The mostly best of 2021

Soliti artists pick their highlights of 2021! See you on the other side!

Ville Hopponen from Verandan

Having gotten weirdly used to life during a pandemic now (not necessarily in a good way, just that you feel like you are starting to forget how it could be otherwise), the year felt like it just passed somehow, quite quickly too. For me it was year which felt like it had no time periods or any particular touchstones that defined them, save for some moments here and there. Not that nothing happened, things happened and there were changes, but somehow the year felt like just a long stretch where you can’t really remember if something was in the spring or two weeks ago.

I haven’t attended any concerts, nor had time to read much at all (I did enjoy Mats Jonssons comic book novel När vi var samer, and a few music books not worth mentioning). The upside is that I got more songs written than ever before, and also released three singles. Got a new day job, the kid started daycare, and I got more grey hair because of stress and lack of sleep.

Attached is a playlist of songs I came across that stuck with me during the year. The first 16 were released in 2021, the rest are from other periods in the history of music. As always, slightly older music played the biggest part in my listening, a lot of Beach Boys as usual. And there is always so much old things to discover! I didn’t really listen that much to any new whole albums except for ”The Bewildered Mind” by Astral Brain, and “Dina Ögon” by Dina Ögon. Writing music a lot tends to make you crave silence more than listening to music sometimes.

Series and films I enjoyed

The Rider
Get Back
Summer of Soul
Scenes From A Marriage
White Lotus

Sarra Keppola from RULES

In 2021 I…

Got myself a new occupation
I finished my pedagogical studies and became an English and Finnish teacher and started working on the fall.

Got a dog
The best quarantine coping mechanism purchase! His name is Bono and he’s a good boy.

Travelled in Finland
For winter holiday we went to a resort by lake Saimaa and on summer we got a tent and did some camping and hiking around southern Finland. We visited Pori and Savonlinna and Kotka and realised we need to leave Helsinki more often.

Listened to Rakkaudesta – radio program by Lasse Kurki at Radio Helsinki and had a long breakfast each Sunday
The best!

Started Salsa dancing
..and continued ballet, no year without dance is a good one.

Finally read Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle
It wasn’t a struggle at all.

Second-hand-listened to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
Somehow similar to Knausgård!

Fell in love with Colm Tóibín
By reading Nora Webster and Mothers and Sons

Got obsessed with watching all the Marvel movies
In timeline order

Got my piano back home
And started learning to play Clair de lune, got one and a half page, there’s always next year!

Didn’t yet have time but am looking forward to watch
Drive my car: a film based on Haruki Murakami‘s short story which was the inspiration to one of Rules’ songs

The Beatles Get Back: I’m saving it as a christmas treat for myself.

West Side Story, Tick, tick… Boom! and In the Heights; what a year for musicals!

 Anttoni G J Hill from Ghosts on TV

2021 All Time Greatest Hits of All Time for The Whole Family

There was probably a lot of proper good shit that came out in 2021 and Joona Kinnunen will tell you all about that, but from what I can remember I checked out (at least) the new records from Idles, Radio Supernova, Hooded Menace, Throat, Mogwai and Black Midi this year. That’s actually quite a few records, a lot more than I checked out last year! Nice! Those were some proper good shit though. I also really dug Pambikallio’s single “Antaa Tulla Vaan”, which is a cool mishmash of stuff I like. It’s a bit psychedelic, a bit schlager, a bit dream pop, it’s got that Smashing PumpkinsCupid De Locke kind of pilipali harp thing going on in the background – Very nice! Also, it sounds like they’re singing about septic wounds?? That’s fucking metal.

Other than that, it was pretty much the usual playlist at home: Electric Wizard and Taiska – Mombasa at full blast, with some Neil Young & Crazy Horse (especially Zuma) and Madonna’s Ray of Light thrown in the mix. But I don’t need to tell you that those are some proper good shit.

Molchat Doma at Ääniwalli, Radio Supernova and The Mes at Mitäs Mitäs Mitäs Festival as well as Muska at Superwood festival were some shows this year that stood out. Luckily I went to see those as I was going to stay at home and listen to more Electric Wizard and Taiska – Mombasa, but my partner said we should go to those shows. Good call.

I watched a lot of films too; I don’t think any of them came out this year though. I watched some Hellraiser movies, and I’ve pretty much tackled all the films in the Herschell Gordon Lewis “Feast” box set now. I also watched this crazy trashy sci-fi/horror film called Mutator from 1989, which was about a secret laboratory trying to cover up a litter of genetically mutated cats they’d accidentally created. Yeah, murderous mutant cats. The effects were great for a b-movie though, the mutant cats look very similar to the werewolves in Dog Soldiers and there’s a good ten years between those flicks, so that’s pretty impressive in my book. Speaking of which, also re-watched Dog Soldiers for the first time in forever, which is always fucking awesome, as is Juan Piquer Simón’s Slugs (or Muerte Viscosa…) Maybe creature features were the movie-theme of the year for me… Along with the usual unhealthy dose of slashers/giallo, John Carpenter and classic Hammer Horror flicks, of course…

Praise Iommi!

