Nine Top Finnish Bands
No, this isn't a definitive list of the best Finnish bands. The bands listed here are the ones I've most come to admire since having my eyes opened to the variety of good and interesting stuff being produced in Finland. Personally. There are many more impressive acts than these, but the list is conditioned by my own taste.
Looking at the list I've come up with, you know what strikes me the most? That despite the fact that Finland inevitably has a relatively small music scene, none of these bands could be confused with each other. And not only do they have very different characters, but each one inhabits a completely different genre.
Metal isn't my usual thing, which sort of limits me when it comes to Finnish music; but I've seen Nightwish and they did win me over. Their music is certainly melodic, and while it has a lot of the grandiosity and weight of metal, they've gone into operatic and orchestral areas in the past. They have much the biggest following of any band in this list; they've played all over the world - eg. they're the first Finnish band to tour in China. Lyrics are in English, romantic and imaginative. And in case it gets missed out, they're a bunch of very good musicians. led by songwriter-keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen. Most notable album is probably Once.
8 Maija Vilkkumaa
By way of contrast, Maija Vilkkumaa is a striking model turned singer, with a distinctive voice and distinctive brand of jazzy blues pop song, sung in Finnish. She has a good band behind her, particularly a very handy guitarist. She can rock a bit, but it's generally melodic pop and easy to listen to.
Not a bad album to start with is Meikit, ketjut ja vyöt, which has a nice mix of good songs on it.
Completely different again, Vuk is variously an ensemble and a solo singer songwriter. She's a multitalented musician, and an experimental artist producing what I guess you can call art rock.
Her work can sound like that of Parisian streets, evocative of all sorts of places round Europe, not least Finland of course, but mostly she seems to draw on the sounds of dusty America, whether it's a Northern city - she's half New Yorker - or the Deep South. One interesting early album exists; but a quite wonderful second album, The Plains, is now here. In between she released an ep, virtually a mini-album, Rakkauden liekistö, a very accomplished set of Maj Karma covers (and probably a big surprise for an Maj Karma fans who gave it a listen :).
6 Husky Rescue
shift sideways in genre: Husky Rescue work in ambient almost film soundtrack styles. A couple of albums so far, and a third of b-sides and alternative mixes.
Main man is musician, writer and producer Marko Nyberg. English lyrics. Get Ghost Is Not Real (right), the second album.
If only to enjoy Reeta-Leena Korhola's gorgeous vocals at their delicate and ethereal best.
One of the best known acts in the semi visible scene known as World Music, and as such one of Finland's most prominent and definitely worthwhile exports. Theirs is basically folk music, often wistful, sometimes dancing, occasionally melancholic, but mostly joyous. This band is a phenomenon, having lasted now in one form or another for over 25 years. Hence the best introduction to their work is probably the expansive greatest hits album, 25 (right). But beyond that; when I asked a Finnish fan for a recommendation, I was pointed towards Oi dai. By the way, although their lyrics are Finnish, you'll find many Finns don't always understand them, since they can be in heavy dialect. Karelian, I think.
I used to have Bitch Alert in this slot; and just as they disappear into the graveyard of retired bands, along comes an excellent replacement. Maybe you could compare their anarchic spirit and semi punky style, but they don't sound the same at all. They somehow manage to be cute and raw at the same time, and so far their ability to come up with new tunes hasn't dried up. The songs veer between whimsy and sex (and sea creatures). Two 'proper' albums up to 2009: this one (right), wow! what was that baby? and Hong Kong, baby, both equally good. Very entertaining live, too. Apart from the catchy tunes and the liveliness, I think I mainly appreciate their sense of humour.
3 Scandinavian Music Group
Once upon a time there was a semi-political pop band called Ultra Bra, loved by all Finns of a certain generation. In the end they broke up; but four of them decided to form a new band, given another odd name almost begging for anonymity, Scandinavian Music Group. Despite the English of that, their songs are entirely in Finnish. This time round, there's a little less of the politics and notoriety, and a concentration on the musicianship. I've impressed friends with these who don't understand a word of Finnish. Five albums by now, and each one has been better than the last. Unassuming but very classy songs; and this one, the fourth, has distinct country and western tinges. Give it a listen - Missä olet Laila? (right)
Another phenomenon, but this time local to Finland. I've come across very different younger Finns, who have this in common, they're passionate about Paula and Mira and their band. They're temporarily off the scene at the moment, the two principals having both had babies, but their return is eagerly awaited. They were talent show runners up, who got together and clicked, along with a producer with a knack for a perfect tune, Jori Sjoroos. But the lyrics are Paula's and Mira's and it's their honest and never bland words, and their charismatic performances which have given them a massive following. They're a perfect pop rock act, connecting with fans near universally. Five albums so far - the fourth being an album of children's songs - and I'd say start with the first, the precocious and lively Kulkaas enot!
I may be biased, but I genuinely can't understand why this band aren't much much bigger. Yes, their lyrics are in Finnish, but they're not even that big in Finland. So far. I'm puzzled, not because you might think five pretty girls should do well, but because I think Jonsu's songwriting is genuinely excellent. She writes well versed, expressive and powerful lyrics, has a gift for melody, and is backed up by very good and sympathetic arrangement and production, and of course a group of good musicians.
Maybe it's just a question of current tastes. They get called 'mystical-romantic', and that's not very 'street', is it? I don't think there's a weak song anywhere on any of their four albums. The first and most successful album, Ikuinen virta, contains some of their best known songs. The second, Tuliset tienoot, is gentler, romantic and atmospheric. The third, Kadonnut puutarha, is striking and complex and I love it. But I would have to say that the latest, Valoissa, with its epic feel and powerful production, and plenty of emotion, should impress anybody.
1 October 2009
Finpop is definitely worth a look, people from most of the acts you might have heard of have been interviewed here at some time or other. And many bands who haven't. They get a general sort of questionnaire, but the answers are frequently thoughtful. And if they aren't, well that's revealing too, isn't it?
As you can see I mainly like good songs, but let's face it Finland is famous for its production of bands whose main accomplishment is body shattering noise. This site, Metal From Finland, will give you an excellent overview of the scene, not least the sheer number of them.