Jess & The Ghosts
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Jess & The Ghosts

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
Established on Jan, 2013
Solo Folk Spoken Word




"Review – “The Pluto Year” – Jess Tollestrup"

reviewed by Laura Stanley

“I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know why I’m here,” sings Jess Tollestrup in the closing track from their EP The Pluto Year. The EP’s title also invokes a sense of uncertainty: when Pluto was no longer classified as a planet, the rug was pulled out from under us and suddenly what we learned in elementary school was not true. The concept of a pluto year makes me think that Tollestrup went through a year of uncertainty and change.

But despite the anxieties on the EP, Tollestrup remain steady. Perhaps when looking back at the so-called pluto year, Tollestrup is able to turn their shakiness into steadiness. On the opener “Lilith’s Orchard,” the soft guitar picking acts like the gentle rain that falls in early spring as seeds begin to sprout into something beautiful, it just takes a little time. On “No” – a spoken-word piece – Tollestrup’s “no” becomes louder and larger as the song continues. “I am rising,” they repeat throughout, playing with their voice so the statement is like many different people are coming together to rise.

The highlight of The Pluto Year is the third track, “I’ll Send Myself To Heaven.” It’s a creepy sounding song and Tollestrup sounds like they are stalking the halls of an old house – a ghost that is reluctant to be at peace. Tollestrup’s wails are not necessarily despondent though. Sure, they are singing about dying but they also repeatedly proclaim, “I’ll send myself to heaven because I know what I’m worth.” A dark but powerful declaration of self-worth. Kind of like the EP as a whole.

Top Track: “I’ll Send Myself to Heaven”

Rating: Young Hoot (Decent) - Grayowl Point

"Best EP's of 2017"

13. Jess Tollestrup - The Pluto Year (Edmonton) - Cups N Cakes Network


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. - Divide and Conquer


'The Pluto Year' EP - 2017
'No' Single - 2017
'Metafesto' Chapbook - 2017



Jess and the Ghosts currently reside on traditional Blackfoot territory (CKA Lethbridge). Their haunting looping pedal compositions - a blend of piano, vocal harmonies, guitar, mouth percussion, and spoken word poetry - have featured in poetry slams and music venues across Canada. In July 2017 they released their debut EP 'The Pluto Year' and chapbook 'Metafesto'.

In addition to songwriting, Jess has played keys with country, blues, jazz, pop, and rock groups such as Borscht, the Mark Hall Band,  Driving While Blind, and Celery Sticks. They received a diploma in jazz and contemporary piano at Vancouver Community College (2016) and won the Hornby Island Blues Workshop Piano Scholarship (2017). 

Jess and the Ghosts have opened for spoken word folk group The Fugitives (2013) and performed with poets like Jillian Christmas and Edmonton’s past poet laureate Mary Pinkoski. They have performed in festivals like Heart of the City (2017),  Sled Island(2017), National YouthCanSlam Festival (2014), The People’s Poetry Festival (2012, 2013), Calgary Spoken Word Festival(2013), Vancouver Busker Festival (2013), and South Country Fair (2012).  Their poetry has been published in magazines like Capilano University’s 'The Liar' and Lethbridge’s 'Fourth Wave Freaks’.  

Band Members