What We’re Listening To: The Way Down Wanderers

Listen if you like: Tramped By Turtles, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons

Modern folk music just keeps getting better.  I was lucky enough to host The Way Down Wanderers at a Sofar Sounds show last month, and it was so refreshing to hear a group of musicians that are pushing their genre forward while also taking from the roots.  This five-piece band from Illinois exhibits their ability to access the traditional sounds of country, before the label of country became what it is today, with a modern twist.  They regularly blend sounds of indie, folk, country, bluegrass, and even acoustic blues with perfect vocal tones to match the bill, creating a sonic combination that I have not heard before.

PC: Cate Pickens

The Wanderers at a Sofar session on December 19th, 2015. PC: Cate Pickens

These gents find ways to merge soothing country melodies and playful lyricism with up-tempo jams, and it sounds cohesive.  Even amidst the chaotic bluegrass sections, one can’t help but be mesmerized.  Whether it’s a string solo or the drummer rocking out with a pair of spoons like the good ol’ days, The Way Down Wanderers are entertainers.

Their most recent EP was recorded live, a feat not easily done with the tight bluegrass jams they break out into.  There are a lot of people out there apprehensive to listen to anything with the word bluegrass associated with it, likely under the impression that it all sounds the same.  We ask that you take a listen to “Truth, Son” and “Burn The City” and get back to us on that, if you’re one of those people.  The entire EP is compiled of perfect road tripping music, crafted for the pensive mind of a curious traveler.  The best thing about Wellspring?  I actually love each track, something not easily achieved for a local band giving me the first taste of their sound.  That seems a bit harsh to say, but think about it.  When was the last time you truly loved every song off of a release of even a band you like?

Way Down 1

These days aren’t for the takin’ / these days are what you make them

When exploring Wellspring, I can’t help but get this vibe that these are genuine musicians that love what they do.  Seeing them live is no different; their facial expressions and body language say it all.  They simply love sharing music and making connections with others, while sharing past experiences through the music.

Did we mention it was recorded live?  Let’s be clear, nearly nobody does that anymore.

A live session by our dear friends at AudioTree.

Facebook, Twitter @WayDownWanderer, Instagram @thewaydownwanderers


Playlist of the Week: Sounds of Falling Snow


It’s snowing here right now, and I basically have zero chill about it. This is what always happens when it snows during the holiday season: There’s something so pure about it, so ephemeral. It reminds me that magic truly does exist, even within our weather patterns.

I, like most Chicagoans and those who live in eternally snowy cities in the wintertime, know that I will transform into a Scrooge-like curmudgeon every time it snows following the New Year and may regret these words. Right now, however, let us sit back and enjoy the snowflakes as they fall.

I’ve crafted a playlist perfect for sipping a cup of hot chocolate/coffee/tea and watching nature’s perfection unfold, if only for a little while. While these days will be few and far between, the first snowfall of the season serves to reinforce the changing of the seasons, turning of tides, and a new start. We can become whatever we believe we are, just as the leaves descend from the trees and now are covered in fresh, powdery snow.


Happy winter, and bless us, every one! (You knew I would insert a quote from The Christmas Carol by now, didn’t you?)


What We’re Listening To: Land Lines

I was recently given a random CD from a buddy of mine from Pittsburgh who works at a record label. You never know when you receive a piece of promo material from an employee, but I wholeheartedly trust this guys music taste and was excited to give it a listen.

Land Lines did not disappoint me with their sophomore album “The Natural World.”  The music is slow-moving, yet captivating. It is able to function as background music or the direct focus as lead singer Martina Grbac guides us through a sea of minimalistic, layered instrumental tracks. The trio records with cello tracks, drums, and keys. That alone is enough to tell me that listening to their productions is one thing, but seeing this sort of setup live would be unbelievable.

I think what interests me the most is the use of repetition, particularly in the eerie “Logic.” It has a certain eeriness to it, finding ways to hold my attention with four minutes of minimalistic measures, excluding a cello addition late in the song. It’s plenty interesting on its own, but I’d love to see it paired with film. It has that emotional drive without taking too much away from the imagery in front of the viewer.

In a way, that applies to a lot of their music. They take a step back and embrace the fact that, although there are a lot of repetitive lines, we as listeners get attached and reliant on them the longer they continue. This is evident in the synth in “Logic” and “Help,” my personal favorite track, and the drums in “Rivers + Streams.” It really just makes me think about my love for Beach House and other groups that are able to embrace simplicity and really build a song by slowly adding repetitive tracks.

They put a lot of heart into their music, that much is evident even if the style isn’t your cup of tea. For me, I can’t get enough of it. Months later, I am still pinpointing the emotions that I feel while listening to them, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. Take a listen here and see what I mean!


Playlist of the Week: Je Parle Francais

There’s something about fall, with the changing leaves and brisk air, that always makes me want to travel back to France. I’d like to sit outside in a street cafe, people-watching and sipping a glass of wine. In my dream day, I’d stroll down the Champs-Elysees, grab a Nutella crepe from the street stand, and walk over to the Eiffel Tower just as the sun sets to watch it glistening majestically.

