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Music Finland staff picks: Our favourite Finnish albums of 2020
Once again, it’s time to look back on another year in Finnish music: Which albums have the great people at Music Finland listened to and loved throughout 2020 – a year not very much like all other years? See our staff picks below – and scroll all the way down for a Spotify playlist compiled from these albums!
Anu Ahola (Editor-in-Chief, FMQ Magazine)
Outi Tarkiainen: "The Earth, Spring’s Daughter – Saivo" (Ondine)
Outi Tarkiainen’s works on this album are full of longing, ritual and eternity. My favourite is the saxophone concerto Saivo (with Jukka Perko as a soloist) and its sonorous illusions of another reality. Tarkiainen mixes classical and jazz elements, and a contemporary experience of humans, and then adds a sense of mystery and drama. The result is her very own musical language, a wistful picture of humans and the Earth.
Listen to "The Earth, Spring’s Daughter – Saivo" on Spotify.
Read our most recent spotlight article on Outi Tarkiainen from 2018.
Tuuli Elo (Export Manager)
Tapani Rinne: "Foghornia" (Signature Dark / Rockadillo Records)
At the end of this strangely stressful and at the same time stationary year this is one of the albums that calms me down. "Foghornia" is a great sequel to Tapani Rinne’s last year’s solo album "Radioton". The dreamy, melancholic sound of Rinne’s saxophone catches my breath while the electronic, experimental sounds on the background keep me awake and focused throughout the album.
Listen to "Foghornia" on Spotify.
Teemu Fiilin (Communications Manager)
Kairon; IRSE!: "Polysomn" (Svart Records)
This year my choice between two "Finnish album of the year" contestants was quite hard – essentially it was a coin toss between two great bands lingering in the shoegaze and dream pop realms. On one hand, I had Karina's truly excellent sophomore album "2" representing the more folky and delicate side of shoegaze, on the other hand I had... the band with the most ridiculous name in the music business! But jokes aside, Kairon; IRSE!'s muscular wall of massive guitars dipped in dreamy, ethereal synths, psychedelic, near-whispered vocals and groovy, swaying drumbeats is pretty much just what I needed to get through this hell of a year. Soft and intimate to lull you in its beautiful little bubble – but then the noisy bits come just in time to wake you up for another marathon of Zoom meetings and microwave lunches.
Listen to "Polysomn" on Spotify.
Read our recent spotlight article on Kairon; IRSE!
Merja Hottinen (Research Manager)
Sebastian Hilli: "confluence / divergence" (Kairos)
The lack of live concert experiences in 2020 has made me value recordings that make the listener to truly concentrate and take the time for listening, just like you would in a concert hall. There have been many such intense listening experiences this year. This time my album pick is composer Sebastian Hilli’s profile album "confluence / divergence" with Uusinta Ensemble, Petri Kumela and conductor József Hárs. The three chamber music works are all different in style and atmosphere, each of them taking the listener to a unique journey to worlds unknown. It is music that moves in tranquil meditation as well as in speed and surprises, it transforms and excites – revealing something new each time you hear the music.
Listen to "confluence / divergence" on Spotify.
Read our latest spotlight article on Sebastian Hilli from 2019.
Hanna Isolammi (Editor, FMQ)
Petri Kumela: "Small Creatures – A Musical Bestiary" (Petri Kumela)
One would be forgiven for thinking that 75 minutes of miniatures would get tedious after a while, but there is no danger of that, for two reasons: firstly, the progression of the pieces ensures that the listener’s interest is sustained, and secondly, Kumela is such a brilliant performer that even the musically less than fascinating creepy crawlies manage to sound interesting. The takeaway from this album is its enormous range of tonal colour and mood.
Listen to "Small Creatures – A Musical Bestiary" on Spotify.
Read our recent spotlight article on Petri Kumela.
Niko Kangas (Export Manager)
Oranssi Pazuzu: "Mestarin kynsi" (Nuclear Blast)
"Mestarin kynsi" by Finnish psychonauts Oranssi Pazuzu is a superb album that takes the listener to the moon and back. A so called real masterpiece. Take a listen – your exploration will be rewarded.
Listen to "Mestarin kynsi" on Spotify.
Read our recent spotlight article on Oranssi Pazuzu.
Kari Laitinen (Information Manager)
Tim Ferchen / Awake Percussion: "Broken" (Siba Records)
The Finnish-American percussionist Tim Ferchen is a leading composer of percussion music in Finland. His output consists of solo and ensemble works for no n-pitched percussions and mallet instruments, with and without electronics. Now the young Awake Percussion quartet has put together an album of Ferchen’s music. Most of the works are commissioned or premiered by the quartet itself.
Listen to "Broken" on Spotify.
Heli Lampi (Head of Communications and Promotion)
Jimi Tenor: Aulos (Philophon)
A joyful album by the multi-instrumentalist and singer Jimi Tenor. Tenor seems to be able to reinvent himself album after album, yet always staying true to his own style and musical craftsmanship; the inventive combination of alternative pop, electronic music, jazz, soul, African funk, what have you. Jimi Tenor’s international career is long and strong - he is one of the true stars of the off-mainstream scene. Quality music that will always stay relevant.
Listen to "Aulos" on Spotify.
