wait) and it's definitely another great Jason Falkner album. Perhaps a bit weaker than the debut, but I might rate it even higher than Can You Still Feel? The only minor flaw is that the songs are a bit too long for my taste (only three under 4 minutes). Kind of pointless to mention it, because 3 out of the 4 songs that clock over 5 minutes are among my favourite songs of the album. Still I cannot help but feel that some of these songs would become bigger hits in this heart of mine if they were edited a bit. Perhaps I have a three-minute-pop song syndrome / obsession of some kind.

When it comes to songs, there's only a couple I don't like. I've tried and tried, but I still don't like Anondah and Hurricane. But that's not important. The important thing is that there are again lots of wonderful pop songs on the album. Stephanie Tells Me is one Jason's finest and should be a hit. The other should-be hits are the opener This Time, Komplicated Man and the rocker NYC. Longer numbers Runaway and Say It's True work equally well and the reason not to wait for the US release is the Japan only bonus track I Don't Mind which is one of the finest on the album. I'm OK.. You're OK is full of well-crafted pop songs that contain lots of killer hooks and gorgeous vocals. Arrangements are wonderful. The sound might not be the greatest, but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Jason Falkner proves that he still is one of the very best pop singer-songwriters in the world. Hopefully we don't have to wait as long for the next album.

Jason Falkner Website
Jason Falkner at myspace

Sweatmaster: Animal (Fullsteam Records, 2007)

Everytime Sweatmaster releases a record, there's time for a quick rock review on a pop website. That is because the greatness of Sweatmaster is easily able to hit the heart of a shy pop sissy like yours truly. Sweatmaster's third album Animal is damn good, but it's still a tiny dissapointment to me personally. This is only because Tom Tom Bullet was such an incredible album. I loved it to bits and perhaps there was nothing they could have released that would have topped it in my heart. Therefore the only problem lies within me and there was certainly no point in releasing a Tom Tom Bullet #2.

Like I already said. Animal is a great album. Okay, In Limbo is crap and Filler is just what it's called. Filler so annoying that I never listen to it. But most of Animal is again brilliant. The first single and the title track Animal is not my favourite song on the album, but is a great tune that totally stucks in your head. It's not surprise that I love the slower melodic tune Cut Up In Half, but the biggest treat is saved for last. Word of Disease and Everybody Thinks They Know You've Got A Broken Heart is one helluva way to end an album. Melodic enough for a popster, but still so damn strong and convincing. Am I only one who thinks of Sloan when listening Sweatmaster. Especially The Kid on Tom Tom Bullet sounded a lot like Sloan and same comes to mind on couple of songs here. It's not that they are ripping each other of. They've probably just been listening to too much of Kiss in their youth or something. Also I Have Your Eyes, Calling Satan, Let Me In, Dead Legs and Down In Size are simply brilliant songs.

Tom Tom Bullet remain as my favourite Sweatmaster album, but Animal is a great album nevertheless and Sasu easily remain as the most convincing rock vocalist in the country.

Sweatmaster Website
Sweatmaster at myspace

Bergen White: For Women Only (Revola, 2004)

This is an endless route. I mean starting to review also old records. I won't take this route often, but I love this album so dearly that I wanted to quickly praise it. After all, it's the best record I've heard this year. Even by a huge margin. On my review scale this should get about 23 hearts, but a guess I have to settle for the normal five.

Bergen White's For Women Only was originally released 1970, but thankfully Rev-Ola re-released this lost masterpiece three years ago. Then who is Bergen White? Apparently he is a well-known as a master arranger who has worked with people like Elvis Presley and Glen Campbell. It's a shame he isn't also well-known as a great songwriter and performer. Besides his own material, For Women Only contains compositions from people like Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, David Gates, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil... And there really isn't a bad song in the bunch. One of my favourites is Bergen's version of Townes Van Zandt's Second Lover's Song. There's also lots of brilliant Bergen White compositions like It's Your Time, The Bird Song, Now and one of the best songs ever What Would You Do In My Place. What Would Do In My Place is actually a bonus track and recorded three years before the album. Oh how I love that song. It's achingly beautiful and truly stunning. I'm obsessed with it. I can't even get this review written, because I keep just listening to that amazing tune on repeat..

For Women Only is a lost masterpiece. Lush beautifully orchestrated soft pop. Full of melancholic beauty and gorgeous arrangements. If you love people like Roger Nichols, Paul Williams and Harry Nillsson, I'm confident that you will love Bergen White as well.

Bergen White at myspace

Primary 5: Go (Re-Action Recordings, 2007)

Primary 5's songwriter is ex-TFC drummer Paul Quinn. Therefore it's not a huge surprise that Primary 5 sounds a bit like Teenage Fanclub. Obviously one might worry that this TFC-connection will turn out to be the only interesting thing and Go would be just a collection of decent pop tunes by an ex-drummer of the greatest band ever. Thankfully this isn't the case and Paul Quinn proves that he is a great songwriter. Primary 5's Go should find its way to record shelves of pop lovers all around. It's a crime against pop music if it doesn't.

