Few records carry the same profound weight as the newest release from Helsinki’s plant food. To be fair, it would barely register on a scale: it is comprised of field recordings and demo takes, and clocks in around 15 minutes from start to finish. Instead, its power comes in its subtleties.
plant food is the moniker of frequent flyer Maxim S. This record, koalas hug trees to keep cool, was his way of hitting reset. Starting in the summer of 2016, he began collecting snippets of sounds and melodies and moods as he travelled around Turku, Helsinki, Moscow, and St. Petersburg because he needed a new direction: “this album is a set of songs and sketches that I recorded when I became sick of everything I was making and wanted to try something altogether new and exciting.”
I was unable to locate the other work that Maxim denounces here, so I can’t speak to the personal significance of the music for him—we can assume that a crackling DIY record is left-field compared to his usual style. I can, however, speak on the album’s significance for me. Without career context to tether my experience, the ditties burrowed into my head and created their own imprints on my mind. It was a record I could count on to comfort me when I, too, became sick of everything in my life.
After listening to it on loop for months, I have lost track of the song titles on koalas. I hear the guitar melodies as one united force, which carries from the very first notes on “falling asleep to spoken word” to the strident plucking on “baked beans” to the fuller sounding “powder worries,” which also mingles with a drum machine. Their connection withstands the frequent pauses and cuts that give the album its character.
Lyrics are not guaranteed but do appear occasionally as muffled whispers. Sometimes they bring acute loneliness, sometimes awe, but mostly, they are inconsequential reminders of the human being who stitched this release together. “I feel like shit today, I wish I had something to say,” he says on “playing hooky.” Maxim sings not to broadcast his story but to prove that he has one.
Success in life comes not in what we do, but in our momentum to continue after motivation evaporates or failure strikes. koalas packs that melancholic determination into eight short songs, meant for as many plays as it takes to become part of you.
Best Albums of 2018
2. plant food – koalas hug trees to keep cool