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The music industry seems to be banking heavily on over the top personalities and it’s leaving an aging music blogger like myself wondering where the truth in music went.  If you talk to any honest music publicist today, they will confirm the idea that the story behind the band/artist is just as important, maybe more, than the music itself.  I’ve always balked at covering a band because the frame work was written for me.  My concern is and always will be talent, connection, emotion, and the document itself without bloated outside context.  I beg to a next to nothing readership, let’s get back on track and start finding the story within the music rather than discovering music because of the story.

Cassandra Jenkins spent most of 2010 as a struggling folk singer in New York City's Greenwich Village. Her musical partner, Mike Timlin, died by suicide and her independently released solo album Inside Cassandra Jenkins was not selling; she had no money and was sleeping on the couches of friends and acquaintances.

Sorry, that’s the first line in the plot summary on Wikipedia for the film Inside Llewyn Davis with Jenkins name substituted here and there.  I really don’t know anything about Jenkins, but I can say her newest release Play Till You Win is one of my favorite albums of 2017.  Melodically it’s a gentle and confident album of beautiful music framed by Jenkins’ talent for the investigation of life presented as universal storytelling. Jenkins’ track “Tennessee Waltz” is a simple, yet heartbreaking short story through song addressing the moment you understand that individual love must be given away to allow for true love.  This is a sacrifice many of us know and using it as the spine for a song allows for the music to elevate an already considered human struggle.  Jenkins’ adds to the exploration of this theme and within it the listener can find perspective, character, and the connection we all want with our musicians/bands.

I remember the night and the Tennessee waltz
I must have heard it a thousand times
and it wasn’t till now that I’ve come to see
the view from behind those lines
We were singing along to an old familiar song
when she came waltzing through the door
with her head held high and a look in her eyes
I could see that it was her you adore.
I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
I used to think that I knew the words
until they hit me all at once
I can’t say it’s wrong, but I know it’s true
It’s with her that your heart belongs
ever since I introduced her to you
We were singing along to an old familiar song
when she came waltzing through the door
with her head held high and a look in her eyes
Now I don’t see you anymore
I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz

It’s always a blessing and a bit of a curse when your favorite track on an album is the opener.  “Candy Crane” is a song that explores perspective and what we as humans waste our time and concern with.  This is all investigated through a story of a person playing a crane machine game, a frustrating device most of us can relate to with a simple reward. Although the crane game prize is rarely obtained, when achieved all it adds up to a piece of plastic or doll…a momentary and nearly pointless satisfaction.  Play Till You Win explores the theme that humans are blinded by the end result and not the moments that make up the journey.  Jenkins seems fascinated by time and the confusing wonderment of how present day and memory can work together in the building blocks of who we are as people.

The exploration of time appears again on “Some Time”.  The song works in many ways, but I like to imagine it as a poem written by Jenkins to Jenkins.  It perfectly captures self-motivation and that relatable moment where our minds connect with individual want.

Give yourself a few years
Give yourself some time
None of them are like you dear
Give yourself some time
Everyone is in it
Give yourself some time
No way to get around it
Give yourself some time
For all the place you have yet to be
and the faces yet to see
Come spring they’ll all be here
and they’ll be back
with the same songs every year
None of them are like you
So give yourself a few years
Give yourself some time
None of them are like you dear
Give yourself some time

The album Play Till You Win accomplishes everything I want from an album, specifically a connection to the creator that grows and matures track to track. Just as I consider the writers of my favorite novels familiar friends who can comfort through their brilliance, new artists and bands need to be given the opportunity to introduce themselves through their talent, perspective, and personality. We are constantly told how to feel about a band, how to contextualize their music, and how important it is before listening to a single note.  The stories attached to bands are strategic attempts to attract a specific audience.  We should be aware of this trap and only trust the music itself and the importance we place on it as the ultimate truth of its quality.

We’re coming up on the tenth birthday of We Listen For You and we’ve always operated under the idea that the music we write about is the music we love.  You shouldn’t always love what we love. Taste and personal connection within art is a universe…a huge space where it’s impossible for complete agreement of what is best and what is worst.  What is worthy.  What is cool.  All that comes from you and you alone.  Where we can all improve and challenge ourselves is how we discover what we will eventually love or hate.  Don’t trust the your friends, outlets that are sincere in their recommendations, and always trust yourself.  Your taste is your identity.  Finding a short cut when building you through art is as fruitless and empty as that claw machine. 

I’m fully aware how preachy this writing has been and I want it noted that I needed to say these things not just to you but to myself as well.  The number of times I’ve clicked on a sensational headline or investigated a band because they are the “it” thing of the moment is endless.  I want to be a better listener and explorer of new sounds.  I want all of us to be better.  If we question why we arrived at the moment of clicking play on a new album then everything competes on the same level and we’re back to letting music work on its own.  Only then can the magic of sound enter of lives, wrap itself around formed memories, dictate character, influence dreams, and smash against everything that was known to form a new self.


Starting with this piece, essays or reviews on WLFY will occasionally challenge the original intention of this website: to help independent artists.  Each piece that features an album that we highly recommend will come with a challenge to sell a certain amount of copies.  We’ll always kick off the challenge with a purchase of our own.

Cassandra Jenkins - Play Till You Win (Album Challenge)

GOAL: Sell FIVE vinyl copies

Current count:
4/5 vinyl sold


Send @welistenforyou a picture or screen cap on Twitter of your purchase and we’ll list you as a supporter.  A small amount of purchases like five won’t change the world, but if we start working as a group to support independent artists, it certainly can’t hurt.


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