Primary 5's Go starts brilliantly. The first quartet of songs Off Course (one of the pop songs of the year), 2 AM, Sunsets and Out in The Cold forms a perfect pop heaven. It's a familiar sound, well-crafted songs, guitars shine, vocals are brilliant, some gorgeous harmonies. It's that perfect scottish pop music and you couldn't ask for more. Anyone of these could be on a Teenage Fanclub album and wouldn't make that album any worse (sorry.. I'm sure Paul and his bandmate Ryan Currie are sick of all the TFC comparisons, but it's hard not to because there's a lot of similarities and I'm sure all TFC fans would love these songs). The latter half of the album isn't as magical, but it's still full of really good pop music. Apart from maybe Window Shopping which is the only song I don't like that much. In overall, Primary 5's Go is a great pop record. Actually while I was writing this I got so excited about them that I ordered their debut album North Pole too.

The Primary 5 at myspace

Fountains Of Wayne: Traffic and Weather (Virgin, 2007)

Fountains of Wayne return with a new album called Traffic and Weather and despite of what you might have heard, it's again a great pop album. There's been some really trashing reviews and also several fans have been unimpressed with the album. I also have a few doubts about some songs. For example I hate the title track Traffic and Weather and usually end up using the skip button when Strapped for Cash starts. However, about 3/4 of the album is really good pop music including several highlights like country-flavoured Fire In The Canyon.

Fountains Of Wayne's lyrics probably divide opinions. Their storytelling with witty remarks and playful use of words is sometimes balancing on a thin line. Most of the times I like them a lot but lines like "She saw you at the Gap / with somebody in a baseball cap" probably aren't that clever. On the other hand the songwriting team Schlesinger & Collingwood is able to turn boring everyday events into magical pop moments like no other. Therefore they get away with some things less talented wouldn't. Traffic and Weather isn't their best album, but it does contains lots of great songs like Fire In The Canyon, Someone To Love, I-95 and New Routine.

Fountains of Wayne Website
Fountains of Wayne at myspace

The Loose Salute: Tuned To Love (Graveface Records, 2007)

One of the highlights of the latest Mojave 3 album was a song called The Mutineer that was written by Ian McCutcheon. Now Ian has stepped under the spotlight and The Loose Salute's debut album shows that The Mutineer was not a lucky stroke. Ian McCutcheon is capable of writing lots of wonderful tunes. In fact all of these eleven songs are written by him (one is co-written by Ian, Neil Halstead and Lisa Billson though).

Tuned to Love is a great album. This is sunny, mellow and beautiful music. Lead vocals are shared by Lisa Billson and Ian McCutcheon. Ian sings the sweet ballads The Mutineer and Ballad of The Dumb Angel. Both filled with that irresistable warmness that makes Mojave 3's Excuses for Travellers one of my all-time favourite albums. These are perfect moments. Lisa Billson takes the lead duties on seven songs and she is a great vocalist too. In overall Tuned To Love contains country-tinged ballads and sweet and warm pop music with occasional rockers or playful numbers in-between. This album evokes the same feelings as Beachwood Sparks (first album era, no psychedelia here), Mojave 3 and The Tyde (also especially first album). Sounds like a good thing doesn't it. In fact most of the material would deserve even more hearts, but I don't share the same passion towards some of the playful material like the opener Dead Club. However, The Mutineer, The Ballad of Dumb Angel, Why'd We Fight and Photographs and Tickets are all perfect five heart songs. So tune into The Loose Salute's frequency. They have a sweeter deal for you.

The Loose Salute Website
The Loose Salute at myspace

Dropkick: Turning Circles (Taylored Records 2007)

Scottish Dropkick is one of my new favourite bands. This is so totally my kind of music. Country-tinged pop music with glorious vocal harmonies. Dropkick seem to be a prettty well kept secret, because this is already their fifth album and I've never heard of them before Turning Circles stormed into my heart a couple of months ago.. And I'm a huge fan of scottish pop music and sometimes I even imagine that I know a little bit about it.

Well now I try do my little part in making them better known and tell that I absolutely love this album. Turning Circles is filled with wonderful pop tunes with country twists. Obviously Teenage Fanclub comes often to mind during the poppier moments of the album, but that's hardly a bad thing. Turning Circles is a marvellous album and it's hard to think that fans of harmony-filled / powerpop wouldn't love it. I certainly do love Turning Circles. If someone forced me to find some flaws, I guess there might be a little bit of room for improvement on the overall sound of the record, but it's the songs that count and there's certainly no worries on the songwriting department. Perhaps they are not inventing anything new, but they certainly do this power pop thing perfectly. And don't get scared, if you hate country. For me this is mostly a perfect POP record and one of the most enjoyable releases of the year.

Dropkick Website
Dropkick at myspace

Mark Olson: The Salvation Blues (Hacktone, 2007)

I haven't followed Mark Olson's career closely after he left The Jayhawks, but The Salvation Blues brought him back to my heart. This really is a wonderful album. On Salvation Blues, Mark's old Jayhawks partner Gary Louris joins him on three songs to sing some beautiful harmonies. It's obvious that such reunion will give nostalgic trips to jayhawks enthusiastics like myself and it sure feels wonderful and emotional to hear those beautiful voices joining together in perfect harmony. Gary Louris' appearance is a wonderful bonus and hopefully draws more attention to this, but the most important thing is that Mark Olson has written a beautiful and intimate album. The Salvation Blues will be regarded as one of the most convincing albums of the year here at onechord. It may not contain any hit songs, but it's confessional tone, emotion-filled poetic lyrics and beautifully crafted songs shines through into your heart.

