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Wolf People

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  • Steeple Steeple Quick View

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    Steeple is the first album proper from Wolf People and it represents the emergence of a fully fledged band from the fragmented, haunted bedroom meanderings of their Tidings singles compilation. Recorded in a converted chicken barn on the grounds of a 17th century Welsh mansion, Steeple takes on a heavier sound while maintaining the arabesque electric guitars, groove-laden drums and ethereal vocals that characterized its predecessor.
    1. Silbury Sands
    2. Tiny Circle
    3. Painted Cross
    4. Morning Born
    5. Cromlech
    6. One By One From Dorney Reach
    7. Castle Keep
    8. Banks of Sweet Dundee Pt. 1
    9. Banks of Sweet Dundee Pt. 2
    Wolf People
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Fain Fain Quick View

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    Recorded in a beautiful and isolated house in the Yorkshire Dales, Fain is the sound of a band at the peak of their creative powers. It's an honest and natural album that allows its stories, its melodies, its themes and structures to breathe. The album draws on more traditional English and Scottish folk melodies than anything they've done before, but not straying from the drop-out fuzz-rock route they've made their own, the influences are vast - British rock bands like Groundhogs, Dark, Mighty Baby and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac are evident in the swirling and distorted guitars throughout Fain, along with the 60s revival folk of Fairport Convention, Nic Jones, and Trees. Additionally they have looked towards Scandinavian's rich psychedelic tradition both new and old - you can hear the likes of Mecki Mark Men, Mikael Ramel and contemporaries Dungen. You can even hear the band's teenage forays into Hip-Hop in the drums of 'Thief' and 'Athol'.

    It rained constantly throughout the recording process and the house was so packed with gear and recording equipment the band were forced to sleep in tents and caravans parked outside. Whilst performing, they could look out into the vast countryside and catch sight of buzzards, hares, curlews and hundreds upon hundreds of crows and gulls. The fire was on permanently, overnight and throughout the day. A serene experience that informs every track on the album. It was mixed and finished in the equally rainy London, with additional performances from Olivia Chaney on piano and backing vocals, plus Nic Kearey and Rachel Davies of Stick in the Wheel and Various (XL). Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes) recorded backing vocals in Vancouver remotely for All Returns.

    As evidenced by the first single All Returns, Fain is more lyrically focused than anything they've previously recorded.. The song tells the story of a dream Jack Sharp (guitars/vocals) had during which an acquaintance had looked into his eyes and seen into his soul whilst calmly describing his faults and inner demons, a truly cathartic experience. However, says Sharp, his life is largely too banal for material and he largely draws upon snapshots of history to furnish him with the ideas for lyrics. Stand out track Thief is taken from various stories of highwaymen that had been made famous by broadsheet ballads and plays - the likes of Charles Peace, William Nevison, Jonathan Wild and Jack Sheppard. He delivers this story in first person, almost as if he is playing the part of a complete degenerate with little or no conscience or morals. As Sharp says, It's like a form of tourism. You can visit but not live in the mind of an appalling human being.

    Empty Vessels
    All Returns
    When the Fire is Dead in the Grate
    Wolf People
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Tidings Tidings Quick View

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    Tidings is the first dark and frenzied offering from London's Wolf People - an alchemistic compendium of English classic rock that has been doused in wine, its pages left red-stained, blurred and melded in the most interesting ways. The tunes themselves are full of hissing guitars, distorted blues harmonica, acid rock, mystical flutes and crackling tape, often based on updated versions of classic blues structures and half-remembered English folk songs.
    1. Season Pt. 1
    2. Black Water
    3. Interlude: Plains/Banjoe
    4. Cotton Strands
    5. Interlude: Circle/Viking/Colours
    6. Storm Cloud
    7. Interlude: Grandfather
    8. Interlude: Scraps
    9. October Fires
    10. Interlude: Mercy Fragment
    11. April
    12. Untitled
    13. Interlude: Cotton Fragment
    14. Empty Heart
    15. Season Pt. 2
    Wolf People
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate Quick View

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    When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate

    Two Brand New Exclusive Tracks

    700 Limited Edition Copies

    Following Wolf People's critically acclaimed 2013 release, Fain, comes this 4-track 12
    featuring two of the album's most accomplished songs and two brand new tracks. When the
    Fire is Dead in the Grate has quickly been established as a fan-favorite throughout venues
    during their European tour. Stewart Lee described the song as ....the album's first stone
    classic, a funky folk-metal workout that trails off into a compellingly extended coda, both
    guitarists circling and dovetailing and spiraling. A brand new track, Become the Ground,
    breaks new ground for the band, being, perhaps, their most obviously folk-influenced song to
    date. It's a beautiful duet between lead singer Jack Sharp and guest vocalist Nicola Keary before
    the song breaks into a swirling psychedelic jam.

