There is something quite disconcerting about buying an album as part of a meal deal in a local pizza restaurant in Latvia. There you are, sitting at the table in one of Rigas’ Cili Pica joints, being blasted with one artist on constant repeat. It may be enough to make you feel obliged to buy the CD along with your large chicken and peach creation, but luckily, there’s no buyers remorse when handing over money for Lauris Reiniks’ most recent album, Es Skrienu.
Hardly a stranger to Eurovision fans, Reiniks has previously competed in the Song Contest in 2003 for Latvia with his group F.L.Y and the song ‘Hello to Mars’. Since then he has released six albums, won many national music awards, wrote a song that came second in the 2009 Irish National Finals for Eurovision, and featured in the 2010 Eurodziesma, the Latvian selection process for our favourite song contest.
Opening with the moderately-paced duet ‘Pasaka’ (Fairytale) it features another familiar voice in Aisha (Latvia’s 2010 Eurovision entrant). Despite hailing from two very different musical styles, both performers work well together, giving a seemingly sweet, romantic and yet measured performance in a tale of chance encounters.
The rest of the album continuously ebbs and flows between tender tunes such as beautiful and pared-back ‘Davana’, to the fun and unashamedly pop in both ‘Labak vel neaizmiedz’, and the title track of ‘Es Skrienu’.
‘Labak vel neaizmiedz’ is best qualified as Reiniks stomping pop-track. It’s just the kind of song you expect to stamp you feet or clap along to during a live performance. Despite the language barrier, it keeps your toes tapping throughout the verses, withan insanely catchy chorus that begs for a sing-along. Given that, it leaves little wonder as to why this song was subsequently re-written into English, submitted by Reiniks for the upcoming Eurodziesma as ‘Banjo Laura’, and now stands a very good chance to represent Latvia at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest.
The second of the pop selections, and undoubtedly the highlight from an album of many, is ‘Es Skrienu’ (I’m Running). It could be the fact it’s a wonderful tune to dance along to, or that it’s repetitive enough (without being annoying) to be memorable on first listen. But perhaps the main reason for it being a highlight is the beauty for the tunes’ ability to constantly build upon itself. Throughout the song, Reiniks gives the impression lyrically that he gathers some pace, desperately trying to reach a climax; so when the key change finally comes it leaves this listener feeling emotionally exhausted and wonderfully exhilarated in the same bear.
Fortunately for the English speakers (or Lithuanians, Estonians, Russian or Italians) amongst us, ‘Es Skienu’ has been translated for our listening, dancing and singing pleasure. The English version was penned in conjunction with yet another famous Eurovision-related name, Thomas G:son.
Es Skrienu demonstrates Reiniks’ considerable ability to perform a wide range of musical styles; from pop and rock to dance and ballad. The selection veers heavily into the well trodden pop-rock territory of the male soloist, recalling the likes of Brian McFadden or Robbie Williams from his Sing When You’re Winning period. However, like the latter, the charisma, charm and talent are obvious throughout every track. Each song conjures thoughts and feelings of summer, a joyful album to be played in the car on a journey with the music loud and the top down.
On the all important repeat listens, you can try to find fault with this album (deciphering lyrics aside) but this only results in falling more in love. Lauris Reiniks has created a collection that is instantly accessible, demonstrated from the speed it has rushed to the top of the charts. It’s one of the most delightful pieces of pop from the Baltic States in many years. Even to the foreign listeners for who Latvian isn’t a feature in their vocabulary, this is an artist and album that begs for more attention beyond the confines of a Latvian pizza parlour.
You want a breakout star from Eurovision 2011? Here he is.
Es Skrienu, by Lauris Reiniks, is published by Microphone Records and is available as a digital download from Do Re Mi in Latvia.