Viola Music Club 2010: the collected retrospective musings
2010 has been a year of growth for Viola. Last year’s Viola Music Club – a song a month you know the deal by now – was very much continuation of what Viola had been before: stylistically diverse, but everything born out of the same roots as their past works. When viewed in full, 2010 has clearly been a year where the duo has realised the limitless possibilities of their chosen unrestricted format. If you made albums out of the two, the 2009 VMC album would be a slightly schizophrenic but still somewhat cohesive entity; the 2010 VMC album on the other hand would be a madly frolicing creature bouncing from genre pastiches to stylistic tributes to carefree fun and old fashion Viola and everything in between, no matter how long you’d spend tweaking the sequence.
And we’re definitely not holding it against Viola when results are as enjoyable as 2010 has been.
Why go for all-new rambles instead of just compiling the monthly ones I’ve been spamming this place ever since its creation? Because VMC 2010 has been a surprising grower. A lot of the songs sound far better after they’ve been around for a while, and I actually partly blame this on my rockist album-centric music listening behaviour: individual songs can be great and fun but they won’t actually get into a regular listening rotation until they’ve got some meat around them, even if it’s just a chronological compilation of all the tracks released so far. Plus, you know, Rambling Fox.
In a nutshell: Starting up the new decade with some atmospheric, chilled dance.
Rambled: Despite its style-breaking tendencies, VMC ’10 actually started with the logical continuation of where Viola has trodded before. While they had hinted at the direction occasionally, 2008’s Melancholydisco 2 (the band’s final album release) unleashed the dancefloor monster side of the duo and ever since there’s been some steady tricklings of a more clubalicious Viola. 2010s goes on from there. But while I love a good stompin’ and a-rompin’, 2010s does something different and in the process actually ends up hitting my dance taste buds where they’re most vulnerable. Rather than thumping with energy, it pulsates subtly and lets the listener sink into an atmosphere while simultaneously getting the dance groove on. And when the song finally releases the tension it keeps building throughout its length around its end, it feels rather epic. And as such, kicks off the Viola year fantastically.
In a nutshell: Adorable indie pop hooks do-do-do-do-doooing right into your heart.
Rambled: If Viola hadn’t given up the search for commercial gold and had managed to tap into this vein of pop hitness they’ve been mining from quite a lot over the past few years, I’m preeeeeetty sure they could’ve hit something big eventually with songs like this (or at least they would have in my lovelyperfect ideal imagination world). Because how the hell you can resist this thing? Even back in the dark ages of the early 2010 when I paid less attention to the monthly musical activities of our heroes this thing still managed to get that do-do-do-do-dooooo lodged into my brain and now it simply demands to be the centre of attention whenever it appears. It’s just so irresistably smile-enducing and happy and DO-DO-DO-DO-DOOOO! And extra props for the moments of taking the title literally and giving us the immortal pop song line “cardiologist, what the hell is going on?”.
In a nutshell: Drama! Bombast!
Rambled: The one track from VMC ’10 I feel conflicted about, instead of just having a clear opinion (presented in a typically incoherent fashion). You see, it would be foolish to deny just how damn good that orchestral bombast is. I’m a sucker for orchestral bombast, when done in a good way anyway. And Fade to White is all about that dramatic glory of march drums, cold pianos, deep drums and big string walls and goddamn it sounds gorgeous at places, in particular the instrumental lift-off after the choruses. I’m also an addict for atmosphere and Fade to White oozes it: I dare you not to imagine all sorts of epic snow escapades as the song blows out of the speakers. It’s the dramatic snow scene of any film that contains dramatic snow scenes – in music form! But at the same time, there’s something off in it that makes me a bit confuzzled. It could be the intro that tries to be a moody organ buildup but sounds a bit, uh, weak. Or it could be that spoken word section that really doesn’t belong there. They’re not breaking the song at all but… they’re making it a bit muddled. It’s a good tune but takes a few unnecessary sidesteps which leaves a rambling idiot be a bit incoherent.
In a nutshell: MÖRRRRR WE ARE NOW A DETH METULLL BAND oh wait april fools ^__^
Rambled: I’m not a person with a lacking sense of humour and quite frankly as a joke idea a pop/rock act trying their hands on death metal is actually pretty hilarious and interesting. But then some major problems arise. For one, the unfortunate fact that death metal is a bit shit. Then the fact that you could perhaps have a giggle at it for a little while but it goes on for six minutes. And finally the annoyance that this joke that wears its humour out fairly fast and overstays its welcome is now an official part of the Viola Music Club experience for now and forever. At least until you delete it off the compilation playlist and let the file gather dust on your HD just for collection purposes. Like I’ve done. And mayhaps I’m a little too rough and should treat this with a less serious attitude cause it’s a joke after all, and admittedly I’m the wrong guy to even talk about the track’s actual quality considering I’m far away from being a metalhead and thus have no idea of what I’m saying, but nonetheless. From this fella’s point of view, it’s a fun novelty idea that took a big wrong turn as soon as it actually became a legitimate track, and if I were to rate VMC ’10 as a whole it’d be the main reason for the rating to drop. I understand it’s for giggles and stuff but it’s still a bit shit.
In a nutshell: If Viola had been a 90’s europop act.
Rambled: And this is where VMC ’10 starts showing its “do what we want cause Viola is free” attitude, as well as the curious trend of going through a list of past sounds and ticking off boxes from it. Riku does some mysterious, masculine rapping over a groovy beat, the guest-featuring gal Bääbs comes to sing over the chorus in a way that perfectly complements the feel of the song trying to be a throwback to all the billions of rapper/female chorus singer europop duos of the 1990’s, there’s some gratuitious cool-as-hell guitar licks scattered throughout the track, and so forth. It doesn’t actually sound productionally 90’s (we’ll come to that later in the year) but it sounds like an attempt to bring that classic ‘style’ to the modern day. As, y’know, done by a pop duo with a vocalist who really isn’t close to the vocal styling of that period. And the greatest thing? It works bizarrely well. Rather excellently, if we are honest. And hey, thanks guys for celebrating the birthday month of this 90’s europop-fetishising git with something like this.
