Music

Burning Hearts: Extinctions

On its sophomore album, the Finnish indie pop band observes the fierce order of the natural world with a detached, yet tuneful, approach.


Burning Hearts

Extinctions

US Release: 2012-02-21
Label: Shelflife
UK Release: 2012-02-01
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

While it may have been admiration for the natural order that drew Christopher McCandless and Timothy Treadwell toward their respective, doomed journeys into the Alaskan wilderness, it was also inevitable that both would be overwhelmed by the same fierce immutability. Burning Hearts evoke both Treadwell (explicitly) and McCandless (implicitly) on Extinctions, a studio-sleek pop album that admires the grandeur and perils of nature from a safe distance.

The band, led by songwriting duo Jessika Rapo and Henry Ojala, recorded their second album not in Alaska, but in the Ostrobothnian countryside on Finland's west coast. They previously used this pastoral setting as lyrical inspiration for their 2011 EP Into the Wilderness, two songs from which are seamlessly included here. There are some well-trodden narratives for artists who pull the return-to-nature move, so it's to Burning Hearts' credit that neither of these releases rely on the tired tropes of acoustic guitars and folky earnestness. Rapo and Ojala don't treat the absence of urban life as a blank upon which to gush out a memoir or imagine and dubiously recreate an idyllic past. To do so would be to miss the drama and inspirational possibilities of the world that's left when you scrape away the comforts of modern life.

Musically speaking, Extinctions doesn't affect a back-to-basics aesthetic, either. In fact, it's considerably more lavish and more obviously the work of a seasoned live unit than the band's synth-heavy debut, Aboa Sleeping. Yet even with the greater emphasis on live drums, bass-driven melodies, and hooky clean guitar leads, these tracks are sparingly constructed, with every tastefully swooping lick given space to make an impression and Rapo's voice ever the focus. The stark and functional familiarity of the band's indie pop reflect the laws governing the beasts, men, and landscapes of the lyrics.

On "Into the Wilderness", Rapo is "returning to the nightmare" of the Alaskan tundra, laying out the rules that Treadwell neglected to follow: "The animal with the strongest paw / Mixed friends with prey / It's nature's law." Rapo's delivery falls somewhere between a Nico monotone and the relaxed tunefulness of Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell, which lends the song and the rest of the album an air of detached observation but with a hint of sympathy. She's not much for fancy runs or melodrama even at her most enraptured or distraught, which often works to the music's advantage. For instance, she's able to pull off lines like "This is our world / A sacred place to be" ("The Swallows") with enough gravity to narrowly avoid treehugger schmaltz. She keeps a respectful distance on "On the Last Day of the Decade", seemingly a meditation on the 2009 Sello mall shooting in Espoo, Finland. When the band turns its attention to personal relationships on "Love and Dissonance", it's Rapo's calm tone that keeps things anchored even on potential sap like "Beautiful, beautiful you / Sing me our song the way you used to do."

Rapo's emotional distancing and seemingly equivocal attitude towards man's role in the wild is at its best, however, when underscoring lyrical ambiguities. Are those wings that "aren't good for flying" on "Modern Times" meant to be literal? Does "The Beast" portray human fears metaphorically in terms of predator and prey ("What if I woke up feeling that I wasted all these years and got nothing in return?") or is the song actually about the top of a natural food chain upended by man ("You think that you are a king / But in the blink of an eye, you could go extinct / My head and fur's trophies, my heart's on a plate / Everyone likes a piece of the beast"). Rapo's objective tone keeps you guessing.

The downside to Burning Hearts' subtle and understated approach is that their music comes across as slightly low-stakes. There's a lot to admire here, both lyrically and compositionally, but the lack of dynamic highs and lows make it a solid, rather than outstanding, work. Regardless, the prettiness of the music and its intersection with the harsh natural world of the lyrics mark Extinctions as a rare bird worth checking out.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.