Astrid Swan

2021 was a year during which I suffered from the side effects of a row of cancer treatments. This meant that I relied on plenty of streaming, reading and music that was not published this year, but came out a long time ago and functioned as confort. I also went through the making of my album D/other this year and finished and defended a doctoral dissertation, so my time for new creative efforts was very limited. Then there was Covid-19 always lurking, making me seek for those familiar comforts too. Still, I did find some brilliant new art this year and will highlight three books in my list below.

1. Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark (2021)

Being that I am obsessed with all things Sylvia Plath, I had to read Red Comet the second it came out. This biography is over a thousand pages long (with endnotes) and I admit I was not sure if the world needed another Plath bio in 2021. But turns out we did need this one. Clark’s approach is both minutely in-depth and contextualizing in a manner that I have yearned to read about Plath but hadn’t until now. It appears that finally, enough time has passed and enough insight is available about the mid-20th century and what it was like for girls and women; or talented, creative women. I remember being told as a young university student studying American literature that Sylvia Plath cannot be studied from a feminist perspective. This upset me then and now. Clark’s book shows that in fact, a feminist understanding of the structures of society and culture in the US and the UK are helpful in seeing Plath and her life and art not from one angle but the multiple facets that constructed them. Clark elevates Plath into the status of one of the most important poets of the 20th century and backs up her statement with the evidence she pools from archives, through her analysis of poems and her readings of Plath’s diaries as well as all the material produced about her over the decades. Finally, a complex, multi-faceted artist who is also a mother is not just seen through mental-health struggles or her suicide. If you wish to call someone a genius, make it Sylvia.

2. Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of a Troubadour by Rickie Lee Jones (2021)

Like Rickie Lee Jones songs, her memoir is full of characters that drive through the pages in their curvy pastel colored convertibles, say something funny and to the point and are never to be seen again. Still, more than this jazzy jive vibe, her memoir paints fragmented narratives of sorrow. Rickie Lee has been as wild a child as she appears in her songs. But this wildness appears a response to a family that didn’t hold together and was always changing places, cities and towns. Rickie Lee ran away from home many times. Sometimes she ended up somewhere exciting like San Francisco and other times a juvenile jail in the midlands. What this memoir illustrates is how a childhood forms us and tattoos patterns to us that are nearly impossible to escape. Against her stories from childhood and youth, the narrative of becoming a rockstar-musician in the 1970s is not as interesting, but luckily she doesn’t try to tell all. What is more important in her writing is the emotion she held: how the sorrow like a seed sown as a baby of a line of vaudevillians and runaways burrowed in her until she was nearly drowned.

3. Bechi by Koko Hubara (2021)

I’ve never had a novel dedicated to me until last spring. It’s amazing!
What an honor that it is that it is Bechi. Hubara‘s novel is about a novelist mother who has moved to Finland from Israel and her adult daughter whose experience of life differs greatly from her mother’s. The novel describes Shoshana‘s experience of Finland after leaving behind Israel and her relatives and their expectations. Also, the book addresses the silenced history of disappearances of Yemenite Jewish babies in the newly founded state of  Israel.
This book should have won some Finnish literary prizes already. I hope they are coming. And also, it should be translated into English and published by FSG in the US. Just saying, that’s how good it is. The language of Bechi deserves a special mention. It is so visceral, embodied, poetic and flowing that the book is impossible to put down. It makes you feel like maybe you can be fed by literature afterall and need no other nourishment.

Olli Happonen from New Silver Girl

Something new for me that I believe will live forever (some are brand new some are older)

Helsinki Panic: really good band from Helsinki that has true rock and roll soul with beautiful poetic lyrics
Blind Blake: the bass, guitar, drums, voice in one man ragtime blues band that produced only good songs
Stephen Stills (album): The eponymous album from 1970.
Larry Weiss “Rhinestone Cowboy “(Glen Campbell did a really good version too.)
Cosmic Turtle: Fantastic radio show hosted by Anssi Lihtonen (IDA Radio, americana, folk, country gems!)
Merja Rantamäki: Jossain (it is just too good!)
Henrik Heselius: “Inlindad/Cirklar “-single (Leonard Cohen of 21st century)

Aleksi Peltonen from Verandan

Highlights of 2021

I became a dad!

