Latvian groups nominated for MTV Europe award

Two popular music groups from Latvia, Tribes of the City and Double Faced Eels, are among five bands nominated for Best Baltic Act in the MTV Europe Music Awards.

The awards ceremony is scheduled Nov. 1 in Münich, Germany, and will be hosted by American rapper Snoop Dogg.

Both Latvian groups have had good success at home and outside the country. Tribes of the City, an alternative group originally known as The Movies, released the album For the Sleepy People in 2006. The six-member band is fronted by lead singer Ksenija Sundejeva. Double Faced Eels is a four-member band that describes its music as alternative pop rock even though it often sounds like punk. The band earlier this year released its second album Kurš gribēja nogalināt Džūliju? Nezinu, bet trāpīja mums.

It may tough for either of the Latvian groups to win the award because the award last year was won by the Latvian group Prāta Vētra (Brainstrom) and because this year there is tough conmpetition from the Estonian band S.U.N., whose leader is Tanel Padar, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001.

Also in the competition for Best Baltic Act are Lithuanian singer-songwriter Jurga (Jurga Seduikyte) and the popular trio Skamp, also from Lithuania.

In the competition New Sounds of Europe, the Latvian alternative band Astro’n’out is among 18 acts nominated. Astro’n’out, which released its first album Kuš kuš last year, is fronted by Māra Upmale.

For further information on the music awards, and to vote for favorite musical acts, visit

Raitis Freimanis lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is a founding member of the Latvian-Canadian band Skandāls.

Tribes of the City album polished to perfection

For the Sleepy People

Tribes of the City’s recently released new album, For the Sleepy People, is actually the band’s second album. The first album, Running to the Sun, was released in 2004 under the former band name, The Movies.

This new album isn’t just a collection of humming-along songs. It actually takes a few times of concentrated listening to get into it. The liner notes say: “Recommendations for better listening: finish all your important business first, make yourself a cup of something nice and warm, put your body in the most comfortable postion, relax and push the PLAY button.”

The album kicks off with a real in-your-face song called “Road,” a rather lengthy track at 7.5 minutes, but this ain’t no Top 30 song. The drums pound away, alongside dazzling guitars and the mesmerizing vocals of 20-year-old Ksenija Sundejeva. A wall of sound is offset by a light middle bridge section, before a return to a barrage of guitars and drums to finish off the song.

“A Day in the City” is the name of the first single from the album. It is a happy-sounding song that has a great video featuring Sundejeva, who traps a group of girl guides, a hunter, a couple of mushroom pickers and an orienteer as reluctant dinner guests in the middle of the forest. To their surprise, she serves up the rest of the band members—live in miniature—on a silver platter.

However, The Tribes lose me on the next song, “Love Forever,” a raunchy and heavy mess of sound, which actually has some Black Sabbath-sounding guitar riffs. The lyrcs are kind of negative, but I suppose they complement the music.

“You’ll Never Come” is a slow, enchanting and mistifying song that really showcases Sundejeva’s singing abilities.

“A Dream,” the fifth song on the album, is a nice steady-tempo song, with tight drums by Ints Barkāns and bass by Juris Justs working well together.

“A House Where We Live,” an acoustic track with a hints of Heart’s “Mistral Wind.” I wonder if Tribes of the City has listened to Heart? “Chaos” is next and you can really hear the Cocteau Twins influences on this song. It’s a really sleepy, free-flowing tune with lots of sound effects. It slowly picks up in a 6/8 tempo. The song is not so chaotic after all.

“I Don’t Know,” the latest single from the album, is my personal favourite. The song rocks and get full points—perfect score! The song has nice guitar riffs played by Sergejs Jaramišjans and Andrejs Vasiljevs, with great keyboard work by Mihails Sergejevs.

“Waves” has a nice split vocal-whisper lead and some hip lyrics: “When there’s only three seconds left… and our thoughts are just radio waves.” Wow, that’s something to think about. Actually the lyrics on the album are quite imagenary and you have to read between the lines to try to get a grasp of them. The album is rounded off by “Walking Blind”, which is an apropriate finale song. The guitars and drums make me think of The Cranberries. Come to think of it, Sundejeva does resemble Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordon.

The album was produced by Greg Haver who has worked with music giants Manic Street Preachers. He also engineered and mixed the album at Sound Division Studios in Rīga. Haver has done a great job producing this album, using a vast array of sound effects and special microphone techniques. He has certainly has suceeded in tapping the band’s full potential. Mastering was done by Shon Joseph at Optimum Mastering in Bristol, England. All and all, this is a fresh and powerful album that has been polished to perfection.