I recently watched the film A Good Year, which harped on the message of rediscovering your true self amid societal pressures. In it, Russell Crowe, a wealthy financier in London, leaves his hectic job after he learned that his uncle had passed away, leaving his large Provence estate to him. He reconnects with life’s simpler pleasures, all while playing French records throughout the airy house and overlooking the vineyard.

I’ve been listening to French music all week ever since, and thought I’d pass along la vie en rose to all of you. Enjoy a playlist full of old hits, including those from Charles Trenet and Django Reinhardt, as well as the new, from songstress Carla Bruni. It’s perfect for a crisp fall day, or whenever you’d like to daydream the day away to another place and time.



Au revoir,


Beach House Announce 2nd Album In Two Months, Bring Back “Single Finder”

As if I wasn’t already worshipping with the very ground that Beach House walks on, they continue to outdo themselves. Last week, barely a month after the release of the magnificent Depression Cherry, Beach House announced Thank Your Lucky Stars, their next studio record set to be released this Friday.

Not only will they be releasing two albums within a two-month time period, they have assured us that this is no collection of Depression Cherry’s B-Tracks. The wait was long after 2010’s Bloom, but it looks like it was more worth the wait than ever anticipated.

Today, the Baltimore duo revealed that they are yet again using the “Single Finder” on their website that they used for Depression Cherry. This feature allows you to select your top three favorite Beach House tracks and it will generate a single from the album that is most catered to your preferences within their style. The options are “She’s So Lovely,” “One Thing,” or the one I got, “Majorette.”

See what yours is here.

Are you kidding me?! They just Spotify-recommended from their own discography! These musical geniuses may never get the same credit as the big stars of our day, or their fantastic marketing team for that matter, but know this Beach House: Some of us will remember how fucking awesome you are.

Thank you, and Thank Your Lucky Stars.


What We’re Listening To: Tobias Jesso Jr.

Ever since I first heard “Bad Words” and Tobias Jesso Jr.’s sweet croon, I have had his debut album, Goon, on repeat. With smooth vocals and a blend of piano-tinged ballads and lush instrumentation, the album emerges as a melange of feelings packaged neatly together in individual songs. The cheeky piano backdrop of “Can’t Stop Thinking About You” illuminates his despair (it’s best to skip this song during a break-up), while “Tell The Truth” boasts an acoustic guitar backdrop and nothing else, resembling a song recorded quietly in a garage, until the strings enter in.

Jesso Jr.’s life has been wrought with hardship beyond the usual. Following a breakup that led him back to his home of Vancouver, he was riding his bicycle and was hit by a car, breaking his arm. The next day, he learned that his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. This sequence of events allowed him to place music on the back burner while he assisted his family, however he still recorded demos around the house and posted them to YouTube (one of these songs is posted at the beginning of this post). What emerged was an outpouring of admiration and appreciation for his carefully-crafted tunes, each with 100% heart.

No, the songs are not ones that you blast at a party, or enjoy while you work (well, unless you’re having that kind of a day). It’s an album you play when you really want to feel human and sink into a range of feelings, one by one by one. With songs mostly about relationships where things have been lost, forgiveness, and sorrow, his unique indie soul style recalling ’70s greats keeps me coming back for more, and I think you will enjoy it, too. It’s perfect for the time of year where the temps start to drop, and sweater weather is here to stay.

Last night I had a bad dream / That the world would end and would be forever ending / I know it’s not that nice but hey / It’s just a dream, It’s just a dream / And if I had just one more day / Here’s all the things I would say / To my baby / I can’t explain the world to you / I can’t explain the things that people choose to do / There’s a thing called hate and there’s a thing called love too



Playlist of the Week: The Best Film Jams


This playlist is quite the special one this week, readers. One that’s been in the works since November of 2014, and amassing new additions each and every month. So what is it, may you ask? Well, the title of this post probably tipped you off.

For me, my favorite films are ones that are complemented by a phenomenal soundtrack: one that makes us feel along with the characters and sense the moment in time. While many of the film soundtracks on the list are intellectual and inspiring, from Her, to The Grand Budapest Hotel, to Lost in Translation, they are juxtaposed by fun collections of tunes in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, The Wedding Singer, and The Parent Trap.

Enjoy a collection of film soundtracks, including and not limited to the following: Silver Linings Playbook, Juno, Garden State, Away We Go, (500) Days of Summer, every Wes Anderson film, The Last Kiss, Bridesmaids, Almost Famous, Lost in Translation, The Squid and the Whale, Love Actually, Anchorman, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Dallas Buyers Club, The Skeleton Twins, Boyhood, A Lot Like Love, Forrest Gump, Jerry Maguire, Celeste and Jesse Forever, The Wedding Singer, I Am Sam, I Heart Huckabees, The Graduate, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Serendipity, and My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Happy listening (and consequent film watching),