Mark Olson at myspace

Bob Evans: Suburban Songbook (EMI australia, 2006)

Bob Evans is one hell of a pop songwriter. Or should I say Kevin Mitchell is , because apparently Bob Evans is Jebediah's Kevin Mitchell (Jebediah is an australian indie pop group that I know nothing about, perhaps I should learn). This latest release Suburban Songbook is the second album under the name Bob Evans and it was recorded in Nashville under the guidance of well known power pop songwriter/producer Brad Jones and with the help of some great musicians like Wilco's Ken Coomer.

Suburban Songbook is a marvellous pop album and I'm almost ashamed that it took me a while to totally fall in love with it. I instantly liked it, but at first I just rated it as another really nice and pleasant pop album and I failed to hear the greatness of it. Nowadays I'm totally hooked and I rate it almost as a perfect album. This is really well-crafted and perfectly arranged pop music. At least names like Fountains of Wayne, Josh Rouse, Daniel Wylie and well The Beatles comes to mind while listening. Oh and on Flame Bob's vocals reminds me of Super Deluxe's Via Satellite era ballads (maybe just because it feels Braden Blake is singing the song). Basicly you could name all the great pop singer-songwriters of today and Bob Evans would fit in perfectly. He is up there with the very best of them.

There's eleven tracks on the album and all of them are great. There's classic power pop like Comin' Around, jangly pop hits like Friend and heartwarming pop ballads like Darlin' Won't You Come? that could be pretty Fountains of Wayne tunes. Highly melodic pop tunes. Marvellous vocals. A little of bit country. And the arrangements. Flute, saxophone, trombone, trumpet, cello, pedal steel and violin all make appearances and give flavour to the songs and still it just feels like there's one guy with acoustic guitar singing his heart out. Which is a good thing, because I don't usually like big sounding orchestrated pop music. I've totally fallen in love with the album. Suburban Songbook is filled with amazingly beautiful and intimate timeless pop tunes and it would have been a candidate for a top 3 spot on my best of 2006 list if I had bought it sooner.

Bob Evans Website
Bob Evans at myspace

Sloan: Never Hear The End Of It (Yep Rock, 2007)

Well you know Sloan has a big place in my heart, because I stole the name of this website from them. Eventhough I haven't been the biggest Sloan fan during the last few years, a new Sloan album is still a big thing. This time Sloan has decided to give us a small overdose by putting 30 songs on the album. Therefore it took a while to digest everything, but now I'm sure that this is a great album. 1/3 of the album is as perfect as anything Sloan has ever written, 1/3 of the album is really good music and the last third is at least okay. Never Hear The End Of It would be like the greatest album ever if I could cut it down to 12-14 songs. But I don't think I should complain, because I probably don't have equal taste with the band and if they had done the editing it's possible some of my favourites would be missing. Now I can always program my cd player to play that perfect Sloan album that these songs could form.

...hmm... Should I say something about the music too. Well it's Sloan so I think everyone knows already. Perfect powerful rock tunes with pop melodies. A lot less Kiss influences than on Action Pact and therefore this is closer to Pretty Together than Action Pact. Never Hear The End Of It does contain a lot of fillers, but it's pretty hard not to love an album that contains almost ten five heart songs on my scale.

Sloan Website
Sloan at myspace

Wojciech: Sointula (M.Dulor, 2007)

Another escape to my childhood. Wojciech has some magical power to take me into childhood memories and make them feel more precious than they actually were. Not that they were bad memories to begin with. It's just that the chords and melodies that Wojciech create can remove all the cynisism that the responsible adult life has injected into them and then give you rose-coloured glasses that make you see your current surroundings with the same innocent excitement than at the time when the biggest struggle of your life was to decide whether you want a chocolade or strawberry flavoured ice-cream.

Sointula is a dreamlike journey into beautiful soundscapes. I'm usually completely against any kind of music fantasies, but Wojciech has that innocent warmness that keep the songs close to my heart. The stories might be set in snowy atmospheres, but certain kind of warmness remains. Icicles become torches when they are carried by Wojciech's magical melodies. Sointula might not contain any songs that would have hit potential or even songs that would be be perfect on their own, but as a complete piece of music it all works beautifully. Think of groups like Circulatory System, Album Leaf, Flaming Lips and Grandaddy to get a clue of Wojciech's sight and sound experience. Sointula could be like a distant finnish cousin to Album Leaf's In a Safe Place, because they both contain beautiful soundscapes and icy warmness. Wojciech's album is far more exciting though. The only reason why I don't get completely excited about Sointula might be Wojciech's debut album Ystävät Toverit that already did something quite similar with even more amazing results. That's not a huge problem though, because I always need more places to run to if the world starts looking too scary and therefore Sointula might have me as a regular visitor during stressful times. It can be my dream when I'm not able to sleep.

