Jaakko Eino Kalevi is the eponymous latest effort by the former Helsinki tram driver, who broke out with 2013’sDreamland. That release and its follow-up, Yin Yang Theatre, saw Kalevi painting with bright synths and dreamy vocals, often over a chilled-out disco backbeat. Yet, there was a certain darkness threaded throughout Dreamland’s tracks that heightened their appeal past that of the usual dream pop numbers.
For his self-titled album, Kalevi has hung onto his sense of foreboding but toned down the disco in favor of more distinctive melodies and varied sonic landscapes. Tracks like “Hush Down” and “Night at the Field” still wouldn’t be out of place on a Euro-disco dancefloor. But “Double Talk” and “Deeper Shadows” show Kalevi’s skills as a songwriter are advancing past dream pop fluff to something more solid. Side note -“Deeper Shadows” has a recurring riff that sounds a little like an old Nokia ringtone, which is not a Finland joke I swear.
A couple of tracks veer off into elevator music territory—an ever-present danger when you’re drowning in synths and laid-back grooves. “Room” and “Don’t Ask Me Why,” a talk-singing number so chill that it almost makes you forget you’re listening to music, are the two worst offenders.
Happily, the closing track is the antidote to any sedative effects you have have experienced during Jaakko Eino Kalevi. “Purkautumaton Jännite” —Finnish for eternal ejected voltage if you believe Google translate—makes a full transition from a plodding talk-sing slog to a hailstorm of cymbals and synths a la ELO’s “Fire on High” in just over six minutes. True to its name, it’s certainly a welcome shock.
Jaakko Eino Kalevi is out June 16th 2015 on Weird World / Domino.