Anna Oramo (Research Assistant)
Helsinki Baroque Orchestra: J.S. Bach (Aeolus)
I chose the latest CD release by Helsinki Baroque Orchestra and Aeolus, J.S. Bach's harpsichord concertos for 3 and 4 harpsichords. It got the prestigious Diapason d'Or prize this year. You can hear four harpsichords of different styles, that all sound in a different way. It was so much fun recording this album, and I hope our joy is audible for anyone who listens to it. And you can only imagine the overwhelming ringing sound, when one tries to keep four harpsichords in tune during the entire recording session!
Listen to "J.S. Bach: Concertos for 3 & 4 harpsichords" on Spotify.
Paulina Partanen (Manager, Sheet Music Production)
Nightwish: "Human.://: Nature." (Nuclear Blast)
This album is something drastically different. I especially liked the second disc with strong feelings and orchestrations.
Listen to "Human.://: Nature." on Spotify.
Loviisa Pihlakoski (Communications Coordinator)
Maria Kalaniemi & Eero Grundström: "Mielo" (Maria Kalaniemi & Eero Grundström)
The album is dedicated to the wilderness – which makes it a perfect soundtrack for the quarantine. The sounds of the accordion and harmonium, together with Kalaniemi’s non-lyric singing, create a hypnotic energy that makes your feet waggle to the rhythm of Grundström’s synthetic beat. The melodies of Kalaniemi’s accordion touch deep. My favorite tracks are Erämorsian (Wildwood bride), Tulten Poiga (Flame boy) and Vaellus (Walkabout). The album fits for all seasons, from summer days to the pitch-black nights of December. Just press play and let your imagination wander in the woods. As a special mention, you might also find a similar atmosphere from Sarah Palu’s "Ikivirta" and Ikiranka’s self titled album.
Listen to "Mielo" on Spotify.
Read our recent spotlight article on Eero Grundström.
Anna Reponen (Project Coordinator)
ALMA: "Have U Seen Her?" (PME Records)
Alma’s debut album brings me back to some great times spent in LA. Alma has a sound that is international, young and restless, but also so easily relatable. In addition, the songs on this album are all great to dance to, which I always appreciate.
Listen to "Have U Seen Her?" on Spotify.
Read our recent spotlight article on Alma.
Kaisa Rönkkö (Executive Director)
Altamullan Road: "Altamullan Road" (Ranka Kustannus)
Johanna Kurkela’s insightful songs have been my comfort music for years, not only in grief and loss, but also in joy – the melodies and lyrics have a personal meaning to me. Lately this charismatic singer teamed up with her namesake Johanna Iivanainen in Altamullan Road. I find it very meaningful that I got to know music of this relatively new duo just this year, when new releases have been mentally more important than ever. The most impressive thing is how these two strong yet very different voices blend beautifully together – two very individual voices in a perfect balance, enriching each other. The atmosphere is somehow folky and dreamy but very intense through the whole album, it’s full of strong emotions and wholeness of life. The music is immersive folky pop that succeeds in being touching but also physically compelling, generating an emotional response. It’s hard to pick your favorite song from the album, it’s a balanced work of art as a whole. But at least in the darkness of Helsinki in December 2020, I find myself quite often listening to Song of the Lark by Johanna Iivanainen. I hear Celtic nuances, a catchy melody and an intense yet lively rhythm – someway that music carries a message of hope for continuity.
Listen to "Altamullan Road" on Spotify.
Katariina Sorsa (Export Manager)
Steve’n’Seagulls: "Another Miracle" (Playground Music)
Steve’n’Seagulls fill the place in my heart where bluegrass meets heavy metal with just the right kind of twinkle in the eye. There are also great original compositions on their newest album. Check out especially the sweet Sweet Maria! I really hope the world would open up soon for live shows of Steve’n’Seagulls. It needs it! My special mentions go to Ruusut's “Kevätuhri” for making a big mark in the Finnish language indie pop scene, and Olivera's “Hope” EP for her wonderful, uplifting, world class pop! LOVE IT!
Listen to "Another Miracle" on Spotify.
Visa-Matti Uimonen (International Project and Financial Coordinator)
Frigg: "Frixx" (Frigg)
Folk band Frigg have been around for 20 years now, which they were supposed to celebrate this year with a new album and a world tour. Well, the album came but the world closed. They fortunately had time to do a few gigs at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow before the shutdown, which I had an honor to witness – and they blew my mind. On the first night they made a crowded night club go crazy with their catchy and danceable folk mayhem and the very next day they impressed a sold out concert hall and got standing ovations. Frigg’s professionalism, musicality, virtuosity and tight-knit performance – as well as their bad jokes – just make you smile.
Listen to "Frixx" on Spotify.
Read our recent spotlight article on Frigg.
Lassi Weiste (Intern)
Louie Blue: "Notes" (Sony Music Entertainment Finland / Booa Music)
I’ve been waiting a long time to hear a Finnish artist that fits in the ballpark with names like Tom Misch and Jordan Rakei. For me Louie Blue’s debut album Notes represents just that, both musically and sonically. It’s a great blend of groove-influenced west coast neo-soul and something unique. The productions are very detailed but still manage to hold it all together. The song Down the Road even reminds me of the era of the early 2000’s acid jazz and bands like Zero 7. Louie Blue’s music is definitely worth a listen and is on my playlists to stay.
Listen to "Notes" on Spotify.