Today with the Ipud on shuffle I lucked into the Shins' "Caring is Creepy" for the first time in a while; it's one of two truly worthwhile songs on their debut, but it reminded me that I need to sell my copy of Chutes and Ladders, their sophomore dud; if you thought the Shins had changed your life, Chutes and Ladders changed it right back. Robotic, paint-by-numbers-Shins songwriting, really forced sounding. The word organic does not come to mind.
And that brings us to Paavoharju'sYha Hamarra, a recent release out ofFinland that has me re-living the old skool joys of discovering That Which is Accidentally Great, in the sense that Paavoharju can't possibly have experienced any kind of pressure to make what they've made: a dreamy, bizarro-world Kate Bush album, a 'folktronic' release in the truest sense, a field recording of invisible people strolling though a thawing Finnish forest in spring, set to barroom piano. And if the woman singing doesn't sound like a Southeast-Asian Anneli Drecker, the former lead singer of Bel Canto and current Royskopp collaborator, I'll be damned. Not all of it works; male-sung tracks only make you run back to the female vocals - but this is promising at the very least. 20 years ago, they would have been on 4AD in a heartbeat. Like some of the best art, a few compositions sound like they'd fall apart if even one facet was removed.
Much of Scandinavian folk music is ineffably sad. From my travels there in the early nineties, I picked up Lena Willemark and Ale Moller's (both of the folk group Frifot) Nordan, a resurrection of Swedish fishermen's songs. Let's just say the North Sea is brutal.