Atso’s Time Machine: Year 2010 & Jenni Vartiainen – Seili

After the success of her debut album it was expected that her quite unique pop expression was to progress: hence happened.

Seili is the second solo album by Jenni Vartiainen. It was released digitally on 31 March 2010, followed with the official physical CD-release on 14 April. After the success of her debut album it was expected that her quite unique pop expression was to progress: hence happened.

The album starts with a mystical instrumental song, driven by piano. In Koti it’s Vartiainen herself who sits behind the keyboards. The atmosphere the song sets to whole record can be easily sensed. With its duration of just under 1:30 the song is nicely linked to the next one…

…which bears the name Seili. The atmosphere changes like in a scene from a movie: now the story starts to really evolve! The main character in the song is called Sofia Ryysyläinen. Seili evenly grows and gets bigger and in the first chorus (in the line “halki synkän veen vene hiljalleen lipuu saareen syrjäiseen”to be precise) I marked in my listening diary that “this song has some power!”. The “poppy” (in a good way) sounds come in opposite the piano that led the first song. When the electronic drums start to bang the feel of the song gets more tight and the synthesizers take power. The last section of the song gets to surprise, It’s like from another song. The listener is pretty likely to ask the question “what is Seili?”. Well, the next line summarizes it up rather well: mukana naulat ja lautaa / niistä leposijan saa / sata on Seilissä hautaa / ja satoja vielä kaivetaan. It means that with nails and timber one can make a tomb, and in Seili there’s hundred of them and more to come.

The third track of the album is also its first single En haluu kuolla tänä yönä. When this first came out on the radio it depressed me, because you can’t sing about suicide on the first single if you want to make a great record. Well, it was just that I hadn’t listened this closely enough: it’s not about those things at all…

This song has a flamboyant intro led by synthesizers. It makes this song sound like a hit before the main vocalist even starts! The composition is great, like from “Pop music’s textbook”. Lyrics are apt as well, but the rhyming of poistumaan-maistumaan limps pretty badly.

In the C-section and the following quiet verse the song declares it’s theme, which is pop-music’s folklore at its most traditional: “everything has it’s time, but now it’s time to party”. Although the musical ground and use of instruments is as good as it gets in finnish pop music, it feels that Jenni’s vocal performance manages to carry the whole thing.

The fourth song, Nettiin, starts with a baffling banjo, creating a contrast to the text that doesn’t really have anything funny in it. The reference to “Annankadun kaksio” (=the two-room apartment in Annankatu) gives the lyrics a clear amount of humanity as opposed to its predecessors.

The chorus is great in this song as well. The question “tätäkö se tarkoitti? (=is this what it meant)” could be asked from many things. The second verse is a little bit lame. The expression “munapää (=dickhead)” comes out of nowhere but has its place in the text. The verses in this song serve as base (and as a kind of justification) for the chorus which fortunately enough is quite strong. This one also has the quiet middle section before the last couple of refrains…

Next song to follow is Missä muruseni on: perhaps the greatest Finnish ballad released on the 21st century. The mystical atmosphere floats for the whole song: who is the one missed in this song, where has he/she gone and why – none of this questions gets to have an answer.

The first line ”Yöllä taas mä menin parvekkeelle nukkumaan… (=At night I went sleeping in the balcony again)” sets the scene. There’s nothing too much, not a single sound. The reference of a shooting star and the wish that follows are among the classic of pop-lyric, but sound good. The melody in the chorus is beautiful and there’s a few splendid choice of notes that make it even unique. I think there might be even some obsolescent Finnish folk song melody there somewhere?

The drums come in little by little and the text in the second verse is strong. The following chorus has more power than the first since the drums really kick in. The song is driven by piano and strings. There’s a piano fill that can be heard in the middle of the choruses: it’s the cornerstone of the latter half of the song with the vocal performance by Vartiainen. Especially the divergent melody in the line “leiki hetki hänen hiuksillaan” is wonderful. This song also ends without fade out. Great, great song.

The next was also a big hit: Duran Duran. The song starts without an actual intro, setting the time of the event pretty clearly right in the beginning: “näin myöhään yöllä… mutta lauantai-aamu… (=this late in the night… but Saturday-morning). The hazy atmosphere of a night club can be sensed and the reference to Duran Duran is apposite: this song is very likely to occur in recent history.

Once again the chorus has its hit affinity. Tältäkö se tuntuu / kun löytää oikean / hei tältäkö se tuntuu / ennen kuin me suudellaan / ensimmäisen kerran / mä olen elossa / hei ota minut kiinni / ennen kuin yö katoaa (=Is this how it feels / when you find the one / hey, is this how it feels / before we kiss / for the first time / I feel like I’m alive / hey, catch me / before the night disappears”). The chorus also has a nice trick: where does that “first time” refer to: the first kiss or the first time the main character feels alive?

