Wicked Crown - New EP Available June 11, 2021 

I am very excited to announce that my latest 5-song EP, Wicked Crown, will be available on your favorite digital platform on June 11, 2021. A limited number of CDs will also be available. It is available for pre-order on Bandcamp right now. These songs have been recorded over the past few years with the help of Adriel Ferguson on drums, Rachel Gawell on cello, Danny Peña on accordion, Pat Hanlin for mixing, Paul Mahern for mastering, and Learan Kahanav’s photography for the cover. Please keep an eye (and ear) out for this this in June.

Greiskāl East: 1995 4-Track Recordings released 25 years late 

A borrowed Fostex 250 4-track recorder and Yamaha RX-5 drum machine; some cheap guitars; a cheap keyboard. No fancy equipment or studio. A mixture of 1980s college rock, shoegaze, and Britpop—all through the lens of the American Midwest. A handful of tapes were distributed to friends and family. This release is cleaned up and mastered, but otherwise the same exact recordings.

Listen to Greiskāl East: 1995 4-Track Recordings on Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Youtube, Soundcloud or whatever digital platform you prefer.

Solstice Live released 

On June 20, 2020, I performed a live stream event focusing on the music with a Scandinavian/Nordic connection. It was the the summer solstice, the longest day of the year for the northern hemisphere. This day is a big deal for northern countries, particularly Finland and Sweden. I compiled one song from each of the countries (west to east) into a live recording: Solstice Live.

At this time, I am only making it available on Bandcamp. It is available free or pay what you want. All proceeds from this recording will go to the Extinction Rebellion, “a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.”

I hope you enjoy music and are staying safe.

Thank you,

Track listing
1. “Beggar’s Prayer” - Emiliana Torrini (Iceland)
2. “Scoundel Days” - A-Ha (Norway)
3. “The Aftermath” - Kashmir (Denmark)
4. “The Nest” - José González (Sweden)
5. “Northern Nights” - Mike Westhues (Finland)

New Release: The Koti Sessions EP by Jukka Westhues 

Jukka Westhues releases The Koti Sessions EP on May 1, 2020. Recorded during 2018-20, The Koti Sessions EP is a collection of mostly acoustic songs drawing on elements of folk, Americana, and even classical. This project has been a slow burning labor of love, recorded exclusively at home. The word “koti” is Finnish for home. As the world entered this strange (and necessary) realm of lockdowns and social distancing in 2020, this notion of home became ever more poignant. It was finished with a new sense of urgency.

This is Jukka’s second release, following 2017’s Few and Far Between. A lifelong musician, his music is deeply rooted in the American singer-songwriter aesthetic and indie rock of the 1990s, combining lyrical impressionism and a textured sound. A multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer, his tools of choice are his voice and a guitar.

The EP is available digitally immediately on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud. Other digital platforms will come on line within a few days, and a limited number of CDs will be available later in May. Follow Jukka on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and www.jukkawesthues.com for updates. A lyric video for “Can’t Go Back” is available here.

Stay safe. Stay well.

What’s in a Song? The Music that the Democratic Party Hopefuls Listen To 

[This is a thought exercise. Nothing more.]

The media and most right-minded people have been unsuccessfully demanding that #45 releases his personal tax records, as all presidents in modern history have done. I believe that this is an important step in a candidate’s campaign, as it can reveal a lot about an individual’s commitments, ethics, and general prudence. However, I find myself thinking that a more nuanced expression of the individual would be helpful in understanding how the candidates think and what is important to them.

The music we listen to can reveal much about us as individuals: what is important to us, how we treat others and want to be treated, are we iconoclasts or traditionalists, etc., etc. To this end, I propose that looking at a presidential candidate’s musical tastes, particularly what they listened to as teenagers or in their twenties, can be valuable. That music had a profound impact on them as individuals as they grow into their forties and beyond.

There has been quite a lot written about the musical preferences of some of the Democratic presidential candidates in 2019, or at least more than in the past. President Obama’s playlists got attention and were pretty good –  revealing of his tastes and a willingness to listen to a diversity of styles. This lines up perfectly with the type of president that Obama appeared to be (or at least who we wanted him to be): someone who didn’t prejudge, was open to new ideas, and subtle in his ways of working. I want a candidate’s playlist to show us something about them now or in their youth. Are/were they angry? Are/were they idealists? Are/were they in touch with the human experience?

With this (and only this) in mind, here is my current ranking of the Democratic presidential candidates.

1.       Beto O’Rourke is a fan of punk and metal. Beto’s 2015 playlist highlighting some of his favorite punk songs shows the depth of his appreciation and his iconoclastic origins. He also played in a band called Foss, with a singer who went on to form the Mars Volta.

1.       Andrew Yang aims to be the first self-proclaimed ex-goth presidential candidate. He cites the Smiths, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Sugarcubes as among his favorites. While you can hear many of these bands on supermarket soundtracks these days, in the 1980s and 1990s, listening to this music represented a feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

3.       Pete Buttigieg is a moderately distant third after Beto and Andrew tied for first. Mayor Pete does have a documented appreciation for Spoon and has joked that he would like Phish to play his inauguration. If having Phish play your inauguration doesn’t signal a liberal stance, then I don’t know what does. And while a senior at Harvard, Mayor Pete wrote an interesting piece on how popular music reflected the unease of post-9/11 America – particularly referring to Dave Matthew’s Some Devil and Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, both which are pretty dark reflections on the state of the world at the time.

4.       Kamala Harris claimed Bob Marley and Miriam Makeba were among her favorites in a 2012 New York Times profile, but named Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain as one of her all-time favorite albums. Who can go wrong with that album? If one can really appreciate this album, I believe they are deeply in tune with their inner peace and soul. It is an absolutely beautiful record. More recently there has been some stupid controversy over Kamala stating on a radio show that she listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac when she was younger. They are both very great examples of west coast rappers giving voice to African-Americans living in too often ignored parts of urban America. More politicians should listen to Tupac.

5.       Bernie Sanders gets an honorary fifth place on this list. As mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he opened a youth music center: 242 Main. This club provided local and touring punk bands a place to play and for young kids who might otherwise be getting into trouble, a place to hang out and see some bands that their parents might not approve of. Newly archived videos of Bernie’s 1980s era community access TV show demonstrate his willingness to listen to mall punks talk about their disaffection for whatever mainstream life had to offer them. While I don’t know what music Bernie likes to listen to, I can imagine him listening to Guthrie, Seeger, Dylan, Springsteen (at his most working class) – self-appointed spokespeople for some of the Americans on whose backs America was built.

We don’t know much about the other 18 candidates in terms of musical preferences. A spot check turned up pretty uninspired Spotify playlists by Senator Cory Booker and the Bidens. This does not mean that they are not good candidates. Their policy positions might be strong. They might be very capable of taking down the current sitting President. But their music preferences don’t help tell that story.