I’ve just returned to London from Estonia, where I was in the capital for Tallinn Music Week. It’s a beautiful city (although a very cold one), and also 2011’s European Capital Of Culture, so it made sense to write about that as it’s still fresh in my mind. There were, of course, far too many bands to list here, but, of the ones I managed to catch, these were some of my favourites. I’m actually really quite sad to be back in England, but it’s an annual event, so I just hope I’m able to go back next year. I highly recommend it – as much for the picturesque city as for the wide variety of music.
Hailing from Tallinn itself, there was quite a buzz surrounding this Estonian trio during the festival. As a result it was pretty tough to see them play, as the room was packed, but we succeeded. And it was worth the crush. Mixing dramatic atmospherics with a catchy, electro-pop sound, they sound like a Depeche Mode for the 2010s, propelled both by a sinister darkness and a sense of uplifting hope.
It was hard not to notice these guys. A Finnish band, they were in the lobby of our hotel, dressed to the nines, and one of them in a particularly terrifying and oddly realistic giant lizard costume. The obvious thing was to go see them play, and I was delighted to discover a great jazz band with great harmonies and rhythms. If you’ve never seen a giant lizard play drums, I highly recommend it.
A Canadian singer with a sultry, sexy voice, Devon Sproule charmed her audience with her soulful, bluesy, folky songs and her mesmerising vocals. Her set was the perfect antidote to the cold weather outside, full of warm, fuzzy charm and a touching sentimentality.
She’s coming over to the UK soon.
Another Finnish band, Cleaning Women played to such a big crowd in such a small venue that the only view I had of them was through the pane of glass of the smoking room next to the bar. A trio of musicologists, they play self-invented instruments to create a spooky, sparse and rather nihilistic sound. Imagine the ghost of Tom Waits haunting you, and that’s Cleaning Women.
Another band from Tallinn, Abraham’s Cafe mix jazz with Arabic melodies and Jewish klezmer music. I had no idea what that would sound like, but it’s a fascinating hybrid of genres and cultures that’s both challenging and accessible. Proof, if any were needed, that cooperation is much more creative and powerful than confrontation. They’ve only been around a year, but these guys could well be the soundtrack to world peace. Let’s hope so.
Mischa Pearlman is a music journalist living in London, who writes for a bunch of music magazines such as The Fly, Kerrang!, Clash, Record Collector and Alternative Press. He does this purely for the love and less frequently for the money, and is always hoping to fall in love with his next favourite band so he can tell you about it.