Perfectly Puzzling Pop
The repetitive, grandiose chanting of “Minun nimeni on Jaakko Eino Kalevi” throughout the semi-eponymous theme song that is “JEK” serves as the perfect prologue for the Finnish pop-weirdo’s latest full-length. Though Jaakko Eino Kalevi is not the artist’s first full-length foray, it certainly feels like a bit of an introduction to his strange pop sensibilities. Over the course of the album’s 10 tracks, Kalevi veers all over the soft-rock spectrum without falling into full-blown adult contemporary clichés.
From sonorous vocals to moody saxophone interludes, Kalevi takes the maligned genre’s most trite aspects and twists them into a very palatable finished product. One way the former tram-operator keeps things fresh on Jaakko Eino Kalevi is avoiding repetition whenever possible. There are few songs on this album that sound like another — from the David Byrne-esque “Say” to the soulful but laid-back atmosphere of the 60’s styled “Don’t Ask Me Why” — if there is one thing that can be said about this album, it’s that it never gets stuck in a rut.
The album’s first single, “Deeper Shadows,” begins with a synth riff ominously circling around the mix, recalling the legendary intro of fellow Scandinavians The Refused’s “New Noise,” but lieu of descending into a thrashing hardcore caterwaul, the song shifts into a vintage disco motif, replete with whistling keyboard lines, bubbling synth breakdowns and plenty of bleeps and bloops. Alongside co-vocalist Suad Khalifa, Kalevi gently doles out some harsh realities – “No one cares / About you and your things / No one cares / about you.”
Jaakko Eino Kalevi is not particularly complex lyrical product; the simple yet emotive lyrics on every song but the intro is in English. Like many foreign-tongued artists who choose to sing in English, perhaps some of the sentiment is lost in translation. “Double Talk” serves as the album’s second single, with Khalifa once again assisting Kalevi with wistful vocal prowess. This track is the most “traditional” indie pop song on the album, chugging along with a lightly palm muted guitar riff that is by gently strummed clean electric guitar.
The album closes out with “Ikuinen Purkautumaton Jännite,” a pleasant exercise in electro-pop. With its swirling synth lines and spoken/whispered female “vocals,” it sounds vaguely like a Chromatics track for the first three minutes. But like an avant-garde “A Day in the Life,” it runs out of steam about halfway through, collapsing into a mélange of sirens, vocal chants and feedback. And just as McCartney breathes a second life into the aforementioned Beatles classic, Kalevi picks “Ikuinen Purkautumaton Jännite” back up, reintroducing the sax and synthesizers that are so ubiquitous throughout the rest of the album. Bizarre touches like black metal influenced double bass drumming give the track the cherry-on-top it needs.
Kalevi is not afraid to get a little weird with it, a fitting quality for an artist signed to a label named Weird World. While it may not be a world-beater that changes the landscape of pop music, Jaakk Eino Kalevi is a solid effort with plenty of replay value.