The lost cartographers

Led by Gabrielle Schafer's sultry and lonesome vocals, Aaron Rester's evocative songwriting, and Erin Fusco's delicate harmonies and gorgeous keyboards, the Lost Cartographers' songs of traintracks, setbacks, leaving, and longing are right at home in Chicago's burgeoning and Americana scene.

Check out one of their live shows and you'll discover a sound that lives in the margins of half a dozen genres. The group paints musical landscapes of places that are simultaneously familiar and strange, rendered with a loving attention to detail but unafraid of the chaos of happy accidents.


Walk On ICR005

The debut album from The Lost Cartographers features ten original songs from the Chicago quintet. Led by three singer-songwriters, the band tells tales of train tracks, setbacks, leaving, love, and loss. Sultry lead vocals and haunting harmonies light the way as the group travels through a landscape filled with the sounds of Americana.

The album opens with the gritty garage rock of title track "Walk On," then hitchhikes to classic country territory with "Killing Time in Nashville." After a dark American-gothic episode in "Hudson River Teenage Blues," the band stops by the roadside for the hillbilly stomp of "Goodbye Ohio." The album journeys through a land of longing and loneliness, and ends at the edge of the universe with the feedback-soaked psychedelia of "Golden Record."

Recorded at Delmark/Riverside Studios in Chicago, the album was made using vintage equipment from the legendary Chess Records. The Lost Cartographers revel in the romantic nostalgia of a time gone by, but push forward into new territories, hell-bent on never standing still.

Praise for Walk On:

One of our favorites of the year.

Songs filled with country, bluegrass, folk, jazz and rock.

Rustic indie rock that references the finer aspects of country music's past. Simultaneously affectionate and nostalgic.

The course they set is Americana, starting with garage(y) country rock. "Walk On" is like a female-fronted version of the Long Ryders, "Killing Time in Nashville" is purer country with the organ acting like runway landing lights showing where the voice should softly glide. There's some Knife in the Water style gothic country on "Hudson River Teenage Blues." (+)

They are particularly strong when the voices of Gabrielle Schafer and Erin Fusco join in harmony, sounding like fellow Chicagoans Freakwater on "Goodbye Ohio," "Proposal" or "Love in the Morning." "Golden Record" pushes the vocals up a notch, the organ pulses like a satellite circling the rhythm section, the guitars are roused from the slumber of the preceding tracks and there is a major deviation from the template as it threatens to go all Sun Ra on us.

Chicago's indie rock scene is no stranger to Americana influences, and The Lost Cartographers are one of the newest local acts to explore the sound, making bittersweet, nostalgic music that summons thoughts of country towns and railroad tracks. The band recently completed their debut LP, Walk On, a strong collection of 10 original songs built on a solid alt-country foundation. What's most refreshing about the group's debut, though, is that it proves they aren't content to stick to a single formula. It isn't rare for Americana-influenced records to sound overly sleepy and samey, but Walk On makes it clear the quintet are forging a more diverse path. From the upbeat, poppy opening title track to the slightly psychedelic vibe of closing song "Golden Record," the band keep their sound fresh and avoid settling into a rut. Along the way they serve up American noir ("Hudson River Teenage Blues"), hoedown fun ("Goodbye Ohio"), classic storyteller country ("Big Old House") and simple sweetness ("Proposal"). Lead singer Gabrielle Schafer adds significantly to the material's charm with a pure, warm delivery that accentuates the expressive lyrics of principal songwriter Aaron Rester. The result is a memorable debut that will appeal to more than just fans of Americana and suggests a promising future.

Formed in 2007, The Lost Cartographers are a Chicago-based band that has so far released one full-length album, Walk On. On this release, the quintet displays a showcase of Americana highlights that has been matched by only a small list of new and upcoming artists over the past few years. (+)

The album features a delicate blend of both upbeat country-pop tracks, such as the title track "Walk On" and "Golden Record", as well as slower ballads. On the whole, these songs draw memories of a female-fronted Wilco circa A.M., combined with the electric organ the band has featured particularly in their most recent work. Overall, the timbre of Lost Cartographers combines both the old and new of Wilco's alt-country, folk, and Americana influences.

What stands out most on this record is not the Americana feel itself, however good that may be. Instead, lead vocalist Gabrielle Schafer shines through at all points, as her sound falls somewhere between the vocal essence of Natalie Merchant combined with a slight country-twang, reminiscent of Jenny Lewis. Schafer particularly carries the Lost Cartographers on their slower renditions. In particular, her presence transforms tracks such as "Killing Time in Nashville" and "Hudson River Teenage Blues" into works of beauty.

Make sure to check out the tracks below, "Walk On" and "Hudson River Teenage Blues" to see both sides the Lost Cartographers, and see for yourself why this band deserves more attention throughout the Americana music scene.

A fine debut album that references the finer aspects of country music's past but with a gritty Indie slant.

The Lost Cartographers are a five-piece band from Chicago and feature the intricate keyboard playing of Erin Fusco and the charmingly sultry vocals of Gabrielle Schafer. All 10 original songs on Walk On summon up images of the Mid-West, lonely bars, rides in big American sedan cars and the obligatory lost and broken loves. Opening track and title song "Walk On" conjures up memories of Lucinda Williams' poppier efforts with Gabrielle Schafer and Aaron Rester trading funky guitar licks over Erin Fusco's tinkling on the Hammond organ, in a tale of young love and its predictable tearful ending. The band gets its collective breath back on the slow and delicious "Killing Time in Nashville." (+)

The Lost Cartographers then descend into American Gothic territory; sending cold shivers down your back when Gabrielle tells a tale of yet another broken relationship in "Butterflies Fall;" only this time the girl involved is a mortician and then "Hudson River Teenage Blues" which would make the Handsome Family proud. The obligatory Country "broken marriage" song is delicately handled on "Big Old House;" which is so honest and desolate you wonder if it's written from personal experience. In my humble opinion it's certainly good enough to be recorded by Faith, Reba or even Dolly in the near future.

Gabrielle Schafer hits another peak with yet another of her own songs, "Love in the Morning," which is about a young housewife starting out on married life and asking "I want love in the morning/your hand in mine/ I want to know everything/The mundane and sublime." Walk On ends with a quirky country song "Golden Record" about a child's fascination with space travel but is full of sweet harmonies and even more delightful inter-guitar play. You will be delighted with Walk On and I'm also sure that they will go on to be a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic.