Well, it’s that point of the year again – time to round up another year of excellent music with one of those “best of” lists! 😉 Time to get 2016 over and done with – here’s to 2017!
It was quite a struggle to choose my top three albums this year, and I swear this list must have changed dozens of times, but finally I think I’m happy with it…! What can I say, there’s been a lot of music I’ve enjoyed this year! Special mentions must also go to Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika and Trees Of Eternity – Songs Of The Nightingale, so if you get the chance then make sure you give those albums a listen as well.
01: Harri Kauppinen
The debut album from Harri Kauppinen (ex-Beyond The Dream) certainly left a lasting impression on me this year, and I’ve kept returning to this ever since hearing it for the first time in September. It’s gloomy, poetic and extremely emotive, which definitely ticks all the right boxes for me, and the closing track of the album, Niin oli hyvä, is a powerful earworm of a track that still takes my breath away several months on from my first listen. It’s just an all-round memorable piece, and all I can think is that if that’s only his debut album, then we are surely in for a treat with future releases from this extremely talented musican.
Tracks to check out: Niin oli hyvä, Merkityksettömät sanat, Ikoni
Cultura Cura is the second full-length album from Irij, the one-woman electro-folk project of Meri Tadić, and I was blown away by it as soon as I hit play. There’s something so magical about this album and I mentioned in my initial review of it that I struggled to find words to describe just how good this album was – and this still rings true now! It’s just absolutely beautiful and moving, building on the foundations that were laid with debut album Same Zgode… whilst simultaneously treading new ground and trying something different, which is everything you can want from a second album.
Tracks to check out: Mothers Sisters Daughters & Wives, Čarolija, Rusalka
Frost Mot Eld
I only discovered Grimner in the tail-end of 2015, when it was announced that they’d be playing a couple of Finnish shows with my friends in Vorna, but I quickly fell in love with their music and was instantly eager for more from them, so I was very pleased when their latest album Frost Mot Eld dropped at the start of this year. Featuring ten mighty tracks that include some serious earworms on there, this is a release that simply demands to be listened to on repeat. It’s so addictive that you just can’t help but want to listen to it over and over – and if that isn’t the sign of a well-written album, then what is?
Tracks to check out: Midgård Brinner, Mörkrets Hem, Frost Mot Eld
Choosing my top three gigs was definitely a lot easier than choosing my top three albums – there were three (or rather, one collective and two single gigs) that instantly stood out in my mind as being the best.
Club Academy, Manchester – 21/04
O2 Academy, Birmingham – 26/04
The Fleece, Bristol – 27/04
Why go to one gig when you can go to three? The original plan was to just attend Manchester…but after enjoying their new album Jumalten aika I made the decision to go and see them in Bristol…and after enjoying their show in Manchester, I was desperate to attend more than just one more show, so when I was given an extra day off completely by chance, the stars aligned for me to attend Birmingham as well.
Why attend three shows on the same tour? Well, aside from the fact I technically did this last year (with shows in Kuopio and Turku followed by a show in York the week after!) Moonsorrow is just amazing – that’s the long and short of the matter! Not only does this band absolutely deliver on CD, they slay live and witnessing them opening with the title track of Jumalten aika each night gave me goosebumps. That track is truly something else in a live environment, and with great inclusions of other songs such as Raunioilla, Ukkosenjumalan poika and Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen) being particularly good. This is a band that should not be missed live – hence why they nabbed the top spot thanks to their three incredible shows! Now bring on Stockholm in 2017!
Satan’s Hollow, Manchester – 31/01
This was my first gig of 2016 and immediately after it was over, I instantly knew that this was going to rank as one of my favourites of the year. It was just one of those fantastic gigs that I’m going to remember for a long time to come. Taking place at Satan’s Hollow in Manchester, the band definitely made fantastic use of the different setup (the venue has a circular stage in the middle of the room) and by the end of the set there was a circle pit consisting of a good chunk of the room (including the band’s guitarist Goldberg and resident goblin John Goblikon) running around the stage! I’ve never been to a show at Satan’s quite like that one before, and to be honest, I’m not sure I ever will again! It was such a fun night and one I will never forget.
03: Rusty Shackle
The Scene, Swansea – 11/11
After not seeing Rusty Shackle at all during 2015, I made up for lost time this year with a couple of shows of theirs, but a show that really stood out to me was their performance in Swansea last month. Not only were they kind enough to dedicate one of my favourite songs to me (Sunrise!), they also included their song Tomorrow, which is a very special song for me. Plus, watching Rusty Shackle is always a great experience because you can really see how much fun they’re having onstage as well – the connection between the band and the crowd is always so good, with a great atmosphere to boot, so what more can you want from a show than that?