Jess Tollestrup is a folk musician and poet from southern Alberta in Canada who uses a looping pedal to create a blend of piano, guitar, vocal harmonies and spoken word poetry that creates a truly unique sound that is purely Tollestrup's own. Their EP The Pluto Year features four songs of a combination of folk and poetry that are original and refreshing.
The first track “Lilith’s Orchard” had a soft and gentle melodic intro which led into Tollestrup’s vocal. Tollestrup's voice is pretty and pure folk with a range and tone to match the complexity of their poetic lyrics. Tollestrup's high notes can get a little intense and there is a grit to the low range which all adds to the decorative quality of the song. Every note creates vivid imagery and atmosphere with layers and layers of sensation and emotion. The result reminded me a little of Florence + the Machine, but with a softer edge.
The second track “No” was completely different than the first. This could be described as a “poem-song” where some of the lyrics are presented as spoken word and others are sung. Tollestrup definitely has a knack for songwriting and poetry and the lyrics come off as profound and poignant. I could see how this style could be a little isolating for some, but I found it intriguing.
“I’ll Send Myself to Heaven” returned to the folk sound of the first track but was a little darker and self-reflective. I really enjoyed this one and dug the vocal harmonies and vivid soundscapes. The final track “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing” had more of a storytelling quality to it and the lyrics were more on the surface than the poetry of the previous track. It still felt very raw and intimate.
The Pluto Year is an impressive EP. Tollestrup is a powerful songwriter. Tollestrup wraps each word in a beautiful woven tapestry of sounds and instruments that give each track so much depth and texture, you can almost feel each verse. The folk and spoken word style may not be accessible to every musical taste, but you’re bound to find something to appreciate in Tollestrup’s words, even if the style isn’t what you’re used to. Since Tollestrup's songs are so personal and reflective of Tollestrup's experiences, I can't wait for more as Tollestrup's musical journey inevitably continues.
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