The Sound Poets’ 2013 album Tavs stāsts was one of the most memorable and striking Latvian music albums in recent memory. Catchy and vivid songs like “Kalniem pāri”, “Emīlīja” and “Nāc līdzās”, with their emotive and thoughtful lyrics and expressive melodies resonated with Latvian listeners and made the group one of the most popular in Latvia. “Kalniem pāri” in particular was one of the biggest hits of the past few years. Tavs stāsts also won the Zelta mikrofons award in 2013 for best pop/rock album.
With the critical and commercial success of Tavs stāsts, their second album was not just highly anticipated, but also expectations were set very high – duplicating that kind of artistic feat is a daunting task for any group.
In 2015, the group, made up of lead lyricist, vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Jānis Aišpurs, Normunds Lukša on guitars, Kārlis Josts on bass, Pēteris Lunde on drums, and Undīne Balode on cello, released their follow-up album Pulsē. The album, though containing the characteristic deep lyrics and layered, nuanced music that their previous effort had, does not quite reach the heights of Tavs stāsts, but is still a solid effort and an artistically distinctive and notable album.
The Sound Poets’ songs are often about emotions, hopes and fears, and, in a similar vein to Tavs stāsts, which began with the song “No sevis vairs nav bail” (I am no longer afraid of myself), Pulsē also begins with a song with a similar theme – “Viss var mainīties” (everything can change) with its lyric “Ja var kļūdīties, tā noteikti būs – bailes neskarot, drosmīgam nekļūt” (If you can make a mistake, it will happen – without fears you will not become courageous). Beginning with acoustic guitar and cello, then gradually building to a powerful crescendo, the song is an appropriately grand start to the album.
The album was recorded in the Latvian countryside, by the Jumurda Lake, and, according to Aišpurs, the major theme of the album is an attempt to escape the daily rush of city life – running from home to work to the store and back again. The album has many songs and lyrics that refer to nature and have pastoral themes, such as “Ezers, salas, putni” (The lake, islands, birds). This song also features the guest brass section – Gatis Gorkuša on trumpet, and Artūrs Bērziņš and Krists Liepa and trombone, giving this song an almost orchestral feel.
The piano-based “Ziemas skats”, a calm, and all too brief musing on winter, is one of the most reserved tracks on the album, but at the same time, is full of hope – “visām ziemām reiz pienāk gals” (all winters end), and is a touching reflection on rebirth after a period of cold darkness.
The deliberate, pulsating introduction to “Skaistais gadsimts” is an appropriate beginning to this song about allowing time to pass – “tamdēļ ļauj, lai gadsimts iet, tas projām iet, tam jāaiziet” (“let the century pass, it will and must pass” – perhaps referring to the impending Latvian centennial in 2018?). The song also features lush vocal harmonies – Aišpurs has also recently turned to composition for choir – one of his works – “I am the Truth” for choir and string orchestra – was premiered by the State Choir Latvija in April of 2015.
The group also expands its musical palette on the album, with songs like “Skats no augšas” that feature some funk and soul elements, however, these new elements do not always work and even sound a bit out of place on the album.
Those picking up Pulsē and expecting hits on the level of “Kalniem pāri” or “Nāc līdzās” may be disappointed after listening to the album. However, it is clear that the group went on an intentionally and consciously different path with this recording, focusing more on layered sonic textures and lyrical canvases rather than creating radio-friendly hits. The group’s attention to detail in their songwriting and musical arrangements sets them apart from other popular music groups in Latvia, and they continue to enhance and polish their distinctive sound.
For further information, please visit The Sound Poets website.
The Sound Poets
TSP Music, 2015
- Viss var mainīties
- Tas biji tu
- Ezers, salas, putni
- Skats no augšas
- Ziemas skats
- Skaistais gadsimts
- Kāpēc vēl klusējam mēs…
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