What You’re Listening To

We’re all ears. These are the songs, albums and mixes that music-minded locals recommend for your soundtrack of summer.


Chase Eslinger, managing partner at El Guapo’s Tequila + Tacos in West Des Moines, enjoys listening to blues and funk: “Music is one of the core ingredients in any bar or restaurant—it sets the ambiance. For El Guapo’s, I’m currently curating a playlist on Pandora that includes artists like Carlos Santana, Led Zeppelin, James Brown and Charles Bradley during happy hour. We then like to keep a cool, mellow vibe with some old- and new-school blues. When we’re cranking out cocktails and margaritas later at night, our staff likes to catch a funky vibe with our guests by playing Rufus and Chaka Khan’s ‘Tell Me Something Good.’ ”

Max Wellman, well-known jazz vocalist and a co-founder of Noce, considers the album “The Pursuit” by Jamie Cullum a masterpiece and a way to get hooked on the enduring jazz standards and popular songs typically considered to be part of the Great American Songbook. The album is a “wonderful mashup of modern arrangements of standards alongside brilliant originals [Cullum] wrote himself. Cullum bridges the gap between traditional and modern so seamlessly. Whether he’s covering Cole Porter or Rihanna—seriously!—you can always expect something profound. Cullum’s arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Not While I’m Around’ from ‘Sweeney Todd’ is unique and beautiful and certainly doesn’t sound like a decades-old show tune.”

Liz Brown, a photographer who specializes in shooting concerts, loves “Hopeless Wanderer” by Mumford and Sons: “ ‘I will learn to love the skies I’m under’: That lyric has stuck with me for nearly eight years. Learning to love implies that love didn’t come naturally or perhaps easily. At times, I have [struggled] to love both my physical location and my season of life. This song is like a mantra—a prayer—in those spaces: I am not alone in my wondering and my wandering.”              

–Karla Walsh

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