    The B-side of the 12" is made up of the first
    track fans heard on Fain, All Returns, but now coupled with All Returns Part II, the song's
    original extended outro. It's Wolf People at their best, locking into a masterful groove, razor
    sharp guitars lines interlocking and intertwining.

    1. When The Fire Is Dead in the Grate
    2. Become The Ground
    3. All Returns
    4. All Returns Part II
    Wolf People
    Vinyl EP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Silence & Tears Silence & Tears Quick View

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    Silence & Tears

    Kent-based sextet Galley Beggar - who take their name from a mischievous spirit in English folklore - describe their mission as 'to imagine the next phase of English folk-rock' on their third album, Silence & Tears. "We've always loved English folk, but when we formed in 2009 it felt like nothing much was happening to carry the style forward," says guitarist Mat Fowler, "so we thought, we love listening to folk-rock and we love playing it - why not try to write something in that vein?"

    The results can be heard on their earlier albums, Reformation House and Galley Beggar, and now on Silence & Tears. "Our first record was very folky," reflects Mat, "but since then we've moved towards a more electric rock feel." Indeed, the eight tracks on the new album span traditional song, Gothic balladry and peculiarly British acid rock, the mood alternately fragile and robust, with sweet vocal harmonies (led by Maria O'Donnell), lyrical guitar playing from Mat and his cohort David Ellis, and added texture from the violin of Celine Marshall (calling to mind Mr. Fox's Carolanne Pegg), all anchored by Bill Lynn's steady bass and Paul Dadswell's deft drumming. The material spans reworkings of the ancient classics Geordie and Jack Orion, brooding ballads like Adam & Eve and the otherworldy Empty Sky, and the intense 9-minute epic Pay My Body Home, which triumphantly recalls folk-rock's early 70s glory days.

    Silence & Tears may echo centuries of folk tradition, but its crisp, punchy sound is resolutely modern, despite calling on retro flourishes such as phasing, wah-wah and backwards guitar. Much of that is down to the fact that it was recorded at the profoundly analogue Toe Rag studios, where White Stripes, Tame Impala, the Zutons and many others have also worked with renowned producer-engineer Liam Watson. "We made our first two albums ourselves," says Mat, "so this was the first time someone else has produced us. Recording at Toe Rag was just wonderful - to see all that incredible gear at work, and to have a tangible recording experience rather than staring at a screen, was amazing. And watching Liam at work is mesmerising - the sounds he gets onto tape are better than they are in real life!"

    In an era when bands such as Trembling Bells, Circulus and Wolf People have brought folk-rock to the fore again, the hypnotic interplay and inspired jamming on Silence & Tears is sure to find an enthusiastic audience. "We've already got a few festivals lined up this summer, including Leigh Folk Festival and Wessex Festival, and several other shows are still being arranged," says Mat. "It's an honour to be compared to other folk-rock bands - but we like to think we've got something of our own to offer too."

    1. Adam And Eve
    2. Pay My Body Home
    3. Empty Sky
    4. Jack Onion
    5. Geordie
    6. Silence And Tears
    7. Sanctuary Song
    8. Deliver Him
    Galley Beggar
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Home Wrecking Years Home Wrecking Years Quick View

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    Home Wrecking Years

    Brendan Canning is the co-founder of the Toronto supergroup Broken Social Scene that includes members of Metric, Do Make Say Think, Stars, as well as Grammy-nominated Feist. One of the most enduring and influential alternative bands of the 00s. Their record 'You Forgot It In People' defined the "indie rock" era and paved the way for Canadian acts like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade to break out. Canning's third solo album, 'Home Wrecking Years', is his first release with a full band since Broken Social Scene's 2010 release 'Forgiveness Rock Record'.

    *'Home Wrecking Years' is backyard barbecue-ready indie album with heavy summertime vibes. Smart and breezy 4-minute pop tunes that run the gamut from 90s-era college rock to tropical baroque pop.

