Tunes with Thomas: Folk and Indie

Get down to the Eau Claire sound

Thomas DeLapp

More stories from Thomas DeLapp

Citizens of Eau Claire: if you haven’t heard by now, you’re legally required to be a fan of folk and indie music. You don’t have to be too into it, but a healthy dose of folk indie appreciation is mandatory.

Don’t resist this. It’s good for you. Eau Claire is made for the vibes that folk and indie music bring to the table, infused with pine trees and rivers.

Although folk and indie are distinct genres, I’m combining them into one broader scope because there’s so much overlap between the two. The best of both worlds.

Eau Claire is known for (say it with me) being the hometown of Justin Vernon and Bon Iver, the quintessential indie folk artist. In my opinion —  and this is not just out of loyalty — you won’t find better music than Bon Iver, so start there.

I don’t want to get too into Bon Iver here, but for the record, my favorite album (ever?) is “22, A Million.”

Of course, The Lumineers are a staple. Conveniently, they’ve just released a new, very short EP, “a little sound.” It holds some of my favorite Lumineers motifs: melancholic and filled with ringing, tinny piano. Songs to play for your main character moments. They cover one of my all time favorites with this EP, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure. It’s a great cover.

The Head and the Heart are great for when you’re very sad, especially “Rivers and Roads” and “Lost In My Mind.”

Going back in time a bit, listen to Labi Siffre. Fans of Kanye will have heard him on “I Wonder” where Ye sampled Siffre’s “My Song.”  Eminem has also sampled Siffre, on “My Name Is.” He’s an excellent musician — listen to his album “Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying,” and my favorite song of his, “Bless the Telephone.” 

Siffre is an incredibly important musician and influence on so many others, but his status as a black, gay artist in the seventies made it hard to get his name out to large audiences. He’s still around, on Twitter and writing  poetry.

Throwing back to classics, John Prine is a must.  He borders both folk and country, but he’s pretty universally acclaimed as one of the best American singer/songwriters. Sadly, he died in April of 2020 from COVID complications.  His last album, “The Tree of Forgiveness” hits pretty hard now.

Prine’s songs range from the lonesome and reflective, like the last song he recorded, “I Remember Everything,” to political, like “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore.”

All the fun hipsters obviously love Passion Pit  — “Sleepyhead” has been in my top 10 Spotify tracks for two years, with good reason. It’s a bop.

Hippo Campus, of course, is also required, especially because they’re from St. Paul. My last local recommendation goes to Trampled By Turtles, who are somewhat folk-adjacent bluegrass, and from Duluth, Minn.  

Melding folk/indie with country are The Avett Brothers, a sure bet for your campfire songs playlist. “Murder in  the City,” “The Ballad of Love and Hate” and “The Fire” make me cry, but “Ain’t No Man” is a bop. 

This is one of my favorite genres, and there’s just so much good music. We could talk about it forever.  What a beautiful world this is, that we have the problem of too much music. 

I’ll leave you, again, with my favorite quote from poet Nikki Giovanni: “I feel so sorry for the kids who only hear one kind of music. Where do your dreams come from?” 

Listen to as much music as you can. Especially indie-folk.  Again, you’re in Eau Claire, it’s required. Most importantly, share with your friends (and me) the music that makes you dream. 

DeLapp can be reached at [email protected]