Wojciech Website

Wojciech at myspace

Juni Järvi: Wherever Art Thou (Everlasting Records, 2007)

Juni Järvi is a swedish artist and Wherever Art Thou is his debut album that also got a finnish release in early 2007. Thankfully so, because this is a really good pop album. Easy way to describe this beautiful record would be that it sounds a lot like Jens Lekman and Magnetic Fields. This would be true, but only part of the truth. It's clear that such tunes as The Stars Above Indian Lake and If We Just Want To shows some resemblance to Lekman's material. However, that is just one side of the record. There's different kind of beautiful pop tunes that have first been soaked in light melancholy and have then been clued together in order to form a continuos delight for overly romantic pop kids. Needless to say that yours truly prefers the sweet pop tunes and the sugary ballads like Waiting For Tomorrow, which do form the majority of the album. I guess it's fair to say that you need to have a soft spot in your heart in order to enjoy Juni Järvi. On the other hand these tunes might float into your heart and create that soft spot for you if you are willing to let your guard down. Wherever Art Thou might not be for everyday use in this household, but during special nights it's a perfect match with my weak lovesoaked heart.

Juni Järvi Website
Juni Järvi at myspace

Cats On Fire: The Province Complains (Marsh-Marigold, 2007)

The first real contender for the album of the year title. I knew I was going to love this even before I heard the album. Well every reader of this tiny website knew that, because I think I've praised them a lot during the past few years. The only minor worry was that they might have continued the path of Draw in The Reins. Which was not a huge worry because Draw in the Reins is a great song as well. It's a great pop hit (well should be anyway) with a bit of pulp-vibe. A ten of those would just be way too much. Thankfully they haven't fallen for that trap and The Province Complains is a well-balanced album. I suppose it's possible that some who think Draw in the Reins is their best song might feel a little bit dissapointed because there are lots of gentle pop tunes on the album. However, the quality of the material is so high that it should be only a matter of time until every pop fan has fallen in love with The Province Complains.

The Province Complains contains twelve excellent pop songs. The old favourites Higher Grounds and The Smell of an Artist have been re-recorded, but aren't significantly better than the earlier ones. This is mostly because it's probably pretty hard to make already perfect songs any better than they were. However, The Smell of An Artist sounds even more powerful nowadays, because I found out that it's about that sick finnish artist Teemu Mäki who thought it's art to kill a cat.

There are lots of new tracks obviously and they are all great. I Am the White-Mantled King is a gorgeous opener and the following Astray shows a bit of Kinks-influences. The real highlight of the album for me is the trio of Mesmer And Reason, If You Must Tell Him and The Sharp End Of The Season in the latter half of the album. These are all perfect songs. Mesmer and Reason is my favourite song on the record. Wonderful melody, intelligent but witty lyrics, trombone and really gorgeous harmony vocals in the chorus. Oh. It doesn't get any better than this. Gently floating pretty pop tune. The Province Complains is such an amazing record. There are the energic indie pop hits with morrissey drama and jangly hooks, but there's also lots of well-crafted traditional gentle and peaceful pop tunes. And these latter are far from being just pointless fillers. They are even the most convincing part of the album. This is really strong pop songwriting and therefore I hope that also people outside indie pop circles find this album. After all, this is lot better than The Smiths anyway. Okay, Mattias might want to kill me because of that statement, but on a personal level it's true. I haven't really gotten into Morrissey (apart from You are the Quarry maybe), but I surely love everything this kid (who has been heavily influenced by Morrissey) writes. He is a really great songwriter and The Province Complains is a perfect debut album.

Cats On Fire Website
Cats On Fire at myspace

The Winnerys: Daily Urban Times (Rainbow Quartz, 2006)

The Winnerys is a spanish power pop group. Their leadsinger is Paul McCartney the inlay says it's Fausto Martin. I guess I have to believe that eventhough on couple of the songs he sounds exactly like Paul. Well that's hardly a bad thing. Anyway, this is excellent power pop with hints of psychedelia. I suppose it's easy to criticize them about the lenght of the album. 15 songs and 62 minutes is a bit too much for a pop record and Daily Urban Times would have been even a bigger killer if a few less-great songs had been dropped. But why to worry, because there's still 8-10 really good pop tunes on the album and the best ones like Not So Far Away, How I Miss You, Get Into My Life are utterly wonderful. Excellent catchy pop music with powerful playing and vocal harmonies. I'm not that much into the more psychedelic pop songs, but the straightforward rockin pop tunes are killers. Daily Urban Times is nowhere near perfect, but it's definitely a really good pop record.

The Winnerys at myspace
The Winnerys Website

Peachy Little Secrets -Fruit Records Compilation (Fruit Records, 2006)

Peachy Little Secrets is an international pop compilation released by Singapore-based label Fruit Records. It's actually much more interesting than the average pop compilation, because over half of these bands are really good asian groups that I have never heard of. The sound is very sweet and twee throughout the record. There's some big names included like The Lucksmiths and My Favorite, but the focus is on small, but excellent indie pop groups. This compilation is certainly able to reveal several pop secrets to me. That of course might be just because of my ignorance about world indie pop, but thankfully there are labels like Fruit Records there to educate me.