    1. Book It to Fresno
    2. Vibration Walls
    3. Keystone Dealers
    4. Hey Marika
    5. Once I Was a Runner
    6. Nashville Late Pass
    7. Work Out In the Wash
    8. Money Mark
    9. Sleeping Birds Like Lazers
    10. Ana Don't Leave
    Brendan Canning
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • It's All Aquatic It's All Aquatic Quick View

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    It's All Aquatic

    First release from the new Chigliak label curated by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. LP comes with a download of unreleased recordings of the Ev Sessions recorded by Minneapolis studio great Ev Olcott.

    It's a difficult task to write about Amateur Love. The band was the singular catalyst in founding Chigliak. What Amateur Love means to the history of Eau Claire music is representative of everything we set out to illuminate with this record label. Our goal is to release records that hold weight in people's hearts. For us, it's notable to point out that one person's favorite record of all time may have only existed in bedrooms that were within 100 miles of each other.

    There seems to be a premium on popularity in popular music. When an artist sells records to people all over the world, their music is then validated by a larger social contract. But Amateur Love is the most popular band Eau Claire has ever known, and for good reason. It is not in our estimation that the re-issuing of It's All Aquatic will project the band into that great popularity. No, we just hope to give the music a further chance to live on, for those who adored and those who never had the chance.

    Josh Scott was the ambassador of my heart for many years. While both songwriters in Eau Claire, we were close friends and admired each other's music. It was obvious to both of us, however, who the better writer was. Josh was writing songs that were both more mature and masterful than mine. His songs came from a perspective as snarly as Paul Westerberg, as enchanting as Neil Young, yet he wielded power as beguiling and unique as any songwriter I've ever heard. Nestling himself around Brad and Phil Cook (Megafaun) and Brian Moen (Peter Wolf Crier, Laarks and Shouting Matches), who stretched themselves outside their own comfort zones into those of un-tapped electronic pop, Amateur Love became one of the most enigmatic and electrifying bands I have ever known. With local-legend Jaime Hansen engineering, the band was caught at the rise to their peak of musical power on It's All Aquatic in 2003.

    What you have here is Amateur Love's one and only full-length, initially only released on CD, now reissued as a 12" vinyl LP. Included is a special download of unreleased recordings that I have come to know as the Ev Sessions; recorded by Ev Olcott, the great master of Minneapolis studio magic and former member of 12Rods and Halloween, Alaska. Ev produced these sessions after the release of It's All Aquatic sometime in 2004. These sessions are considered 'un-finished' by the band but stand as a fantastic 'what could have been' document. Amateur Love gets to always live on, through the grooves on our turntables now. Enjoy. We all did. - Justin Vernon

    1. Huddle
    2. Con/A Sewer/Cat
    3. (Absolut Fiction)
    4. Sell Me Your Army
    5. Numbers
    6. Gradfadhadya
    7. Ether Egg Hunt
    8. I Need You Now
    9. Say You're Mine
    Amateur Love
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Popular Manipulations Popular Manipulations Quick View

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    Popular Manipulations

    It's not uncommon for musicians to grow and evolve between releases-but even by those standards, the Districts' Popular Manipulations is stunning. The Pennsylvania-borne band's third full-length represents an exponential leap in sound and cohesion, an impressive and impassioned burn with a wide scope that threatens to swallow everything else surrounding it. Perhaps it's a clichÉ to say so, but while listening, you might find yourself wondering why people don't make indie rock like this anymore.

    The total electric charge of Popular Manipulations is just the latest evolution for the impressively young quartet, whose founding members-vocalist/guitarist Rob Grote, bassist Connor Jacobus, and drummer Braden Lawrence-have known each other since attending grade school together in the Pennsylvania town of Lititz. After deciding to form a band in high school, the Districts gigged hard in the tri-state area, releasing a slew of promising material (including the rootsy 2012 debut Telephone) before catching the eye of venerable indie Fat Possum. 2015's A Flourish and a Spoil found the band refining their embryonic sound with veteran producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Kurt Vile)-and looking back on that release, there are glimmers of Popular Manipulations in chrysalis form to be found on it, hints of the fence-swinging anthemic sound they'd soon make wholly their own.

