Happy album release day to Tuomo & Markus! The Finnish duo, whom we first encountered at SXSW 2017 and have since loved, today release their debut album, Dead Circles, via Grandpop Records.

Tuomo & Markus (jazz/soul artist Tuomo Prättälä and singer-songwriter Markus Nordenstreng) are among the wave of artists not based in America that love Americana music. At SXSW ’17, we raved that they “play catchy, authentically Americana songs that explore real life scenarios…. There was no inkling the duo weren’t good ol’ American boys until they bantered between songs and revealed their accent.” Dead Circles was recorded in the States—Tucson, specifically—and “Vanity Blinds,” the album’s most recent single, has some pretty special American connections.

Among the musicians heard on “Vanity Blinds” are Joey Burns and John Convertino, the founding members of Tucson-bred alt-country legends Calexico; the song’s live video features Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, whom Tuomo & Markus describe as “our good buddy,” on drums. Their presence, though a brilliant co-sign for an artist this new, doesn’t hinder Tuomo & Markus from imparting their own gentle, alluring craftsmanship into their music.

On “Vanity Blinds,” a soft, finger-plucked intro melds with featherlight vocals that eventually absorb layers of harmony like nails on a magnet. These harmonies then combine with an ever-increasing palette of pianos, slide guitars, and brass instruments to paint a breathtaking picture of introspection and deep reflection in the midst of Arizona. Later, as the chorus that appears four minutes in blossoms, a dizzying array of piano, horns, and double-time-feel percussion lifts the song off the ground and allows it to drift across the arid desert air for a riling home stretch.

As “Vanity Blinds” makes readily apparent, Tuomo & Markus excel at enlivening songs that other Americana artists might render with little to no extra flavor. Of special note is Prättälä’s submersion of elements taken from his jazz and soul background into Nordenstreng’s singer-songwriter CV: The combination of these two musical upbringings is uncommon in much of modern music, and throughout Dead Circles, its merits shine as brightly as the sun over Tucson on a standard desert day.

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