12.13.13 — “Harpoons” by SISU


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Harpoons” by SISU (2013, from the album Blood Tears).

SISU is a dreamy synth-pop/shoegaze band from Los Angeles. Although there is a band, it’s practically a one-woman show. Sandra Vu used to play drums in Dum Dum Girls and also in The Raveonettes.

Vu named this project SISU because she says that it’s some sort of play on her name. She later found out that it’s a Finnish word that some people define as “extreme courage” and others define as “extreme perseverance”. The
reality of it is that the word encompasses those ideas and much more, but it doesn’t translate to English. It’s also one of those things that Finnish people will say is a uniquely Finnish characteristic. Not just the word, but the trait itself.

People will often point to the Winter War of 1939-40 as a great example of Finnish sisu. The Soviet Red Army was attempting to invade, occupy, and reclaim much of Finland. The Finns had fought for and gained independence from the USSR in 1917, but the USSR now wanted some of their land back. Repeated requests to redraw the border were turned down. In a pathetic attempt to exercise their might, the Soviets shelled one of their own towns, blamed Finland, and used it as an excuse to back out of peace treaty between Finland and the USSR. Days later, the Soviets bombed Helsinki and started a ground attack along the Soviet/Finnish border. In the Winter War, the Soviets had thrice as many soldiers as the Finns, 200 times as many tanks, 30 times as many aircraft. Not only that, but the tanks, planes, and heavy guns that the Finns had were seriously outdated. On paper, it should have been a massacre. On paper, the Soviets should have been able to plow through Finland, taking everything with them. The undermanned and ill-equipped Finns put up a tremendous fight in the three-month war. In the end, the Soviets got the land (amounting to 11% of Finland’s land mass) that they demanded, but not without paying a huge price. The Soviets suffered five times as many casualties as the Finns, they were expelled from the League of Nations, and their world status suffered tremendously. Finland emerged with their dignity. Never mind the fact that the Finns had aligned themselves with the Nazis. That’s something different entirely. This was about David refusing to bow down to Goliath.

Finnish sisu is a very cool thing that the rest of us don’t fully understand.

This Los Angeles band is also very cool. They’ve been described as “Smithsian shoegaze”, and “nightmarish Beach House” They just released their debut album Blood Tears, and this is one of the better songs from it.

“Harpoons” by SISU

Sandra Vu talks about the recording process and her vision for “Harpoons” in this interview. She says that it’s supposed to sound damp and claustrophobic. It’s supposed to sound what it feels like to be in a submarine.

I sure do like it.

For extra credit, check out the soggy video for the song. It’s awesome:

SISU – Harpoons (Official Video) from MONO PRISM on Vimeo.

You can buy Blood Tears from the bandcamp page here. You can only stream three of the songs, but when you buy the download, you get all ten songs.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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