    After touring behind A Flourish and a Spoil, Grote began playing with different ideas in his own songwriting by making demos at a prolific pace. We knew that we wanted to change some things musically, so we were trying to come up with as many songs as possible to narrow the direction we wanted to take the material, he states. In total, they ended up with 50 song ideas, and so they were off to LA in May of 2016 with new guitarist Pat Cassidy in tow to log more recording time with Congleton, with four of Popular Manipulations' songs coming out of the sessions.

    We have a lot of overlapping tastes and preferences for how things are made, Grote gushes about working with the notably reliable studio wizard-but acceding all credit to Congleton (who also handled the record's mixdown) would be shortchanging the Districts themselves, who went on to self-produce the remainder of the record in Philadelphia with engineer Keith Abrams. Something we took from working with Congleton was ideas on arranging songs, Grote explains, and they certainly learned a lot: Popular Manipulations is a raucous and impressively thick-sounding album, overflowing with toothy melodies that pack a serious punch.

    The distinctly intense sound of Popular Manipulations-charging guitars, thunderous drumming, and Grote's searing vocals-was brought on by a few cited influences, from shoegaze's aggressive swirl to the Velvet Underground's impeccable drone-rock sound. There's a distinctly Canadian flavor to this brand of indie rock, too; Spencer Krug's anthemic, lushly inscrutable work in Wolf Parade and his defunct Sunset Rubdown side project comes to mind, as does 2000s Toronto barnburners the Diableros' overlooked 2006 gem You Can't Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts.

    But don't mistake easy comparisons for a lack of originality: on Popular Manipulations, the District are in a lane entirely their own, exploring lyrical themes of isolation and abandonment in a way that ups the music's already highly charged emotional quotient. Capable finds Grote turning his focus to the ruinous aftermath of divorce, and Before I Wake is, in his words, About coming to terms with being isolated or alone-even though we have a whole group of voices singing the whole time. Grote explains that even the title of the record touches on these universal concerns: It hints at how people use each other, for good or bad, and the personal ways you manipulate yourself and other people in day-to-day interactions.

    For such weighty thematic material, though, Popular Manipulations is purely life-affirming rock music, bursting with energy that cuts through the darkness of the world that surrounds us. We're a much better distillation of who we wish to be as a band, Grote reflects on the journey that has led the Districts to this point. We've figured out how to distill the things we've been trying to accomplish as a band, musically and lyrically. We've always viewed making music as something we're trying to do better the whole time. Mission accomplished.

    1. If Before I Wake
    2. Violet
    3. Ordinary Day
    4. Salt
    5. Why Would I Wanna Be
    6. Point
    7. Airplane
    8. Fat Kiddo
    9. Capable
    10. Rattling of the Heart
    11. Will You Please Be Quiet Please?
    The Districts
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Johnny Winter (Speakers Corner) Johnny Winter (Speakers Corner) Quick View

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    Johnny Winter (Speakers Corner)

    When an international weekly magazine calls a musician the »white pope of black art«, then it sounds suspiciously like charitableness towards a blues musician in his prime, whose good years are in the past. As if! In the case of Johnny Winter, the reviews of his 2011 tour were just as glowing as in his early years, when Rolling Stone magazine described the gaunt Mississippi bard as »a cross-eyed albino with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest fluid blues guitar you have ever heard«. Intentional or not: Winter was able to win for himself some of the 'rocker' laurels that were reserved for the young Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. But Winter let everyone know that he was only interested in the blues, gutsy, evoking Howlin' Wolf's and Muddy Waters' growling groove, yet nimble-fingered enough on the strings to conjure up astoundingly sleek garlands of sound that fit precisely into each bar of music.

    Winter remains pretty cool when people attempt to identify personal afflictions in his music: When I play blues, I feel good he stated recently to a journalist. That the same goes for over 40 years ago is substantiated by both sides of this debut album.


    • Johnny Winter (guitar, harmonica, vocal)

    • Edgar Winter (piano, alto saxophone)

    • Albert Wynn Butler (tenor saxophone)

    • Karl Garin (trumpet)

    • Norman Ray (bassoon)

    • Walter 'Shakey' Horton (harmonica)

    • Willie Dixon (bass)

    • Tommy Shannon (bass)

    • 'Uncle' John Turner (drums, percussion)

    Recording: 1969

    Production: Johnny Winter

    About Speakers Corner

    At the beginning of the 90s, in the early days of audiophile vinyl re-releases, the situation was fairly straightforward. Companies such as DCC, Mobile Fidelity, Classic Records and, of course, Speakers Corner all maintained a mutual, unwritten ethical code: we would only use analogue tapes to manufacture records.