Because everyone knows that Sunlight In a Jar by The Lucksmiths or Burning Hearts by My Favorite are excellent pop tunes, it's better to focus on these less known pop acts. Almost every song would be worth mentioning, but I'll just go through my own favorites

My Writes: Love In the 60's (Singapore)
Really sweet indiepop with unique sounding vocals.

purplepaige: Suzie On Monday Morning (Singapore)
Brilliant. Somewhere between Comet Gain and The Arrogants maybe.

Ferns: Disaster Strikes Again (Malaysia)
A really wonderful Malaysian pop group whose album will be reviewed here on a later date. And it's a damn good album, I can say that already. If Lasse Lindh lived in Asia and only wrote sweet and mellow pop songs it could be something like this.

My Little Airport: Japan Sut Gua (Hong Kong)
Male-female duo from Hong Kong. Very cute.

Mocca (ft Karolina Komstedt of Club 8): I Would Never.. (Indonesia/Sweden)
Two perfect female voices.

The Oddfellows: Unity Song
A great guitar pop tune. Actually it reminds me a bit of finnish Poverty Stinks.

Also Annemarie (Indonesia), Serenaide (Singapore), The Marshmellow Kisses (Hong Kong), Little Name (UK) and The Castavetes (Sweden) have great songs here and there's nothing wrong with the rest either. Fruit Records deserve a lot of hugs and kisses, because of this lovely compilation. Four hearts for the music and an extra half of a heart for introducing a plenty of new indie pop groups to me.

Fruit Records Website
Fruit Records at myspace

Roger Joseph Manning Jr: The Land Of Pure Imagination (Cordless, 2006)

The Land of Pure Imagination is the long-waited debut album of Roger Joseph Manning Jr who used to play in Jellyfish (The earlier japanese release Solid State Warrior does have three different songs than this us release).

I'm only 100% sure about one thing. I absolutely hate the cover art. I have mixed feelings about the music. On the other hand it's amazing piece of pop art with thoughtful arrangements, but it also feels that these pop fantasies fly far above me and never seem to find the core of my heart. Because of Jellyfish I would like to love this to bits and write huge praises about the album. It wouldn't be very honest, because it's a struggle to love The Land Of Pure Imagination. "Just liking" the album isn't a struggle, because apart from couple of total mishits like Sandman and Dragonfly, the album still ends up on a positive side and there are a few really great songs like Wish It Would Rain. Roger Joseph Manning Jr is a very gifted songwriter and a sound wizard. There are so many magical pop moments that it's easy to forgive that stylewise I have huge problems with the album. And well the harmonies are pure gold all the time.

The Land of Pure Imagination is quite a psych-pop journey. On one day it feels like a perfect pop masterpiece, but on another day it might sound like an 70's aor band that has taken too much acid and want to be Van Dyke Parks. Which might mean that it's just too ambitious for a simple kid like me. Linus of Hollywood's latest album comes to mind while listening to this. And I must say that I prefer Linus' album just because it's just a simple pop record and don't try to be a masterful pop fantasy. But yours truly hates also scifi, fantasy and horror movies and prefers silly romantic comedies. I guess I just don't have enough imagination to get sucked into the land of pure imagination.

Roger Joseph Manning Jr at myspace
Roger Joseph Manning Jr Website

The Someloves: Don't Talk About Us 2CD (Half a Cow, 2006)

Don't Talk About Us contains complete Someloves recordings. The legendary album Something Or Other plus all the singles. It's a very welcome release because Something Or Other has been out of print for years. Therefore it's damn nice to finally get these perfect pop gems to my record shelf. And I believe I'm not the only finnish pop fan who was looking for these. That's because Miettinen / Räkärodeo made sure that every listener knew the greatness of The Someloves / Dom Mariani / Darryl Mather. Finding these australian pop gems is one of the dozens of great reasons to be forever thankful to Miettinen. I wouldn't know a thing about music if there hasn't been Räkärodeo.

The first disc contains the album Something Or Other and like everyone already knows it's a pop masterpiece and an essential power pop release. Know You Now, Melt, Sunshine's Glove, I'm Falling Down..well basicly each and every song are simply stunning. Guitar pop just doesn't get much better than this. The disc two contains b-sides and rarities, but the quality doesn't really drop much. It's all so sweet pop music. I suppose everyone already knows their greatness so I don't need to convince you more. It's an essential release if you don't own Something or Other and well if you own Something or Other you're probably a fan and want this anyway.

The Someloves: Melt at

The Red Button: She's About To Cross My Mind (2007)

The Red Button brings back the 60's. Two pop songwriters Seth Swirsky and Mike Ruekberg teamed up and the end result was a slice of pop heaven entitled She's About To Cross My Mind. The album contains very classic beatles-influenced power pop. Of course music like this might be totally insignificant to some, but it can also be so damn enjoyable to a pop freak. These are hook-filled songs with lots of perfect harmonies. The kind of of pop songs that evokes smiles and bring sunshine to your heart.

The album kicks of with an excellent track Cruel Girl that just totally stucks in your heart. It might even get annoying, because it's a tough task to get this simple tune out of your head and you might find yourself humming it in the streets of your town. However, the most stunning piece is the last song It's No Secret. A really sweet pop tune with pretty harmonies and beatles guitars. Also the title song She's About To Cross My Mind is a perfect pop tune. Perhaps there's a couple of only nice tunes in the middle stages of the album, but I don't let it really bother me because most of the album contains wonderful 60's influenced pop music. A really enjoyable album.

