Music Finland staff picks: Favourite Finnish albums of 2015

2015 was a great year for Finnish music releases. Such a great year that we decided to ask everyone in the Music Finland staff to pick their favorite album and made a list of what we have been listening to throughout the year. So here you go: 20 Finnish albums worth checking out – from contemporary music to jazz, and from dance pop to doom metal to anywhere.

Anu Ahola (Editor-in-chief, FMQ)

Lotta Wennäkoski: Soie (Ondine)

Lotta Wennäkoski is definitely”one to watch” on the contemporary music scene in Finland. The orchestral works on this recording – Soie for Flute and Orchestra, Hava and Amor Omnia Suite – present a composer who's got something to tell and who has learned the art of telling it in her own inspiring way. Wennäkoski's colourful poetry is both delicate and powerful, it always stays intense and original, and suddenly takes you by surprise. 

Pietu Arvola (Communications Coordinator)

Circle: Pharaoh Overlord / Pharaoh Overlord: Circle (Ektro Records)

Last year Pori’s prolific masters of unconventional music Circle and Pharaoh Overlord made two records whose titles beared each others’ names (probably to confuse the listeners), and the result was what I think as the most consistent albums either of the bands have made in a while. Circle’s groovy and repetitive space-rock is in perfect balance with ominous brass stabs and Mika Rättö’s animalistic screams and wails while Pharaoh Overlord takes an interesting look at kraut-rock based cosmic disco.

Tuuli Elo (Information Specialist)

Saimaa: Matka mielen ytimeen (Etenee)

It’s hard to fit this music into boxes. With some Finnish golden oldies performed in a really innovative way I find this album clever, pretentious, playful, and even funny, at the same time.

Teemu Fiilin (Communications Manager)

Paperi T: Malarian pelko (Johanna Kustannus)

Rapper Paperi T’s debut album was highly anticipated, after three high profile albums as a member of hip hop trio Ruger Hauer. But I bet people weren’t expecting a record of this caliber – from Paperi T’s artistic flow to pathologically personal lyrics (that come with an endless flow of cultural references) to the state-of-the-art beats by some of Finland’s finest hip hop and electro producers. The album went number one and his shows are consistently sold out – I’m still wondering how that happened. Not because Paperi T wouldn’t have earned all this, but because before him, big rap stars in Finland have been more about cars, clothes and partying than nasty breakups, fear of commitment and references to obscure indie rock artists.

Riikka Hiltunen (Editor, FMQ)

Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L: Sanguis Meus, Mama! (Gaea)

On this album an unlikely combination of musical elements result in something beautiful, groovy and harsh. The jouhikko reformer has found the perfect team to crystallize his vision.

Merja Hottinen (Research and Development Manager)

Verneri Pohjola: Bullhorn (Edition Records)

When my two-year-old niece first heard Verneri Pohjola’s Bullhorn, she fixated in front of the speakers and just stared and listened for several minutes with a rapt expression on her face. Although I’m not inclined to such direct responses at this age, I still feel very much the same every time I listen to the album. The music sounds at the same time uncomplicated and yet so clever, and it just makes me flow with the melodies and rhythms. You even forget being an educated music professional and just go with the music! 

Sami Häikiö (Head of International)

Jaakko Eino Kalevi: Jaakko Eino Kalevi (Weird World) 

Jaakko was giving high hopes already in 2010 with his Flexible Heart, but this album is filled with many killer tracks. Dreamy sound and laid back beats are all over through the album, but it’s Jaakko’s voice plus some awesome synth melodies that make you fall in love with this record. Ultimate highlights: ”JEK”, ”Double Talk” and ”Don’t Ask Me Why” (mixing English and Finnish lyrics in a super charming way).

Semira Ketroussi (Project Assistant)

Color Dolor: Wonderchild (Konkurssi Records)

Beautiful melodies, unique and powerful female vocals, skillful playing and bold and unconventional arrangements. The fascination of this album lies in crossing genre boundaries. Some might consider the album too confusing but versatility is actually what makes it interesting. It’s a fresh and beautiful experimental pop album worth listening to.

Kari Laitinen (Information Manager)

Heinz-Juhani Hoffman: Ahti Karjalainen – elämä, Kekkonen ja teot (Alba)

Heinz-Juhani Hoffman’s opera Ahti Karjalainen – elämä, Kekkonen ja teot (Ahti Karjalainen – life, Kekkonen and works) is a surrealist story of two leading Finnish politicians of the boozy 70’s. The singing parts are full of virtuoso and vocal acrobatics and the musical timing of the whole ensemble is ultimate.