    During the course of the present vinyl hype, many others have jumped on the bandwagon in the hope of securing a corner of the market. Very often they are not so ethical and use every imaginable source to master from: CDs, LPs, digital files, MP3s - or employed existant tools from the 80s and 90s for manufacturing.

    A digital delay is gladly used when cutting a lacquer disc because tape machines with an analogue delay have become quite rare and are therefore expensive. When cutting the lacquer, the audio signal is delayed by one LP revolution against the signal, which controls the cutter head, and for this a digital delay is very often employed. Of course, the resultant sound signal is completely digital and thus only as good as this delay.

    We should like to emphasise that Speakers Corner Records on principle only uses the original master tape as the basis for the entirely analogue cutting of lacquer discs. In addition, the pressing tool is newly manufactured as a matter of principle. We have one digital recording in our catalogue (Alan Parsons / Eye In The Sky"), but even in this particular case we used the analogue tapes for cutting.

    We only employ existing tools for manufacturing if an improved result is not forthcoming, e.g. the title Elvis Is Back, which was mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, or several titles from our Philips Classics series, which in any case Willem Makkee cut from the original masters at the Emil Berliner Studios in the 90s. It goes without saying that we only used the mother and that new tools were made for our production.

    To put it in a nutshell: we can ensure you that our releases are free from any kind of digital effects - excluding the exception above - and that the lacquer discs are newly cut.

    1. I'm Yours & I'm Hers
    2. Be Careful With a Fool
    3. Dallas
    4. Mean Mistreater
    5. Leland Mississippi Blues
    6. Good Morning Little School Girl
    7. When You Got A Good Friend
    8. I'll Drown In My Tears
    9. Back Door Friend
    Johnny Winter
    180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • We're All Gonna Die We're All Gonna Die Quick View

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    We're All Gonna Die

    Dawes' highly anticipated new album We're All Gonna Die will be released via the band's own HUB Records.

    Of the album, Taylor Goldsmith (guitar, vocals) explains, "Pretty much every song on this record explores a difficult situation and tries to find a way to find the good in it, or at least remind yourself that it's not always that big of a deal. After all, as scary as it is, we are all gonna die."

    The album was produced by Grammy nominated producer Blake Mills (Alabama Shakes) and includes backing vocals from Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius, Mandy Moore and Will Oldham.

    Dawes has toured extensively playing headline shows worldwide and major festival appearances including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and Newport Folk Festival. Recently, they have toured with My Morning Jacket, Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, Conor Oberst, and Jackson Browne.

    In the fall of 2014, Goldsmith contributed to Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, an album project which found collaborators Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) and producer T Bone Burnett writing and creating music for a treasure trove of recently discovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of the legendary Basement Tapes.

    Fellow collaborator Jim James proclaims about We're All Gonna Die, "The record sounds so fresh-yet fills me with a strange nostalgia for things that haven't happened yet...I hear it at the beach and blasting out of car windows on future summer nights...easily having become a natural part of people's lives."

    1. One Of Us
    2. We're All Gonna Die
    3. Roll With The Punches
    4. Picture Of A Man
    5. Less Than Five Miles Away
    6. Roll Tide
    7. When The Tequila Runs Out
    8. For No Good Reason
    9. Quitter
    10. As If By Design
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Break Line: The Musical Break Line: The Musical Quick View

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    Break Line: The Musical

    Limited To 2000

    On a front porch in Philadelphia in early 2004, Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon sat with a guitar and a
    banjo and busily finger picked to keep their hands from freezing.After a few false starts they settled on a dirge
    in d-minor and began improvising lyrics about a labor conflict in a Western Pennsylvania coal town that their
    fathers had learned about from an old folk song taught in Quaker schools in the '50s.

