Every now and then, an artist comes along who can outperform the volume of the distorted guitars of a stereotypical metal platoon with a simple piano-motif and a soulful voice. A whisper sometimes speaks louder than a black-metal hierophant screaming unholy vengeance. The up-and-coming Finnish singer-songwriter SUAD is such an artist. Her debut album, “Waves,” scheduled to be released on January 22nd, 2020, via Svart Records, is an exquisite blend of retro-chic disco beats and darkly shaded piano ballads full of yearning. The album is a sonic pilgrimage through the urban deserts of human emotion, although one that leads to an oasis. Each one of us is more or less a casualty of modern life. Even those of us who aren’t necessarily walking wounded on the sidewalks with bomb craters as eyes, might find that the circumstances have a nasty habit of souring our joy in this world. “Waves,” with its shimmering Tori Amos-like piano moments and spacious guitars, is an album that radiates an aura of enchantment. Despite its deep and dark overtones, the album is strangely uplifting.
The opening track, “Faces,” is a catchy, disco-flavored indie number, setting things in motion with strong BAT FOR LASHES vibes. Sound-wise, the song has all the trademark elements of the so-called “hipster indie”: the snare drum has that vintage 1970s-sound and the electric guitars weave widescreen patterns in the background. Then again, the musicians on the album are established indie-rock names from bands such as UUSI FANTASIA, K-X-P, and OP:L BASTARDS.
Occasionally, the widescreen guitars also trigger faint flashbacks of HUSKY RESCUE, maybe even Stevie Nicks, for the subtle alt. country flavors, most prominently on the track, “Winter.” In a true singer-songwriter fashion, SUAD also throws out quite a few killer one-liners in a seemingly casual manner. She makes poignant observations on our human predicament from her personal point of view, but in such a manner that it is fairly easy to draw universal conclusions from them. On “Streets,” she sings, “I wish I could fit in to be your friend and not get burned by your ego.” The message is conveyed by a minimal piano-ostinato that slowly builds up momentum, and when the pendulum finally hits you, it hits you hard.
In its darkest moments, the album plunges deep into introspection on tracks such as “I Don’t Know You” and “The Burn.” Needless to say, if indulging in the darker shades is your favorite pastime when it comes to music, you might find yourself listening to these tracks time and time again. The former-mentioned is a hymn, resonating with a similar melancholic air to both “Until the Levee” by Joy Williams and “The Curse” by Agnes Obel. The latter track, “The Burn,” smolders with the dark, slow-burning flames of yearning in nothing short of a haunting manner.
In the press release, SUAD claims that her songs are sorts of melting pots, in which her personal feelings and ideas blend into each other in a somewhat subconscious process. It might explain why the album flows like a reverie with a certain sense of weightlessness. Even the darkest shadows on the album cannot drag you down. On occasion, the lyrics add an almost terrifying intensity to the music, contemplating our human regrets, the sense of loss, and longing. In general, the music relies on melancholic minimalism and the impact derives from the way the lyrics and the music work together. The overall sentiment is a sort of enchantment though, rather than hopelessness or gloom. The ending track, “White Lies,” brings everything to a close by stating, “It’s alright.” Just for this once, it is a statement that I am willing to buy into.
“Waves” is a genuine dark pop jewel, or to phrase it with SUAD‘s own lyrics, “when the light shines on you, it is a point of no return,” meaning that this album is highly addictive: once you pop, you cannot stop! It is like a slow dance with the devil or a cold, hard look at the heart of our otherness only to realize that in our weariness we are one. So when it gets too “people-y” out there, wrap yourself in a warm blanket and put this record on. It’s alright.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Sleep The Nights
- The Burn
- The Door
- I Don’t Know You
- White Lies