And then music wise…

Alabaster Deplume – To Cy & Lee: Instrumental Vol. 1
This actually came out in 2020 already, but I got into it this year and it’s one of the greatest jazz albums in my opinion.

Haruomi Hosono – Paraiso, Philharmony Great experimental and electronic pop from the 70’s and 80’s

Astral Brains – The bewildered mind Really liking the mood on this psychedelic pop record.

Kate NV – Room for the moon One of the most interesting Russian artist nowadays

Michael Rault – It’s a new day tonight Easy pop record with a great retro production

Anthony Moore – Out Great folk rock album with a retro vibe

John Andrews & the yawns – Cookbook A solo record from the Woods’ keyboard player<

Photo by Jake Lin

Ninni Luhtasaari from Pintandwefall

The year 2021 has been hectic, stressful and painful – yet full of love.
My selection of soothing go-to albums have stayed the same for a while now:
Serge GainsbourgHistoire de Melody Nelson
TampoYömies astuu päivänvaloon
Fleetwood MacRumours
Sur-rurAjan paksu lakana
CanMonster Movie
Carole KingTapestry

I have also been listening to a lot of Radio Helsinki and Levonille lasken luojani podcast. They’ve kept me company and made me feel like I truly was among friends on the isolated days.

In the literary world Kazuo Ishiguro‘s warm hearted observations on human behaviour stole my heart thanks to my partner. The narration can be adventurous, dreamy and stagnant at the same time. It’s difficult to pick a favourite since each novel is so different but maybe start with The Remains of the Day (Pitkän päivän ilta).

Some other things that I’ve found comforting this year are

Family life and our new baby
Niki de Saint Phalle‘s installations and fountains
Simon Hanselmann‘s comics on instagram 
Succession tv series
Panda choco & lakrits salty caramel candy
Pokemon Go mobile game
Making of the upcoming pintandwefall album
Kirsi KunnasTiitiäisen satupuu poems
Downton Abbey tv show and Maggie Smith‘s character
Seinfeld tv show
the Finnish public health care and the Neuvola system

Tuomas Alatalo from Cats of Transnistria


This year I have been working on my solo project Azis Funck. The album Decompositions will be out on January 28th 2022. 8 tracks of drony ambient, blusterous experiments, soft noise of the violin, Field recordings and audio litter.

On repeat:
Kymmenen välivuotta by Ydinperhe

Favorite albums of 2021:

Nappy Nina & JwordsDouble Down
Heta BilaletdinNauhoi
Ty RoxyMusic
Generacion SuicidaRegeneracion
Les Filles de IllighadadAt Pioneer Works
Fake Fruits/t
Tvärtom s/t

Joona Kinnunen from Ghosts On TV

“People returned to gigs this year, hell yea”

Top 5 gigs I played

Francis North x Ghosts on TV @ Kapsäkki
Äiti Heresia @ Espan Lava
Ghosts on TV @ Superwood
Ghosts on TV @ On the Rocks
Knife Girl @ Solitifest

Top 5 gigs I saw

Stam1na, Viimeinen Atlantis show @ Nordis
Teksti-TV 666 @ Viikki
Plutonium 74 @ Keran hallit
Marko Haavisto & Poutahaukat @ Superwood
Astrid Swan @ Malmi-talo

Great Finnish albums from 2021 that deserve more attention

Musta HuoneHälve / Huove
PalmpillowsAll Well
Rebekka HoliPosliinijättiläinen
Juuso AvautuuYksin kotibileissä
Nasu ja PenkojaisetSiinä liikkuu vuoria

My favourites

New GY!BE, Lingua Ignota, Pharaoh Sanders/Floating Points/LSO, Lil Ugly Mane, Tyler, Dawson x Circle and so on!


 🗝 Ocelot’s musical dream board. For the past year/for the coming album. 🗝

Triani from Soliti

The good times 

The removal of Trump. This gave some light in a year of dangerous political manoeuvres.

The enduring excellence of Premier League Football. As a massive football fan, the ability to keep that show on the road during the pandemic has kept up my love for the  beautiful game.

Realising that even at my age life can still surprise you and you can still teach an old dog new tricks.  In 2021 it hit home how much the art vs commerce battle is real and affecting all parts of our lives, so a reconnection with my post-punk attitudes gave me a new perspective on the important things and how to try to implement them into all parts of my life. For me this means that you shouldn’t compromise your artistic vision.

Not sure #punkstoo can be celebrated in a sense, but it was completely necessary. The bravery of the people who came forward to reveal their painful stories was powerful.