    The facts, as communicated,were a half-remembered pastiche of de facto segregation, frayed family ties, and
    double-dealing.The principal heroes and villains of the story were lost to history and buried in mine shafts and
    unmarked graves, and the particulars of the outcome were primarily recorded on newspapers lost in
    warehouse fires and floods. Nevertheless,the tragedy struck both as an ideal thread to weave through a series
    of stories they had been telling each other about a town full of unlucky,love lorn people. Inspired by the classic
    rock operas of the 1970's and the golden age of musical theater,they began work on their own

    Wilder and Kardon spent the next several years traveling, each writing and tinkering with songs about their
    town and sending each other hastily recorded demos and fragments of lyrics. The story of Greenbelt grew and
    the cast of characters, from robber barons to union men, migrant farmers to crooked ministers, became
    fleshed out. They enlisted friends from myriad bands: Austin Fisher (Suckers), Haley Dekle (the Dirty
    Projectors), Ira Wolf Tuton and Christopher Keating (Yeasayer), Ryan Kattner (Man Man), Britt Myers
    (Chairlift), and Aku Orraca-Tetteh (Dragons of Zynth) to sing the parts of the town's luckless citizens.

    In 2008, they put together a core band featuring Ira on bass and Christopher Powell of Man Man on drums
    and began arranging the songs of Break Line for a full ensemble. With the help of recording wunderkind Britt
    Myers (Chairlift, Yeasayer, Passing Strange) they finally began putting the music down onto tape,staying up
    late experimenting with sounds and arrangements.

    In the years that followed,the two found moments whenever they could to complete the project. Neither can
    believe that what started with just the two of them huddled on a cold porch would grow to involve a once-in-a-lifetime cast of collaborators. A decade after its conception, they are proud to present to the public their
    vision of a classic story of betrayal, pride and lost love.

    Welcome to Greenbelt.

    Singers: Aku Orraca-Tetteh, Christopher Keating (Yeasayer). Haley Dekly (Dirty Projectors), Quinn Walker,
    Austin Fisher(Suckers), Ryan Kattner (Man Man),Tanya Houndsley, Cameron Hull, Anand Wilder

    Musicians: IraWolf Tuton (Yeasayer) ,James Richardson,Christopher Sean Powell,Jason Trammell (Sinkane),
    K Ishibashi, Austin Fisher, Steve Marion (Delicate Steve), Lyndon Cordero Lopez, Daniel Schleifer, Charles
    Christopher Erway, Tanya Houndsley

    1. Coal Into Diamonds
    2. Wedding Day
    3. Opportunity
    4. Hold You Tight
    5. They're Stealing Our Coal
    6. 4th Of July
    7. Better To Die
    8. It Doesn't Seem Right
    9. Fathers and Brothers
    10. I'm To Blame
    11. Hang Your Head High
    Anand Wilder & Maxwell Kardon
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Babel Babel Quick View

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    Babel follows the 2009 release of Mumford & Sons' debut album, Sigh No More. It is produced by Markus Dravs.

    Fantastic 4 Star review from American Songwriter!

    There are some guitar sounds so indelibly stuck into our collective pop-consciousness that even those who can't tell a minor from a major chord can identify the band or player from just a few riffs -a dreamy John Lennon lick, the cosmic climb of Joe Perry, Slash's slash, Nirvana's fuzzy-barre rips, the post-punk fury of Sonic Youth. Now, the chugging, kinetic strum of Mumford & Sons is slowly creeping onto this revered list - not born out of extreme skill or virtuosity but by sheer branding, note for note. And it's how the band's second album, Babel, opens on the title track: with that same very strum, born somewhere between English mountain folk and an old time Appalachia. You can nearly hear the sweat flying off Marcus Mumford, his Martin instrument hiked high on his chest, every time he and banjo player Winston Marshall attack their strings.

    So it's no coincidence, it seems, that the band's highly anticipated sophomore record begins exactly where we might expect, and the rest of LP that follows proves that this isn't an attempt to smash any expectations with a sudden progression of their style. For those devotees looking for the Mumfords to evolve drastically, well, you're out of luck. But who would that audience be, anyway? The band is no doubt polarizing: old time and bluegrass faithfuls wouldn't be caught dead with a copy of Sigh No More, and their most ardent followers are more likely to have an iPod stocked with Coldplay and John Mayer than Bill Monroe or Doc Watson. Even pop addicts can't deny the catchy craft of "Little Lion Man" or "The Cave." No one is looking for their Kid A. Thus Babel's not a new sentence in the book of Mumford & Sons - it's what happens after an ellipses. And in many ways, that suits them just fine. It will most definitely suit their fans.