In a nutshell: The already-traditional summer song. It’s summery and it’s about popsicles. Put on your cutesy hats.
Rambled: We Finns have a little love affair with popsicles. I don’t think I’ve seen them held in a similar pedestal-raised position anywhere else. I don’t know why, maybe back in the mist of ages when popsicles came to the market it really caught in Finland and then it refused to let go because we’re a stubborn nation and we like our nice things thank you very much. And that mid-part list of weird names? Lots of classic brands of Finnish popsicles (although I slightly oppose that they mention the Päärynä-Lipsi instead of the clearly superior Appelsiini-Lipsi, but that might have been a mouthful to fit into the song syllable-wise so I forgive them). But yes, the song itself is just a cutesy summery thingy. It’s a bit brainless, in a good sense, it’s carefree and it’s fun. It bounces about and does a little infectious melody and stuff. Upbeat summery pop that never really rises anywhere beyond that but it’s swell enough and definitely enjoyable.
In a nutshell: Dance anthem for the summer sunset dancefloor.
Rambled: I had a massive stonking crush on this song when it first appeared and it’s still holding strong. Its flaw is that it’s way too damn short at three-and-a-half minutes: you’re supposed to dance to things like these for ages! But yes, it’s more atmospheric dance but this time there’s a strong, kicking backbeat underneath all the high-pitch melodies and sound waves that wrap around the melody like a hazy veil. I could imagine grooving to this during one of the gorgeous Finnish summer evenings when the summer never seems to set…
In a nutshell: Our heroes take a jangle pop song and Violafy it.
Rambled: August is apparently the traditional cover song month for Viola Music Club and the original artist for Traitor on the Inside is a group called Red Carpet, whose original version stays in perfectly pleasant jangle pop ways. Viola add an electronic orchestral element to it and like the best cover groups do, turn the song into one of their own. They can’t take the full credit for the job because a lot of the fantastic melodies and elements of the song are naturally taken from the original’s core but Viola’s arrangement really makes it breathe in a brand new fashion. That chorus and its following passages are freaking gorgeous and one of the best single moments of the year for Viola and goddamn that ending hell yes. It’s one of those covers that you wish were an original track by the artist so you could just thoroughly praise them.
In a nutshell: Viola follows the 80’s-esque shoegaze pop revival trend.
Rambled: Back when this was originally released I eargasmed pretty heavily over this, which coincided with Viola registering onto Twitter, which lead to my words being not only read by the musicians themselves but they mentioned the article on their Twitter account, and while I’m massively honoured by that happening and feel all gushed and giddy and blushed about the event, it does put me in an awkward position now when I have to go back on my words and say that maaaaaaaybe it isn’t the best Viola track of 2010 after all… Well, it’s still a damn good track, I really enjoy what it does and it’s probably the best fuzzed-out pop song about cuddling puppies and sheltering them from cold autumn rain that I’ve heard, but the crush has worn off a bit and some tracks from the earlier year have grown on me and the final months turned out to be pretty fantastic and yeah. But it’s still a pretty damn nice track and sound-wise it’s pretty delicious.
In a nutshell: If Viola had been a 90’s new age dance act.
Rambled: It’s a tribute to the likes of Enigma and that spells perfectly what this is. And it’s good. Riku’s attempt at sensual/mysterious French sounds like he’s going through a really nasty cough and flu but outside from that (which, okay, is actually pretty hilarious and works with the song) this is 90’s-tributing at its best. It pays attention to all the reasons why those songs were pretty awesome (shut up) and uses them to a great effect. And in an even greater twist, this was the song that finally convinced that Viola abandoning the album format wasn’t perhaps such a tragedy after all. You couldn’t really pull something like this off in any sort of cohesive context and while it may not be a Viola classic, it’s such a damn good song that I’m really glad it exists. The fact that the duo now have a freedom to do anything, from their more serious material to the occasional 90’s-fetishism, is a blessing because gives us a chance to get off-beat moments of greatness like this. It would be a shame to let a duo with such a wide spread of inspiration to not give into to their bizarre whims. But yeah, this is good stuff.
In a nutshell: Space age ballad for the supernova love.
Rambled: Brilliant. Just brilliant. Epic stargazing anthem balladry. Growing from a soft glide through space into a bright explosion of millions of stars, colouring the darkness of space with countless twinkling lights that reflect from the rings of Saturn and glimmer throughout the Alpha Centauri. A larger-than-life existential romance story set between the stars put into a bombastically orchestral form that towers colossally over the moons. I told you I’m a sucker for orchestral bombast and holy hell Astromelancholia delivers. It’s freaking gorgeous. The title lies though: there is no melancholy in this – just the endless optimistic beauty of the stars that surround the infinity.
DECEMBER: Wayne Coyne, Be Our Santa Claus
In a nutshell: pretty much what you’d expect a Flaming Lips Christmas song to sound like.
Rambled: And here we come to the present. I only talked about this track around 11 days ago but it’s been on pretty heavy play ever since and will probably become one of the Christmas tunes I chill out to this year. I’m not much of a Flaming Lips fan – I haven’t been able to get into them outside Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – but Viola have chosen to tribute their own musical hero with the sort of flaminglipsism that I adore. It’s a bit larger than life, it’s immensely heartwarming and feel-good, and it closes off Viola’s year with a big smile, a fuzzy warm hug and a big singalong. Love it.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s it.
Sprite foxes (c) Kipper)