Best Albums of 2018
selected by Erkko Lehtinen

Kynnet <BR> “Vähät Välittää”

“Vähät Välittää”

Teemu Tanner is the kind of guy who works in a school as a special needs assistant, plays in literally about twenty different bands and stars in a tongue-in-cheek reality series about various people who watch TV. Which means he’s quite unique indeed.

Specializing in a kind of lo-fi powerpop or basement punk rock, Kynnet is a solo project expanding live to a five piece band. It has quickly grown into a crowd favourite not least because of the frontman’s infectious stage persona. As the ever-compact sophomore Kynnet album shows, the songs have the charm to match.

♪♫ Listen: “Raaputa kaljatuoppiin” + album stream

Kynnet on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram.

Amnesia Scanner <BR> “Another Life”

Amnesia Scanner
“Another Life”

2018 was a marquee year for the Finnish, Berlin-based experimental electronic duo Amnesia Scanner. Taking their A/V show on the road, they were met by hordes of enthusiastic fans sporting the band’s distinctive day-glo gear, while some were even heard “singing” along to their crunching riffs.

They did this on the back of their debut album proper on leading experimental label Pan. Employing noise star Pan Daijing and a “disembodied voice” named Oracle, they added much more musicality to their abstract repertoire. The result bears resemblances to 90s industrial or alternative, complete with a NIN reference. It’s an unexpected turn for the achingly topical act, but obviously, it paid off.

♪♫ Listen: “AS Too Wrong” + album stream

Amnesia Scanner on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Ruusut <BR> “Ruusut”


A kind of alternative electronic pop supergroup, Ruusut arrived with much hype and reverence, complete with achingly contemporary visuals. The four-piece including Ringa Manner (The Hearing) and Miikka Koivisto (Disco Ensemble, Hisser) takes cues from 90s Eurodance, combined with clever songwriting and lyrics by fifth member Lauri Levola, a novelist.

Listening to the charming mishmash of an album you feel like peeking into a laboratory. Some of the concoctions work better than others, but the outstanding stuff is pure gold, such as Glitchit (“glitches”), easily the best single of the year in Finland.

♪♫ Listen: “Glitchit” + album stream

Ruusut on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, www.

Cucina Povera <BR> “Hilja”

Cucina Povera

Cucina Povera is Finnish Maria Rossi, based in Glasgow. She is definitely not known in her motherland and could have been overlooked even more were it not for the well-deserved listing among the year’s best releases in the prestigious magazine for adventurous music, The Wire.

Her pseudonym means a Southern Italian type of cooking with sparse ingredients. Similarly Rossi builds small worlds out of what seems very, layering and looping vocals, bleeps and found sounds until they generate hypnotic ambient soundscapes. A gem to be found.

♪♫ Listen: “Totean” + album stream

Cucina Povera on Soundcloud, Bandcamp.

The Holy <BR> “Daughter”

The Holy

Renowned as a forceful live band powered by two drummers and a capable singer, The Holy rose to the challenge of presenting their energy in recorded format. Balancing their ambitions and skills, their debut album is a solid effort where you can almost taste the blood, sweat and tears.

Maybe it is guitar-driven music’s current underdog status which can let a band work without too many restraints. Whatever the case, the five-piece seems to accomplish what they set out to do with praiseworthy coherence. Across the eight sprawling, dynamic and dramatic songs we have some of the best Finnish indie rock in years.

♪♫ Listen: “Land Before Time” + album stream

The Holy on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

DJ Ibusal <BR> “Yksin Kotona 17”

DJ Ibusal
“Yksin Kotona 17”

Rap game was again strong all over, while the year’s most delighting surprise was DJ Ibusal’s success. His main group Gasellit has been steadily rising through the ranks and did a very impressive album too, but his solo effort stands on its own.

Chronicling the listlessness of late youth in today’s climate, he raps about relatable everyday issues over sparse, well-crafted beats. The album is compact and coherent, sidestepping only to list everything that is ruined in “Pilalla”, an unexpected, funny and zeitgeist-capturing anthem for the disenchanted generation.

♪♫ Listen: “Anna Mun Olla Rauhas” + album stream

DJ Ibusal on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram.

