Around here, a reaction of shock to the genre ‘Finnish soul music’ would be greeted by my puzzled raised eyebrow. To me, Finnish soul music is as established as the ability to freeze food. Nevertheless, I also understand that the world has yet to acknowledge its existence fully. Many have still not heard the majestic sounds of Dolla Lova, Quintessence, Tuomo, Bobby Oroza, Nicole Willis or any releases in Timmion Records archives – Scandinavias’ soul music capital.
Notably, all of those listed have songs composed with English lyrics, and I’d previously only discovered a few soul songs sung in Finnish.
With their debut, Punomo can directly join the country’s illustrious soul predecessors with their self-titled album Punomo.
Every cut on this album is 100% soul. And all sung in Finnish!
Through 10 original tracks, the band attain a level of engaging soul that easily erases any thoughts of it not being in English. Throughout, the songs have those alluring fragrances of histories sweetest soul music from the ’60 and ’70s.
The band’s sources of inspiration are reimagined and woven into tracks such as the funky Anna Aikaa, Killtokuvii (where I hear Tuomos’- Don’t Take it Too Hard) and Paljon, enemmän. Planeetat kohdallaan, feat Jimi Tenor, has the accomplished arrangement to be a classic 45 from Timmon, Daptone or Stax records.
When Punomo gets funky, it kicks and swings in the right places – Siskot. Northern Soul lovers will enjoy the shuffling groove of Juokse vann or feel equally uplifted with the Motown appeal of Onni kääntyy.
Additionally, the ballads here glide like skates on ice.
Tartu kii or Pieni kuolema, with its sublime organ keys and echoing guitar chords, should only be played where couples embrace and sway in darkness.
The album’s finale, the smooth emotional and melancholic Selvitään left me where I began – on a high!
Nordic musicianship has always been world-class, and this album is filled with triple AAA-class chords, harmony and melodies. Each track is given the appropriate run-times with respected space for improvisation for flutes, guitars or horns.
Centerstage is Johanna Rauma. The singer/songwriter, who has written/co-written the entire album, carries the harmonies aloft. Her tone illustrates the differentiating identity of soul music from Scandinavia.
I cannot stress how satisfying it is to allow each song to appear in sequence without any sense of ear fatigue or puzzlement. It’s an entertaining album that makes any music lover, soul lover or not, feel at home in their Finnish sung world.
The marker for the album of the year has been set, and this one will be hard to beat! Very hard.
Punomo - Punomo
This album says, 'we can do soul, we can do it in Finnish, and we can do it bloody well!' I couldn't agree more. A straight 5-stars!