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Two steps forward, one step back

Ēriks Miezis

«The Coco’nuts» begins the new decade with songs in their native language

With their first ten years anniversary, in October of 2022, in Tallinas’ square creative quarter, «The Coco’nuts» band presented their newest album, «Forward Back». It features nine songs and a little fragment from the song called «Just Get Your Thing Done», the full version of which the musicians decided to play during their live concerts.

When explaining the contents of their songs, band members say that this album is mostly dedicated to the mental health topic. Taking a look at the last three years of life, musicians share their experiences about emotional states and feelings they went through — how they learned from them, how they lived through them, and how they overcame them all. The title composition, «Forward Back», reminds us that to move forward in life, sometimes you need to take a couple of steps back.

Cover art was created by the band members themselves. The ocean was painted blue by the vocalist Monta Kurme, central element (ear) was done by the bassist Toms Valmiers, a professional sculptor. The ear, as a symbol, interweaves the stories connected to the creation of the album. During this time, the band tried to listen to themselves and the listeners, as well as to everything happening around them. The musicians invite their listeners to follow their example and, with the help of the ear, remind us about the meaning of listening in our lives. While listening to one another, we as a society intertwine and support each other.

This is the third studio album of the band. Before this, the debut mini-album «Appetizer» was released in 2014, as well as two full albums, «Amid Opposites» (2016) and «No Other Way Out» (2018). «The Coco’nuts» continue moving forward with their characteristic style, getting inspired by funk, indie, blues, rock, and jazz music elements. Musicians themselves agree that while working with the recording, it was very important for the ensemble to reach the new development level, so different ways to step out of their comfort zones were sought. Something new I spotted at once was the song lyrics that now were in their native Latvian instead of English. The sound of the band is quite fresh, thanks to mild electronic layers woven into the album canvas. The new experience was also gained with the help of special guests — fresh additions to the band were producers Edvards Broders and Reinis Žodžiks. Sound engineering and sound post-production were done by Toms Lisments.

Another important news «The Coco’nuts» musicians mention is additional attention paid to the construction of the compositions that made the songs more compact and structured, thus shorter in time. More open, wide parts and improvisational approach is left to live shows. The songs were mostly composed in some special circumstances. «The Coco’nuts» likes doing creative camps and inviting as many band members to join the process as they can, stimulating ideas and thought exchange. The author of the lyrics is vocalist Marija Valmiera, with some other band members joining here and there.

Some of the songs we can hear in the album are already known to the audience because they were published before as singles and video versions. «Getting Dark» was awarded during the Baltic music video contest of the International Riga Film Festival. «In And Out Of The Dark» was performed at «Supernova», a national selection for the «Eurovision» contest. We all know that the «Eurovision» format dictates shortening all the musicians have to say to three minutes — now the audience can also enjoy the full six-minute version of the song.

While listening to «The Coco’nuts» performance, we can feel the band members’ harmonic compatibility — their personalities and musical characteristics. A successful band combination that has been tested with time has the ability to create a nice-sounding, dynamic interplay and sound. Each element supports one another. A great addition to the band is Australian saxophonist Benny Goldsmith (Zeltkalis), whose polished tone and heartfelt melodies give the compositions additional taste. The alternative name of the eighth composition, «Musical Director», is actually a dedication to Benny. From the instrumentation and arrangement point of view, the composition «Yanake» is very colorful — Goldsmith did an improvisational flute episode there. With the percussion instrument timbres (agogo, surdo, samba whistle), Latin American culture ambassadors Rafael Nascimento and Miguel Hernandez Giraldi, who live in Latvia, took part in the recording as well.

A crispy crust of the music is also the guitar play of Pēteris Narubins. We can hear expanded guitar solo episodes in the compositions «In and Out of The Dark», «Forward Back», and «Talking With Myself». The guitar played by Narubins functions as the only harmonic instrument of this band, and a feeling of emptiness or unfinishedness is never there. The drummer Artūrs Strautmanis played some nice tom grooves or rhythm figures in a couple of compositions, with the rhythmic frame held on toms instead of cymbals. From time to time, the listener can hear additional drums usage that varies from very traditional choices (tambourine) up to absolutely different trash found in one’s shed that sounds interesting. The vocal tandem of Marija Valmiera and Monta Kurme sounds elegant and nice, it’s also pleasant to listen to high-quality song arrangements where the main vocal and back vocal greatly collaborate. When both ladies sing together, the higher note spectrum gets enriched, creating a bright result.

The whole mood of the album is positively charged, energetic, and light. My central composition in this album is «Manis mājās nav» (I’m not at home), where except for the sticky refrain, we can also enjoy many other musically interesting solutions that reveal only after many times of listening. It’s exciting to listen to a compositionally successful «Getting Dark», where the plot and dramaturgy are skillfully developed with the help of musical means of expression. The most lyrical episode of the album, a culmination of sorts, is the song «Mūsu zeme» (Our land), as well as the beginning of the song «Introverse», which later on grows into a swingy six-eighths rhythm.

After listening to the album many times, there are no obvious weak or confusing parts that come to my mind. The listener can feel the hard work put into preparing the material in all the parts beginning with composing and up to sound post-production and creating the visual identity of the album. Congratulations and compliments to the «coconuts» for reaching the new quality level, and all the best wishes in their further work! We’re waiting for the concerts and new songs to be released.