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Everything’s a fairytale: thoughts on the new Pariisin Kevät album

08/04/2012

Some background info for those who do not keep careful eyes over the Finnish music scene. Pariisin kevät, the one-man-band driven by one Arto Tuunela, popped out of nowhere late in the last decade and soon charmed the critics, the masses and myself with their colourful pop antics. The music is unashamedly and undeniably pop in the hooks and melodies that inhibit their every step, but the real magic comes from the quirky touch Tuunela brings to the table. Pariisin kevät is a parade of imagination and joy of being able to do anything one wants, whether coming out through the music or the lyrics; the former sometimes feels like the work of a mad genius experimenting just how far he can twist a pop song to, while the latter that seem to have been written by someone with a rather loose touch to reality and which are filled to brim with lines both incredibly daft as incredibly brilliant at the same time. It’s such a wonderfully fresh and imaginative result that Pariisin Kevät have become one of my favourite new acts, and one of the acts to definitely to watch for during the new 10s.

So far there’s been a rather swell sense of progress to PK’s works. 2008’s Meteoriitti is a wild, slightly loopy and utterly brilliant album that shines with youthful ambition and confidence; the sort that makes you shout to the world from the top of the building and makes you feel like you can do anything. On top of it all, it’s incredibly imaginative and one-of-a-kind – a hell of a debut. The second albumAstronautti (2010) toned down the wildness and refined the PK approach to music to something more consistent. What it lost in the seemingly omnipotent ambition it gained in honing down the act’s sound and finding the core of what makes them great: not as hyper-exciting as the debut, but an incredibly well-presented and performed piece of excellence that gets perfectly why to love PK.

The third album, Kaikki on satua, appeared earlier this year and there were murmurs going around about slight changes in the air, starting from moving away from the naming scheme and going all the way to being more of a band album than the past two which were largely Tuunela’s solo projects. On top of that, you had Tuunela’s own descriptions of a if not darker then somewhat more contemplative sound. The naming scheme doesn’t matter, the band angle isn’t particularly audible (the album sounds largely the same as the first two) and the sound description is ever-so-slightly off. Beyond some mentions of death and other such things, Kaikki on satua isn’t particularly any darker than its predecessors: you could pretty easily say that this is clear continuation from where Astronautti left off. That said, it does have another kind of feeling throughout. I watched a rather awkward interview with Tuunela where he, when being asked the ever-uninspired question of “where do you get your inspiration from?”, mentioned that a lot of the album got its ideas from dreams; something which actually does reflect on the album. Aside from the frequent occurrences of dreaming and such in the lyrics, Kaikki on satua as a whole has a slightly otherworldly and dreamy tone to it. Not in the sense of “slap a ton of keyboards on it and call it atmosphere” -dreamy but a sense of unrealness, things being slightly off in a subconscious level. The album feels like a dream, rather that actually being dreamy. And it’s not the world’s happiest dream: where the previous PK albums were incredibly outward in their sense of wonder and joy, Kaikki on satua is far more reined in and seems lost in thought even when it feels more upbeat. It’s not dark or contemplative: it feels more like it’s wondering whether it’s awake or not as the lines between realities begin to blur.

In more concrete matters, and if we are to stop beating around the bush and putting it bluntly, Kaikki on satua is probably the weakest PK album so far. It’s not really a damning statement: the first two albums after all are rather high in quality and thus it’s not surprising if something gets a little below them in rating, and we are indeed only talking about a small difference. The key reason for that is simple in itself: the first two albums had an incredibly high hitrate of Big Moments, songs that make your jaw drop in their mindblowing goodness. Kaikki on satua keeps quality steady throughout but delivers less in that sort of HSQ department. It still delivers where it matters and if I had to, I could easily list a bunch of great songs off the top of my head, with the energetic “Saari” and “Kevät”, the mood-setting opener “Olen kuullut merestä” and the ethereal and beautiful “Häikäisee” leading the way. The very best moment is amusingly enough the song that’s completely at odds with everything else on the album: “Lopeta!” is an odd chant built upon a simple, repetetive lyrical formula over synth drum loop, but its somewhat deranged and slightly maniac mood is absolutely delicious, and when combined with the way the song slowly grows in intensity as it adds more setpieces the song easily becomes the album’s main highlight in all its addictive, oddly groovy unhingedness even if it has little to do with the rest of the album’s rock/pop stylistics.

Time will tell if things change but right now Kaikki on satua feels like a good album that takens an interesting step towards something slightly different, but which is lacking in that jolt of excitement that generally follows in Tuunela’s wake. I like what the PK collective are doing here and I’ve certainly found plenty to enjoy in the album as I’ve been playing it over and over, but it’s not as powerful as its two predecessors and certainly not as willing to launch me into a display of praise and giddiness. To call it a disappointment would be overly harsh for such an enjoyable album however and ultimately, as an item of its own, it stands proudly on its own two feet; you’ll only encounter the wonks on the side once you begin to compare it to its older siblings. It’s a solid addition to the discography, even if not one that will be given a special mention when evaluating the PK back catalogue’s peak moments in years to come.


Saari

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