Chicago Indie-Folk Band Ludlow Release New EP Sunset Blues
Unmistakably Midwestern — that’s what Ludlow calls their newest EP, Sunset Blues. The Chicago indie-folk outfit crafted the six-track record as a love letter of sorts to their Midwestern roots, putting music to the bittersweet feelings of both emotional limbo and the “literal fear of leaving the Midwest,” effectively crafting an earnest EP acting as an ode to hometowns and moving on. It’s not just the humble love that makes Sunset Blues so worth hearing though — it’s the sound quality, too, a distinct brand of gruff folk-flavored indie compositions so lovely in their softness.
Sunset Blues opens with “The Country,” quick from the get-go to introduce the voice we’ll be sitting with for the next 25 minutes — a shaky, gravelly croon. The shortest song on the EP, it makes for the perfect opener because it takes its time until it doesn’t. The band come together effortlessly here, each instrument joining an increasingly colorful arrangement of key sparkles, thick percussion, and trumpet bursts. The EP’s dynamic introduction is followed by “I’ve Never Been To L.A.,” rolling along with the twang of acoustic guitar, a steady and unrelenting strum that carries throughout the length of the song, even when quick drum beats double over and breathy harmony joins in. Adopting a quiet, nearly removed instrumental style at the beginning similar to Portland-based group Blind Pilot and the increasing urgency and lyrical prowess of singer-songwriter Anthony D’Amato, the band grows into their own impossibly lovely folk arrangement.
On “The Fallen Leaves,” a searing buzz and reverb of strings open the track before booming percussive layers join. The lead vocals are at their roughest, a sandpaper croon singing “I don’t even know how much I need you when you’re here / Didn’t even know how much I’d miss you when you’re gone.” Each element of Ludlow’s talent has its fleeting spotlight in this one: a vibrant guitar line, a verse sung in harmony, a dazzling smash of multi-instrumentation, and so much more. Things soften on “Talking To My Saint,” a beautifully bittersweet ballad that finds Ludlow’s songwriting at its most sincere, clipped lines delivered with an ache threatening to break. Led by a sharp strum of strings — first guitar, then the wailing beauty of cello — it serves as the EP’s softest, most minimalist composition so far. There’s a real palpable pain here, growing as the arrangement swells around the vocal delivery. It’s a stunning work of gentle folk art.
On “And Then I Woke Up,” electric guitar opens a gruff track featuring quick-paced slaps of percussion and pretty harmonies. It doesn’t stay fast and rough, though. Later, the song evolves into a more tender, band’s-all-in arrangement, but then it’s intense and emotional again, this wild thrash of band camaraderie that closes out the track in a loud rush. Sunset Blues ends with “Don’t Break,” another thoughtful composition opening with the distant delivery of gritty vocals fogged over by lo-fi production before morphing into the high-quality production Ludlow have worked hard to hone. The arrangement is robust and rich with detail, but it’s modest about it, each element contributing to the greater good of the song and standing down when it needs to. The crescendo of pounding percussion meets a discordant crush of untamed instrumental malarkey, then cools down again for a gentler approach, and so on. There’s a thoughtful back-and-forth here, mimicking the highs and lows of the EP.
Sunset Blues is a remarkable collection of supreme indie-folk music. These are the songs that thrum with subtle genius and quiet beauty, compositions carefully crafted by a band pooling their talents to create something special. Ludlow’s given us a real gift here.
We’re super stoked to also share an exclusive audio clip from Ludlow walking us through the EP with some early versions of each song highlighted as well. Take a listen below:
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