I’m switching things up today by writing in English for a change. It’s not a permanent change, and this blog will still very much consist of Finnish texts in the future as it has in the past, but I just felt like doing something different today.
Maja Mannila – Seasons
I’ve been on a bit of a “displays of musical virtuosity” kick lately, aka watching a bunch of Jacob Collier vids on Youtube, so this new album by Finnish jazz vocalist and pianist Maja Mannila came out at a really opportune time for me. The record that I’m writing about today contains some of the most impressive modern vocal jazz that I’ve ever heard coming from my dear home country of Finland, and frankly I’m always amazed that this country actually produces people that can sing like this! Supported on the album by the members of her trusty Maja Mannila Trio (Severi Sorjonen on drums, Johannes Granroth on bass), she also enlisted her sister Mirjam Mannila for some violin parts, and brother Emil Mannila for some additional vocal support on the song Change.
Firstly I must acknowledge the album’s incredible recording and mixing, this thing sounds fucking pristine! I don’t know where the album was actually recorded, but surprisingly enough, as I look through the digital liner notes of the album, it is revealed to me that the production, recording, mixing and mastering of this album was done entirely by just Maja Mannila and Johannes Granroth – that is genuinely very impressive.
As far as the sound of the album goes, it’s basically a mix of R’n’B, soul, jazz and even a bit of pop, which is why the title I wrote up for this post managed to contain mentions of three different musical genres – it’s not really possible to pinpoint the sound of this album as belonging to just one genre, and I actually find myself even hearing bits of gospel in some songs. What does tie the record together, however, is Mannila’s powerful voice. Her voice is immensely soulful, and she possesses the ability to control even highly dynamic vocal runs with impressive accuracy.
There’s something about the sound of this album that is just different, in a way that makes me genuinely surprised that it was created by a fellow Finn. I don’t say that to bemoan the musical abilities of my fellow countrymen, but more to emphasize how unique this album sounds when compared to the general musical sounds coming out of Finland nowadays. The album sounds so polished that it brings to my mind something created by grizzled industry veterans with decades of music production experience in some swanky studio in sunny Los Angeles, not something that was created by someone who is literally at most only a few years older than me – and I’m 24!
Some songs that I found to be personal highlights on the album were Take the Leap, 5 Days in May, the title track Seasons, and Your World. However, the album succeeds in creating a holistic musical experience from which it is difficult to point out any truly noticeable negative outliers, so even the songs that I didn’t mention are definitely worth a listen. The sound of the album is cohesive, and the musicians of Maja Mannila Trio display a clear camaraderie, using a kind of interlocked, shared musical hivemind achieved only through what I can imagine are hundreds of hours of shared jam session time. The album’s drum sounds are quite smooth, yet possess enough character to support Mannila even during intense vocal melodies, and the bass tone heard on the record is a joy to listen to. Mannila herself is also no slouch on the keys, as evidenced by, among other displays of skill on the record, her blistering synth solo on Your World.
With her sophomore album Seasons Maja Mannila has placed herself firmly among the most promising rising stars to launch out of Finland in quite a while, and I look forward to seeing where her musical odyssey brings her next. For now though, you can listen to her new album down below:
Oh, and you can also see Maja Mannila Trio live at the following venues:
13.12. Prulček, Ljubljana, Slovenia
14.12. JazzRavne, Slovenia
11.1.24 Tenho Restobar, Helsinki, Suomi (virallinen levynjulkaisukeikka)
19.1.24 Koli Jazz, Suomi
21.–24.4.24 Ruotsin kiertue (TBA)
Thanks for reading!