Heli Lampi (Head of Communications and Promotion)

Juhani Nuorvala: 7.13 (Alba)

Clear sounds, catchy rhythms, surprising and funny twists – all typical to Juhani Nuorvala. Nuorvala’s style shows that contemporary music does not have to be serious and difficult. Urban touch, minimalistic influences, use of electronics, and a certain rock spirit make the album interesting also for those who don’t usually listen to classical contemporary music.

Mia Lehtonen (Financial Coordinator)

Antti Tuisku: En kommentoi (Warner)

Deceptively good album. It’s full of good hits and showcases the renewed Antti more sparkly than ever!

Paulina Partanen (Manager, Sheet Music Production)

Chisu: Polaris (Warner)

Chisu is simply lovely just like her first single release ”Ihana”. 51 minutes of pop-aesthetics – she’s back! 

Eeva Pärjälä (Intern)

Paperi T: Malarian pelko (Johanna Kustannus) 

The first time I got excited about Finnish rap music was probably while listening to this album. A meaningful album during 2015, not just because it's a good album, but also because it got me digging deeper in to the Finnish rap scene and made me find more great Finnish rap artists and a whole scene that was totally new for me.

Anssi Rasmus (Intern)

Pimeys: Aika tihentyy (Columbia)

In 2015 Pimeys came up to expectations with their sophomore album Aika tihentyy. The result is a harmonious combination of twangy guitar rock and modern synth pop. The album is all about well-crafted songs and delicate arrangements that manage to capture a wide range of moods. Aika tihentyy is certainly a great continuation of Finnish pop tradition.

Nina Ratavaara (Project Assistant)

Swallow the Sun: Songs from the North I, II & III (Century Media) 

It was no easy feat to choose a best album for 2015 as it has been a good year for Finnish metal and rock with great new records from the likes of Archgoat, Desolate Shrine, Grave Pleasures, Hooded Menace, Jess and the Ancient Ones and Skepticism to just name a few. But the album of 2015 had to be Swallow The Sun’s triple masterpiece: They are close to my heart as they were one of the first bands I travelled to Finland to see when I still lived in Switzerland and had gotten a tip about a mesmerizing new band from a Finnish friend, and I haven’t stopped listening to them since. The three albums as an oeuvre and their individual aspects combine everything that Swallow The Sun stands for, showing the band’s development over the years as well as new elements. The music gives me goosebumps and captures me with its intensity and might on one side, and it’s depth, melancholy and intimate fragility on the other – just like over a decade ago when I heard and saw them for the first time. 

Henna Salo (Project Manager)

Anne-Mari Kivimäki: Lakkautettu kylä (Kihtinäjärvi Records)

An all-star combo of Finnish folk musicians, led by accordionist Anne-Mari Kivimäki plays utterly soulful folk music. Sentimental accordions, minimalistic kantele and jouhikko sounds, human voices singing soul-stirring harmonies in minor. The all-new compositions are spiced with archive recordings and Finnish schlager songs of the Second World War years. Yet, this album is more than just a simple nostalgia trip to the war times. It’s been noted also internationally: the album made it to the top 20 of the World Music Charts Europe.

Riku Salomaa (Project Manager)

NEØV: Dominique (Fullsteam)

One of my highlights of 2015. The Neuvonen brothers have made music since their childhood, but only in recent years has their music been available for the ears of wider audiences. Represents the best Finland has to offer in their genre. Shoegaze-tinged melodies and beautiful, nostalgic vocals.

Heikki Savolainen (Financial Manager)

Steve'n'Seagulls: Farm Machine (Spinefarm Records)

Steve'n'Seagulls is the best cover band I know, and it’s filled with Finnish country music. 

Katariina Sorsa (Project Manager)

Ronya: Tides (Cocoa Music)

Twelve strong pop songs on a classy album that would deserve a lot more attention. Ronya is a world-class songwriter.

Tuomo Tähtinen (Executive Director)

NEØV: Dominique (Fullsteam)

NEØV’s second album is not only a compelling collection of capturing indie pop tunes, but a dreamy journey characterized by the band’s signature melodies and echo-filled soundscapes. The fantastically catchy first single "Laketown" takes the listener to the ”farthest corner of the world”, and perfectly sets the scene for the whole album. Dominique is an album that makes you want to sit back in your armchair and take a 9-song trip to that remote corner of the globe. 

Kristiina Vuorela (Promotion and Project Manager)

Janne Mertanen: Sibelius Piano Works (Sony Classical)

Though best known as a symphonist, Jean Sibelius was also a master of the miniature. This complete recording of his piano works beautifully represents more intimate and sensitive side of his music. Five discs create a magnificent entity from the early impromptus to the Five esquisses, published only after Sibelius’s death. Janne Mertanen’s playing is natural and enjoyable, and he especially captures well the beauty and the tenderness of Sibelius’ more melancholic works.

Listen to the chosen albums on Spotify below. Note that all of the releases aren't available on the service.