Tracey Thorn‘s book My Rock n Roll Friend As more women’s voices are heard across the musical spectrum, Thorn’s book becomes essential as it traces not only former G0-Betweens drummer Lindy Morrison‘s life (a life often more exciting than her former, more celebrated bandmates.) My Rock n Roll Friend expertly details  how women are written out of narratives and history, often by the men they’re close to and working with.

Alan Moore‘s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen omnibus. Everything about this hardback  deluxe edition is wonderful with Moore at the top of his game and Kevin O’Neil‘s artwork often beautiful.

I reread Art Spiegelman‘s Maus. The book not only retains its power but also reminds us with direct, simple storytelling why fascism is the evil of all ages.

The Beach Boys “Feel Flows” This re-issue is probably the music I listened to the most in 2021. I’ve never been such a big Beach Boys fan, but the two albums featured in detail here, Sunflower and Surf’s Up, have been favourites through the years. This new reissue just makes them even better.

Self Esteem “I Do This All The Time” is not only my favourite single of the year, but is a rare case of self-deprecating humour and honesty, combined with shimmering pop bliss (not such an easy thing to pull off). The whole album, Prioritise Pleasure is also magnificent.

Other music that was constant: Low‘s “Hey What”, any Nina Simone, a continued  immersion into Bossa/Samba music from Brazil. Digging deeper into early Joan Baez (incredible), Gruff Rhys’  Seeking New Gods, The Weather Station‘s Ignorance, Cory Hanson‘s Pale Horse Rider, Big Thief’s series of singles, Bill Evans, Fairport Convention (surely here every year), Dry Cleaning, Jorge Ben Jor‘s A Tabua De Esmneralda. 

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (documentary) In a year where I watched very few movies, documentaries and TV series became essential viewing. The Poly Styrene doc was not only moving, but another example of how women’s stories are often written out of the canon.
Succession season 3 dished out the usual cruelty with a slick panache aligned with incredible writing and acting.

Always reminding myself that working with great music everyday is a privilege that I won’t ever take for granted.

Having some freedom’s return, even if it has been momentary. Watching concerts again and meeting some people after almost two years has been great.

In 2021 I started watching John Thaw as Inspector Morse, having ignored this particular phenomenon my whole life. I’m really into Inspector Morse now. Is it a sign of old age?

Peter Jackson’s Get Back. This has been much discussed and polarising in some ways. I loved every minute, with Jackson’s ability to tell a story from dormant footage, the groovy clothes and Macca’s outrageous musiciality.  The rooftop concert was glorious, but mostly this inspired me to start thinking about making music again.

Living in Finland. This still feels safer than anywhere else.

My family and the support and love I receive from them.

This is a low

The persistence of Covid-19 and the world’s mixed-up reluctance to deal with it. Can we all get on the same page please? Our response to the pandemic prioritises capitalism over lives. Our true nature is revealed daily. Even sadder is how I easily fall into capitalist tropes.

Rampant transphobia which goes unchecked in the media. And aligned to this a sadness in seeing the often great The Guardian newspaper openly pedal transphobia. It wasn’t just the editing of the Judith Butler interview, but the platform the paper regularly gave to transphobic opinions throughout 2021 was genuinely disappointing.

The weary sigh at how Finland does not know how to discuss racism on any level (again).  It’s never a good look when you have to explain to white people why using the ‘n’ word is never acceptable. The fact that a POC person is then put through the ringer for objecting to such language  is nothing short of disgusting and embarrassing for a country that prides itself on being progressive.

The continued influence of Iskelma in Finnish popular music. Finnish mainstream music has never felt duller than now.

The general poor level of Pop Music everywhere. Has there ever been such an uninspiring year? Even Abba couldn’t save it. People in the mainstream playing it safe and making the same record over and over again. Pop music as nostalgic comfort food. If we continue like this, popular music will go the way of the dodo.

People saying ‘if it sells it must be good’ Can this really be the critical consensus now?  We need braver voices standing up for the good stuff, not just a general consensus that sales are a sign of quality. Really, it rarely is.

The dreadful attitude of the West toward refugees. As more refugees die trying to reach a safe haven, we are all complicit in this endless tragedy.

Repercussions of Brexit. Supporting labels, booksellers and any other cultural institutes from the UK seems impossible now that the Brexit red tape delays and blocks everything.

DUNE Not a patch on the unappreciated David Lynch version, Dennis Villeneuve’s film was dull dull dull.

Future Wishes

No more Covid. Is it too much to ask that not only do we take more personal responsibility for ending the pandemic but that world leaders get their act together and actually start working together?

More women/trans/ POC people writing about music in the Finnish media. We need diverse voices telling us their cultural opinions. Equality in a true sense needs to be seen.

Some new music movement. Anything please – we need it.