Rosita Luu <BR> “SOS”

Rosita Luu

Rosita Luu is Merita Berg, who debuted in 2017 in the band Hullu Ruusu with something one critic affectionately called “mental health indie”. Even more delightful, the new project threads similar lyrical backwaters but plugs in the synths and turns it up a notch.

Berg can create a soft-disco anthem about PMS, but she has no problem assuming the character of a troubled middle-aged man either. This kind of snarky yet empathetic storytelling has traditionally been the domain of a few revered male songwriters. But the way she takes up the stage, it looks like we could finally put these old men to rest for a change. It’s about time too.

♪♫ Listen: “SOS” + album stream

Rosita Luu on Facebook.

Tuomas Palonen <BR> “Tuomas Palonen”

Tuomas Palonen
“Tuomas Palonen”

Tuomas Palonen’s first album under his given name plays like a long lost gem from the catalogue of Love Records, the label that ruled the Finnish music scene through the hippie era. We’re talking folk music with delicate acoustic arrangements, attractive melodies with a vaguely traditional feel and the lyrics to match. Obviously a lot of flora gets mentioned, along with various natural phenomena.

A veteran of the indie scene, Palonen has studied his references but there’s a genuine sense of discovery here that puts him on par with his forebears. Transcending mere pastiche, at its best his music captures the timeless feeling of experiencing the beauty of nature with a wide-eyed innocence.

♪♫ Listen: “Suljetuin silmin” + album stream

Tuomas Palonen on Soundcloud, Bandcamp.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi <BR> “Out of Touch”

Jaakko Eino Kalevi
“Out of Touch”

A leading light in Finnish international, independent music, Jaakko Eino Kalevi shows no surprises on his second album for the Domino imprint Weird World. Instead, he further develops his rich brand of hazy, AOR-infused soft-disco to much enjoyment.

Ever the maverick, Jaakko plays all instruments on his fifth solo album, including all the luscious saxophone parts except one lead. On top he sings in his hushed voice about misty childhood recollections, stuff you find in fortune cookies and more eccentric observations.

♪♫ Listen: “Emotions in Motion” + album stream

Jaakko Eino Kalevi on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.


Lac Belot

Lac Belot makes complex, orchestral pop in a way that in 2018 felt almost quaint. Apparently named after a lake in Canada, the band or project is helmed by Jarno Takkumäki, expanding to a up to a dozen performers on stage.

The textures are rich and arrangements luxurious, in perfect balance with Takkumäki’s relaxed baritone. But from the first minute you notice something odd: a lot of the lyrics seem somewhat indecipherable, like the album title might suggest. Incidental perhaps, but it could be an invitation to listen to the voice as an instrument or to study the texts in more depth. Both approaches work here.

♪♫ Listen: “D ‘n’ A” + album stream

Lac Belot on Soundcloud, Facebook, www.

Vesta <BR> “Lohtulauseita”


The most agreeable triumph in Finnish music lately has been the ascent of 23 year old singer-songwriter Vesta from a talented upstart into a bona fide star. Her chart-topping debut album would rank highly on the back of her two great 2017 singles already, but there’s much more to it.

Across ten songs, Vesta elevates everyday life and love in astonishingly candid detail. Matching the quirks of Vesta’s songwriting, on first impression the production of local guru Jori Sjöroos veers dangerously close to feeling overdone. Yet still it works, and without it we probably wouldn’t have one of the year’s strangest anthems, the jaw-dropping mock-metal burner “Vestallica”.

♪♫ Listen: “Ota varovasti” + album stream

Vesta on Facebook, Instagram.

Jukka Nousiainen <BR> “Ei Enää Kylmää Eikä Pimeää”

Jukka Nousiainen
“Ei Enää Kylmää Eikä Pimeää”

Rootsy guitarist and songwriter Jukka Nousiainen could have sold out a large club launching his third solo album, but instead he did a free outdoor show. Perfect setting for the political theme of record, which is all about social criticism and empowerment. What looked like a modest affair attracted well over thousand fans.

Of course the record is self-released too. But make no mistake, it’s not some scruffy DIY stuff and Nousiainen is not only among the best songwriters of his generation but also able to implement his vision. In fact, the album closer and title song, an anthemic singalong at last summer’s festivals, is just about as grand and righteous Bruce Springsteen ever did.

♪♫ Listen: “Ei Enää Kylmää Eikä Pimeää” + album stream

Jukka Nousiainen on Bandcamp, Facebook, www.