There’s some nice details in the second verse: Simon Le Bon, Rio and even Jenni herself, that’s pretty rare. The same verse also has the most horrible rhyme of the album pakoon-pogoo…

I remember when the record came out and we had some conversation about the drum track of this specific song with some drummer friends. The comments were something like “there has been a guy who programmed the drum track first with a computer, and then there was some f**got who played them with real drums”.

This song also has the quiet section before the last refrains. This time it is not an actual verse, but a separate middle section led by keyboard. The remainder of the song is the hit-sounding-chorus.

The next song starts with a piano-intro that has been heard many times. Is this Oasis’ Stop Crying Your Heart Out? No, it’s Minä ja hän.

Sitten kun oon viimeisen lauluni laulanut… (=After I have sung my last song…). When a song talks about a last song, it has to be taken seriously. There’s something oriental and mystical in the air once again, just like in “Missä muruseni on”: must be the sitar-sounding instrument in the arrangement. The percussion track is especially well arranged and played, the rhythm of the shaker is simple but intriguing. It only makes the expection of a single sixteenth-note, bringing much more life to the sound.

The text is basic pop but still working well. The theme is a classical thought of love lasting forever. This was a song, that caught my attention from the first listen.

The last transformation from the verse to the chorus is divergent, like the melodies in the last few refrains. This one also ends without fade out, yeah!

Kiittämätön comes from a different world of sounds than the previous ones. Acoustic guitars chime and the atmosphere is intimate from the beginning.

The lyrics contain strong lines one after another. ”Kameroilla muisti / tuijotan mun jalkoja” (=The cameras’ got a memory / I’m looking at my feet) creates an image of the central character in this song. ”Kun on vielä nuori kaikkee pitää kokeilla / elä, opi, koe, et’ myöhemmin ei kaduta(“=When you’re still young you have to try everything / live, learn and experience so you don’t have to be sorry later on) can be taken as a some sort of wisdom. The chorus in this song isn’t as poppy as in some other songs on this album but it’s lyrics are to be taken very seriously.

Second verse also has some quality writing. ”Sinä olet siinä, kaikkihan on kunnossa / enkä kerro mistään, kun en tahdo loukata(=You are there, everything’s fine / and I don’t want to tell about anything since I don’t want to hurt you). Vibraphone makes its clicks and a string section also comes in but the general appearance of sound is acoustic. The last few lines of the song also give a kind of “twist” in the story.

Eikö kukaan voi meitä pelastaa is started by a electronic drum beat. This song suffers a bit from its placement in the song order: there’s a feeling that the slow songs ahead might weaken the pop-momentum created in the first half of the album. However, the song can’t be accused of not trying to build it once more, especially from the line “jos etsit mua / niin täällä oon” ahead. In fact, the chorus comes from the same production line as the ones in the previous ones.

Eikö kukaan voi meitä pelastaa isn’t as strong a song as many of the other ones on this album. It remains a bit pale, sort of a copy manufactured on an assembly line. ”Eikö kukaan voi meitä pelastaa (=can’t we be saved by anyone) is a fine line, however. There’s keyboards all over the place and the drums sound grand.

The album is closed with Halvalla. Except that it’s the last song of the record it also bears a resemblance to artists’ first record Ihmisten edessä three years prior, in the year 2007.

Vartiainen gets to the listeners skin in a some way as in Kiittämätön. There’s a certain tranquility in the whole song, with the refrain being as beautiful as what. There’s a glow of intimacy in this one.

Vain hiuksiasi hiljaa kosketan / en rakkaudesta mitään ymmärrä(=I only touch your hair softly / without understanding anything about love) – the character confesses things, but everything is still alright.

The C-section is magnificent. ”Hei ollaan vain paikoillaan / turha on etsiä kauempaa / kun on hieno maailma jo tarjolla (=Hey let’s stay here / we don’t have to look from afar / since we have a beautiful world just here)”. This is something to be remembered. This section is effective even if the chord progression is familiar from many other songs. Vartiainen patches this with a few nice bluesy choice of notes. In the background there’s once again a string section playing sounds to tear the listeners innermost.

I personally think this is the best pop record from Finland in the 21st century. Maybe I should listen more records from this genre from the previous decades to find out if there’s any contestants from those times either. Especially well are working the production by Jukka Immonen and the sounds, nicely echoing from the 80s.

During the last few listening sessions this record has sounded even better than what it sounded like on the first time around. The latter half of the record is also great although during the first listens the radio hits from the beginning tend to grab the attention. I also have to mention the fibes I got during the last sessions with this record, that were something not often experienced with Finnish records: damn, this one has great songs one after another!