This album is certainly a real step forward for the evolution of the Latvian music scene. Now there’s an album that can compare with any other album written and recorded in Europe. I feel that Tribes of the City just may have what it takes to break into the larger alternative music scene. In the meantime, let’s have something nice amd warm or cold to drink.


For the Sleepy People

Tribes of the City

Platforma Records,  2006

PRCD 182

Raitis Freimanis lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is a founding member of the Latvian-Canadian band Skandāls.

Mofo’s debut has a Latvian take on britrock

The Latvian britrock group Mofo has released its first album, simply entitled Mofo. Apart from what amounts to be a rather silly name for a band, Mofo offers something unique to the listener. One can only be thankful Platforma Records was wise enough to release this alternative music group’s album. It has a lot of good songs, is well produced and packaged.

The album contains 14 songs with an average song duration of about three minutes each, which gives just enough time for the standard intro, verse, chorus-verse, chorus, bridge, chorus and ending type of song. All songs are in Latvian.

The album starts off nicely with a little unfinished 45-second track, “Dienas atklājums” (Discovery of the Day), which ends quite suddenly and goes straight into the next song, “Daudz par daudz” (Too much). It is a real britrock song with straight beat and some interesting chord modulations and slow bridge ending.

Mild guitar rock follows on “Diena neparasta” (Strange Day), a simple little song with a nice guitar riff. But it is back to fast-paced rock with choppy guitar chords on “Kārtējais gals” (The Ever-Recurring Ending).This song has some cool lyrics about the end of the world being just around the corner again. The middle of the song settles down with some smooth, jazzy chords, but then returns to the hectic fast-paced beat. The end comes all too soon, unexpectedly of course.

“Meitene no filmām” is about a girl from a cheap Swedish film. The track has a nice melodic guitar-picking verse and heavier giutar chord chorus. Drummer Pēteris Linde goes all out thrashing his drums and riding the cymbal. The song reminds the listener of earlier work by Ingus Baušenieks. Nice sound effects are heard at the beginning and end of the song. “Es tevi nopirkšu” (I’ll Buy You)—and take you to the city where it’s always raining—has some simple choppy piano accompaniment, “la la la” background vocals and melodic chorus. Things slow down on “Es zinu man sacīs” (I Know I’ll Be Told) where singer Arnis Račinskis shows his entire vocal range. It’s a bit of a boring song and it seems that ballads are not Mofo’s forte.

Changing beats to waltz tempo, “Sākums kad viss ir beidzies” (The Beginng When Everything Has Ended) spins psychedelicly around with strumming acoustic guitar, drums and bass, ending of with echo guitar.

Thump-thump guitars are heard again on “Vienmēr vēlies vairāk” (Always Wanting More) co-wrtten by the group’s former guitarist Mārtiņš Elerts, who recently was replaced by Edgars Rubenis. This is really indy pop, with lots of guitar bar chords and cymbal ride. The group’s first single, “Nekas nav beidzies” (Nothing Has Ended), is next.

Another single follows. “Mans lielais rakstamgalds” (My Big Desk) is composed by Latvian alternative music guru Māris Šverns. This is actually one of the best songs on the album, with a rythmic verse, great melodic chorus and modulating bridge. The intriquing bass line is played byToms Ostrovskis.

“Uz manas ielas” (On My Street) is a slow little song that takes a while to take off, but doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. Between this song and the next, where normally a couple of seconds of silence is embedded, Mofo has chosen to put in a 48-second jazzy intro to its hit song “Tavs radio melo” (Your Radio Lies). Depending on your CD player, in shuffle mode this intro part is treated as a separate song (in my car stereo it counts down the time to the main part of the song). “Tavs radio melo” really rocks. However, the ending is a bit abrupt for my taste. The album is rounded off by another lazy song called “Rīta autobuss” (Morning Bus). The song and the album end with city traffic noises.

I get a feeling that song writer Arnis Račinskis gets a lot of his lyrical inspiration just by walking around the city. He is also the driving force behind the group and this album. He has composed nearly all the songs alone and is producer on the album. Even though the album is recorded in Rīga at Wolk Recording Studios by Sergei Amsterdam, Mofo had the album mastered at Optimum Mastering in England. This may be to guarantee the britrock feel.

Mofo makes music like no other group I’ve heard from Latvia.




Platforma Records,  2006

PRCD 193

Raitis Freimanis lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is a founding member of the Latvian-Canadian band Skandāls.