The Red Button Website
The Red Button at myspace

Locksley: Don't Make Me Wait (Feature Records, 2007)

It would be easy to hate a band who has written a theme song for a MTV show, but there's just one problem. It's bloody hard to be an indie snob when you happen to really love the music. These are great songs that blows your mind away. Mixing beatles and modern garage rock they say themselves and that's a pretty good description. Songs like All Of The Time, It Won't Be For Long and Into The Sun certainly have that early 60's era Beatles thing inside them and are just amazing pop songs. Life would be sweet if Locksley would hit it big. It feels that they even might have a chance. If Strokes made it with their debut, why not Locksley. It doesn't really fall that far from them. It's energetic, exciting and bloody excellent. Thrilling rock tunes with brilliant pop melodies. I'm totally loving Don't Make Me Wait. 3/4 of it would be worth all the hearts in the world. This is fun, fun, fun...

Locksley Website
Locksley at myspace

Puny: It Kills You (Aisti Records, 2007)

2007 looks like a great year for finnish pop music and january already brought great albums from Laurila, ultrasport and Puny. Puny's second full-length It Kills You is the strongest one if I look at the whole album. The other two have higher upside and more killer songs, but also some less perfect songs. Puny on the other hand, don't take a step into wrong direction and the album is filled with really good songs.

Puny's second full-lenght album didn't kill me instantly though. At first it felt ..dare I say.. boring. It all seemed really good, but where were those shockingly great songs that the previous album had. Further listenings proved this daring conclusion dead wrong. It's not too clean and it's definitely not boring. It's also easy to lift songs like Bound For Glory, It's Hard To Love, The Prisoner and Won't Be Denied to the shockingly great category after properly listening to the album. They certainly have a great melodic sense and they should be bound for glory. The drop-dead gorgeous songs are the already-mentioned Bound For Glory and The Prisoner. Melodically beautiful songs that also have enough edge to stand out. Some great sounding guitar work as well. The ballads like It's Hard To Love and the perfect ending Won't Be Denied don't fall far behind. Neil Young cover I've Been Waiting For You isn't as convincing as their own material, but overall It Kills You is a really good record. There's not enough truly outstanding material to warrant a higher grade, but everything on the album is enjoyable.

Puny Website
Puny at myspace

Matti Johannes Koivu: Kovat Piipussa (M.Dulor)

I've always struggled with Matti Johannes Koivu and Ultramariini. I want to love them, but I just don't seem to be able to completely fall in love with their music. I have the utmost respect towards them and what they've achieved, but the songs just don't strike me the way I keep hoping. Matti Johannes Koivu's first solo album Puuhastellen was a good example. Oh how it felt like a perfect album for me. It had that down-to-earth warmness and it sounded really lovely. Still it didn't turn out to be much more than fairly good three-hearts album for me. Kovat Piipussa is his second solo album and another chance for me to finally fall in love with his music.

Kovat Piipussa doesn't completely remove my fears and prejudices towards his music, but it certainly gives me hope. First time I can also say that I love Matti Johannes Koivu's song. Esineet ja Aikataulut is a really beautiful little folk song. Also the ending Kuljen, Kuljen is able to find my heart. It's easy to say that the slow, beautiful folk songs are marvellous and Naapuska is a really good pop song. Kovat Piipussa contains some songs that I really like, but on the other hand there are tunes that drive me insane. Especially Avaruusasema kiitää and Topi Sorsakoski-päivä are reasons why skip button was invented. The overal feeling of the album is again really warm and lovely. By removing those few faster annoying tracks, it could have been rather nice and cozy sunday morning album. Kovat piipussa does show that Matti Johannes Koivu can write material that finds my heart. However, about half of the material still isn't much more than just nice and lovely to me.

Matti Johannes Koivu Website
Matti Johannes Koivu at myspace

Cheerleaders United: Motorcade City (Plastic Passion, 2006)

Cheerleaders United has been way too overlooked on this website. Which is almost criminal, because they surely have something to offer for pop fans as well. Take the opening track Something True, Something Plain for example. How is that not a great catchy song with a killer chorus? And that's not the only one. Far from it. Motorcade City is a really strong album.

Motorcade City begins with three marvellous tracks. A trio of Something True, Something Plain, Motorcade City, (Let Me Fall In Love With You) In Overdrive is a thunderous start. I suppose it's fairly easy to categorize me as a softie who isn't in to loud music. But I do have to give in if the music is good enough. And damn. This certainly is. For example the title song is almost too much for me, but still turns out to be enjoyable like a goalie fight in a hockey game (I might have not wanted one to appear, but when it did I had to admit that I really enjoyed it). While the song Motorcade City almost steps out of bounds, the other two songs I mentioned easily get both feet to the ground. Both of the songs hit hard, but the pop melodies are there softening the impact. It's gorgeous rock music with pop sensibility. It's marvellous but might get little exhausting in the long run. However, the strenght of Motorcade City is the variety of the material. Suddenly the strong rockin pop tunes fade away and in comes something beautiful and captivating. Songs like Heart of Stone, Ghost To Ghost and Ghost Town Blues proves to be even more convincing than the opening stages of the album. This is where the wave breaks. This is where I fall in love. There's a bit of drama, a lot of beauty and a hell of a lot of gorgeous singing and stylish playing. And in between we still get some of those excellent guitar pop and guitar rock tunes. Sounds like a great album doesn't it. Well that's what it is. Before reviewing I had my heart set at four hearts, but while listening I just didn't found anything to complain about and it just sounds so damn convincing right now that I throw in another half of a heart. It's probably worth it.

