Album review: Matti Jasu – Up and Running

Matti Jasu is a Finnish songwriter and musician, formerly part of a group named Goodnight Monsters, but now on his fourth solo album –  the playful, colourful, imaginative, and extremely melodic Up and Running.

Hopping between the genres of pop, psychedelia, rock, electronic and country to name a few, Up and Running is a collection of ten songs of uplifting beauty that – among others – call to mind the fragile wonder of The Flaming Lips’ commercial heyday, Beck’s Dust Brothers records, and Wilco’s 1999 (pop masterpiece) Summerteeth. Though Jasu’s voice is probably not the strongest in terms of raw power, he’s an engaging presence with a distinctive tone and delivery. There’s definitely a hint of Bowie’s early 70s lower register going on too – another artist that is surely an influence on the excellent songwriting and interesting lyrics. You sense that Jasu is an artist for whom feel is far more important than technical perfection too, and it makes me like his work all the more.

“Up and Running is the result of me goofing around with guitars, synths, drum loops, sound effects and anything that was found lying around at the studio. The idea was to have fun and make a colourful album of pop nuggets and pocket symphonies. The inspiration for this recording comes from the 60s pop and artists like The Flaming Lips and Beck.”

Jasu on the making of the LP

It’s genuinely difficult to pick highlights when each track is as vibrant (and as surprising) as the last, but The Money Pit – with its flourishes of horns draped in reverb, abrasive lead guitar and banjo breakdown – kind of comes across like the Walker Brothers being dragged into a black hole. It’s followed by the brilliantly odd Bicycle Boy, which is not a million miles away from 808s-era Kanye fronting A Momentary Lapse-era Pink Floyd, at least until it mutates halfway through with some 90s Blur vibes complete with some Coxonesque guitar anyhow. A Love Story is a real gem too – again with a lilting melody, groove and some fantastic brass, glockenspiel, and mellotron. The penultimate track, Long Goodbye, is another choice cut – with some great vocal harmonies, harmonica, and a chorus that really hits. However the truth is that once the swagger of the opening track, Swimming, kicks in with its explosive droning guitars, off-kilter melodies and harmonica break, chances are high that you’re sticking around ’til the end.

I think what’s most impressive about Up and Running (aside from the quality of the songs) is the sheer range of ideas on display and how Jasu has managed to filter them into a coherent, often-glorious thirty-seven minutes of music. Looking at the sleeve notes on Bandcamp, he’s responsible for vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards, harmonica, banjo, synth bass, programming, effects, and percussion – as well as co-producing with Appu Jasu. The only other musician credited is bassist Markus Jalonen, who contributes to nine of the tracks.

All in all, I think this is a great LP. The choice of instrumentation, Jasu’s lyrics, his voice, and the strength of the writing and playing is impressive. Up and Running – like Jasu says above – is pretty much just great fun from beginning to end. He’s not trying to reinvent the wheel or make a grand statement about the fucked up state of the world, but has instead made a record that puts a big, dumb smile on your face. And that’s certainly what these ten songs have been doing to me over the last few weeks. But that’s not to say there’s no substance here either – because it’s there in every chord – but the LP is refreshing for its irreverence and eclecticism. I love it. Love, love, love it.

You can find Matti Jasu on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Up and Running can be purchased from Bandcamp.

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