    Marcus Mumford has always been a bit of a melancholy fellow, and even a marriage to pixie-haired starlet Carey Mulligan, sold-out shows and Grammy nominations haven't shaken the teary introspection from this set of songs. Obviously, Babel deals in a lot of religious imagery and lyrics - with all the success and opportunities to indulge, it seems the boys have taken a moment to ask a few questions of their maker. "This cup of yours tastes holy/but a brush with the devil can clear your mind," Mumford sings on the second track "Whispers in the Dark." It's an anthem call with a firm statement: "I'm a cad but I'm not a I'm not a fraud / I set out to serve the lord." Maybe the trials and tribulations of being simultaneously loved and harangued have worn on the Mumford's, but at least they can prove to themselves, their audience or even their lord that this stuff comes from the heart.

    The album's single, "I Will Wait," is an easy crowd-pleaser moment with an arena-ready hushed chorus, set to those furious strings. The lyric and melody could easily be a Fray song if you removed the plucking banjo -and that's the amazing thing about Mumford & Sons. Purists aside, there's no one else that can get an audience from ages eight to eighty screaming along to a bunch of acoustic instruments or urge a kid to choose guitar lessons over computer games. Every time they perform - live or on Babel - they do it with sheer fervor, as if it's both their first and last time.

    While the band is mostly known for their "Americana" sound, they also pull references from their side of the pond: from both classic British countryside folk and Celtic punk bands like The Pogues. Those influences run a little more clear on Babel - "Ghosts That We Knew" and "Reminder" are both soft, melancholy stunners born out of grassy hills and cockney-tinged tales told in wood-paneled bars. And "Broken Crown" is the boys at their angriest yet: "I'll never be your chosen one," Mumford sings lightly before launching into an all-out war over minstrel plucks. It's a force of a song, and not your firmest pick nor hard-earned callous could weather that storm.

    Babel has some other unexpected moments, too, like on "Hopeless Wanderer," which begins with keys instead of strum, and "Lover of the Light" is a sunnier moment, perhaps a nod to the singer's recent vows ("to have and to hold," Mumford howls on the track). And the album's closer, "Not Without Haste," is a beautiful lullaby meant more for singing a restless man to sleep than a still-innocent child.

    There's also a continuation of the Mumford's love of literary references, with the boys even copping recently to ripping a line from Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall - this is the band, after all, that was able to loop Macbeth's fateful cry of "stars, hide your fires" into their rollicking song "Roll Away Your Stone." So while the album title, Babel, is most likely a biblical reference, it's hard not to think of Jorge Louis Borges' short story, The Library of Babel. In it Borges imagines a universe composed of an endless library that contains every book in every possible permutation, and, therefore, nothing at all. This excess causes great despair for people of the library as they try to search for meaning in all of it. They fret. They come up empty.

    Babel may not hold all the answers, and it may not be some exotic transformation of their original formula - it's a safe bet to say that nothing from the Mumford & Sons may ever be. In The Library of Babel, the final realization that everything repeats itself is the universe's saving grace. And in Babel, you could say the same. Though there may not be endless possibilities, there's comfort - elegance, even - in that familiar, now nearly iconic rip of those strings, strummed in the way only those boys from West London can strum. It's not perfect, but it's perfectly Mumford & Sons.

    1. Babel
    2. Whispers In The Dark
    3. I Will Wait
    4. Holland Road
    5. Ghosts That We Knew
    6. Lover Of The Light
    7. Lovers' Eyes
    8. Reminder
    9. Hopeless Wanderer
    10. Broken Crown
    11. Below My Feet
    12. Not With Haste
    Mumford And Sons
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • The Smile Sessions The Smile Sessions Quick View

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    The Smile Sessions

    With the full participation of original Beach Boys Al Jardine, Mike Love, and Brian Wilson, Capitol/EMI has, for the first time, collected and compiled the bands legendary 1966-67 sessions for the never-completed SMiLE album.

    In numerous sessions between the spring of 1966 and the summer of 1967, The Beach Boys recorded a bounty of songs and drafts for an album, SMiLE, that was intended to follow the band's 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds. The master tapes were ultimately shelved, and The Beach Boys' SMiLE has never been released. Drawn from the original masters, The SMiLE Sessions presents an in-depth overview of The Beach Boys' recording sessions for the enigmatic album, which has achieved legendary, mythical status for music fans around the world.

    The SMiLE Sessions double vinyl LP features an approximation of what was intended to be the completed SMiLE album, compiled from The Beach Boys original session masters. Additional session highlights and bonus tracks are also included, including demos and stereo mixes.