Cheerleaders United Website
Cheerleaders United at myspace

Baby Sweetcorn: New Low (Karkia Mistika, 2006)

It's getting easier to like Baby Sweetcorn. Previous release Ghost and Sunsets might have been a bit tough piece to swallow, because of its confessional tone and bare sounds. Don't ge me wrong, I'm totally into such bare and emotion-filled tunes and I like it a lot, but still that record isn't meant for everyday use in this household. New Low on the other hand doesn't require melancholic state of mind and it can be enjoyable during the brightest of hours as well.

Baby Sweetcorn has changed, but not dramatically. We are still talking about rather melancholic piano pop. it's just significantly faster, has a real band sound in it and might even be considered dancable. There's not a bad song in the bunch, but unfortunately I haven't totally fallen in love with the songs either. Surely there are really strong tunes like the title track New Low, Winning Horse and Marya Zaleska, but they don't make me want to shout their name from rooftops and force every innocent bystander to listen their music. It's not something truly exceptional. It's just really good piano-driven pop music, but I guess that is more than enough.

Baby Sweetcorn Website
Baby Sweetcion at myspace

Roy Moller: Speak When I'm Spoken To (Book Club Records, 2006)

Roy Moller is scottish pop singer-songwriter who has collaborated with folks like Belle & Sebastian's Stevie Jackson and apparently Belle & Sebastian's song Roy Walker was written about him. These connections made him interesting, but that interest would have faded away soon if his own songs hadn't been good enough. Thankfully his songs are good enough and Speak When I'm Spoken To contains really good traditional pop music. It seems to be very 60's/70's orientated pop album and for example The Kinks comes to mind a few times. As does some 70's power pop bands and even finnish Ben's Diapers in the chorus of Her Collected Poems.

Speak When I'm Spoken To is a really good collection of songs. It feels a bit inconsistant at times, but there are several great tunes. Six Degrees is a great 60's influenced track that brings to mind that chap who has a gap between his two front teeth. If you happen to love scottish guitar pop like TFC, BMX Bandits, Speedboat, Nice Man & The Bad will surely love the song Maximum Smile. First You Fall In Love is a great power pop track and Her Collected Poems is a really beautiful pop song. And well the list of really good songs could go on and on.. Baby, Look No Further, Train Your Thoughts On Love, David Niven....

Roy Moller's solo debut is a delightful pop record. Kind of down-to-earth album that can still charm you with great arrangements. A couple of the songs might be considered only as sketches of great songs. However that's only a minor flaw, because most of the songs show that you don't need an orchestra or big soundwalls to create hook-filled good pop record. Just skillful and talented songwriter with a perfect pop sense is usually enough and that proves to be the case with Roy Moller.

Roy Moller Website
Roy Moller at myspace

Laurila: Boyhood (Kinkt Records, 2007)

If I start with the only bad thing. I don't like the opening track Death & Sexuality at all. I almost hate it. Okay, If I'm honest, slight reason might be just my overly romantic mind refusing to be impressed by any song with that title, but I don't think I would be into it even if it was called Kittens & Winona. It's just plain boring rock. After getting that out of the way, the rest of the review will be positive, because Boyhood is a great album that contains several wonderful pop songs, some actually good rock tunes and also one song for Office Building fans like me.

I might have hated the opening track of Boyhood, but I love the following five tracks. If the whole album would have been equally stunning I might have considered honoring mr Laurila by wearing Kärpät jersey for a week. Everything is perfect during these five songs. Starting with actually good rock tune Anyone Anywhere and ending to a heartbreaker entitled Nervous which is the song that could have been on any Office Building album. In between we get three amazing pop songs called Solid Ground, Genius On The Run, Endless Summer. This is the kind of music that I love. Solid Ground will be one of my songs of the year. Genius On The Run reminds me of some 70's powerpop track, but with Janne Laurila's sweet vocals added on top and Endless Summer is that perfect summery pop track that might be able to make these -20C winter nights little warmer. These five songs along with later number She Wants To Be A Hurricane are the key tracks and worth all the love I can give. Most of the latter half is also really good stuff eventhough it does not quite reach the same heights as the songs I mentioned. But of course I tend to love the melodic pop tracks of the album and don't have the same excitement towards the good rockier tunes.

Boyhood is a marvellous debut album. I personally would have wanted demo tracks Hayley and Already Too Much To Ask to appear on the album, because for me those are some of their finest songs. If I could replace Death & Sexuality and Number Down with those marvellous songs this would have probably gotten the full amount of hearts.

Laurila Website
Laurila at myspace

ultrasport: False Start City (Gashopper, 2007)

Less cute, equally perfect. But even if you loved that cuteness, don't quit reading yet. You have more than enough time to watch youtube's panda sneeze video for 267 times in a row after this short review. And well, it takes much more than an addiction to Springsteen to completely remove the lovely and cute side of the ultrasport.

False Start City is indeed slightly different than the debut album. But nothing has gone wrong this time either. If one could critisize something, it might the fact that the songs like Binary Man Strikes Back or Ballad of Richard Dean Anderson are quite lovely and make you smile for the first few times, but soon end up being just fillers in between hit songs. But perhaps it's good to be able to take a deep threat every now and then, because there's plenty of killer songs here. False Start City, Jennie with The Cigarette Taste in Her Tongue, Bad Poetry, Tired of Lovers, God Save The Architechts... Five hearts songs each and everyone. Just fantastic and truly enjoyable pop music. Catchy as hell, amazing choruses and boys singing their hearts out. A bit like The Go-Betweens covering Born To Run they say themselves. If I try to come out with more ridicilous way to describe it I could say that it's occasionally like a punk pop band playing Talking With The Taxman About Poetry two times faster and three times louder. I guess that didn't make any sense, but this album does. It's just damn gorgeous pop album and it hurts not to be able to to give it the full amount of hearts because of a few not-that-great songs. The rest 7-8 songs should be pop hits and ultrasport fills this apartment with happiness.

ultrasport Website
ultrasport at myspace

Treeball: I Dream of Eclectic Sheep (2006)

Treeball released two albums during the year 2006. This second one entitled I Dream of Eclectic Sheep was released as a free mp3 album. In some sense this might even even my favourite Treeball release so far. Being an indie boy with all these ridicilous indie obsessions, I've sometimes felt that Treeball is too professional. I hate to admit it because it's incredibly stupid, but I believe that has occasionally been the case. Therefore it feels that some of this more bare material on this album makes it more appealing to me as a whole. By this I mean songs like Could You Love Me Now? and Sweet Murder (Song For Doug Yule) that are quite stripped off tunes that only feature Mr Triani. Just fillers some might say. Really good songs I might say. Somehow they make even the great pop songs stand out and there are several of them. I Dream of Eclectic Sheep shows how many talented songwriters there are in the band. My favourite songs of the album are all from different songwriters. Nick Triani (Denial Of The Fittest), Janne Lehtinen (Favourite Enemy), Astrid Swan (The Ghost Will Come) and Michael McDonald (Soul To Heaven) can all write wonderful pop songs and this is another strong Treeball album.

Treeball Website (download the album for free)
Treeball at myspace

Ville Leinonen: Hei! (Poko Records, 2007)

I'm a long time fan, but I wasn't that excited about Valumo's last two albums. Suudelmitar on the other hand was a perfect album and I had seen Ville Leinonen covering finnish oldies under the elvis clock at the greatest bar in the world (Vakiopaine) and had been deeply moved each and every time. Therefore the prospect of getting a full album containing covers like that was something that made my heart dance.

The album entitled Hei! almost fulfills my skyhigh expectations. It contains several gorgeous covers versions. Songs like Etsin kunnes löydän sun, Rakkaus on hellyyttä, Voinko luottaa... are absolutely wonderful. If this record can make indie purists wanting to go and search the flea market in hope of finding Juha Matti's vinyl albums, I guess it's safe to say that it's a great record. Apart from the title song Hei!, everything is really enjoyable. Brightest jewel being the song called Etsin kunnes löydän sun. This song might be even too perfect, because when compared to this beautiful masterpiece, the rest of the songs feels weaker than they actually are. Don't worry though. The whole album is really good. I don't usually care about cover albums at all, but this is a great one.

Hei! Website

Hotel Alexis: Goliath, I'm On Your Side (Broken Sparrow, 2007)

I had mixed feelings when I first heard Hotel Alexis' long-waited second album Goliath, I'm On Your Side. It surely contained plenty of good songs, but also some pointless instrumentals and a 19 minutes long experimental track that made skip button useful and it seemed that I need to throw the red flag and challenge the greatness of the album... But in the end... it didn't took more than a couple of sleepless nights spent with the album to fall in love with it. I still don't care about the instrumentals and that painfully long tune called Hummingbird/Indian Dog is way too big of challenge for a fan of three minute pop songs.. But that's just me. I need vocals and sidney's quiet, bare and intimate vocals could make even bad songs worth listening to and these are far from bad. Sidney Alexis is a great storyteller and the dark, slow beauty of the songs is captivating. The closest match for me is still Sparklehorse. That beautifully broken, quiet and slow side of Sparklehorse. Goliath, I'm On Your Side, is a definitely a challenge. There's no hit songs and if the record is just playing on the background only Wilco-ish The Devil Knows My Handle might catch your attention. But switch off the lights, put headphones on and you'll get drawn into the stories and end up loving Sidney's intimate vocals and the careful arrangements that create that unique and magical mood of the album.

I certainly remain as a huge Hotel Alexis fan. Take away that 19-minute long experiment and this would be the second Hotel Alexis album that gets five hearts on this tiny website. Most of these fourteen tracks are truly captivating pieces of music. They may not provide the perfect soundtrack for summer days, but can bring beauty and harmony to the moments when the night surrounds.

Hotel Alexis Website
Hotel Alexis at myspace

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