    Produced by Brian Wilson, Mark Linett, Alan Boyd and Dennis Wolfe in Los Angeles The SMiLE Sessions 2LP Set includes an assembled collection of core session tracks. The SMiLE Sessions invites the listener into the studio to experience the album's creation, with producer, singer and bassist Brian Wilson's vision leading the way as he guides his fellow Beach Boys, singer Mike Love, drummer Dennis Wilson, lead guitarist Carl Wilson, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine, and newest member Bruce Johnston (who'd replaced Brian Wilson in the touring group during 1965), through the legendary sessions.

    Artwork for The SMiLE Sessions has been created with and inspired by Beat-Pop artist Frank Holmes original 1967 LP sleeve art and booklet designs intended for the SMiLE album.

    When Capitol/EMI and The Beach Boys first announced plans for The SMiLE Sessions 2011 release, the news spread rapidly. Pitchfork reported, The Beach Boys SMiLE is quite possibly the most storied album in rock history, Billboard proclaimed the upcoming release an event that pop music fans have been waiting for since the Summer of Love, and The Washington Post called SMiLE the most legendary unreleased album of all time.

    The best efforts have been taken by The Beach Boys, the producers, and Capitol/EMI to present the SMiLE album sessions most vital and fascinating elements. However, there will no doubt be some debate amongst Beach Boys fans around the world who, during the past four decades, have become familiar with a variety of widely-traded bootlegged bits and pieces from the sessions. As recently explained by the Detroit Metro Times, No album, released or not, has generated a more personal relationship with its audience, since no two people can ever agree on its content and purpose.

    Beginning with Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys best-selling record in a long string of hits, Brian Wilson had begun to construct songs in a modular form, crafting individual sections that would later be edited together to form a coherent whole. In several intense bursts of creative energy, Wilson, drawing on the talents of the finest studio musicians in Los Angeles and utilizing the best studio facilities available on any given day, laid down dozens of musical fragments, all designed to fit together in any number of possible combinations. No one had done this before in pop music, and his next endeavor would be an album-length version of this unique and luxurious songwriting parlance: SMiLE.

    In 1965, Brian Wilson met an up-and-coming session keyboard player and songwriter, Van Dyke Parks. Noticing Parks' conversational eloquence, Wilson felt that he could help to volley The Beach Boys songwriting into the wave of broader-messaged and socially-conscious rock 'n' roll that would come to define the '60s. They were soon collaborating on keynote songs for SMiLE, including Heroes And Villains, the bands follow-up single to Good Vibrations. Wilson and Parks would also co-write Surf's Up, Vega-Tables, Cabin Essence, Do You Like Worms, Wonderful, Wind Chimes, and other pieces of the SMiLE tapestry. Parks also introduced Frank Holmes to create album sleeve art and a booklet interpreting the albums James Joyce-mode lyrics.

    The reason SMiLE did not see a release in 1967 had more to do with back room business that obscured the creative side of the program than anything else. In late 1966, The Beach Boys formed Brother Records, initially to produce outside artists. Soon, however, The Beach Boys would become embroiled in a court action with Capitol Records with the goal to become the top-selling artists on their self-owned, independent label. The group withheld Heroes And Villains and announced they would instead release Vega-Tables recorded with the bands own money in April of '67 on Brother Records. By July of 1967, Capitol Records and The Beach Boys had come to terms, with Capitol agreeing to distribute the bands Brother Records, and it was agreed that SMiLE was no longer to be the bands next album.

    LP 1
    Side 1
    1. Our Prayer
    2. Gee
    3. Heroes and Villains
    4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
    5. I'm In Great Shape
    6. Barnyard
    7. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine)
    8. Cabin Essence

    Side 2
    1. Wonderful
    2. Look (Song for Children)
    3. Child Is Father Of the Man
    4. Surf's Up

    LP 2
    Side 3
    1. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop
    2. Vega-Tables
    3. Holidays
    4. Wind Chimes
    5. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)
    6. Love to Say Dada
    7. Good Vibrations

    Side 4
    1. You're Welcome (stereo mix)
    2. Vega-Tables (stereo mix)
    3. Wind Chimes (stereo mix)
    4. Cabin Essence (Session highlights and stereo backing track)
    5. Surf's Up (Session Excerpt and Stereo mix)

    The Beach Boys
    Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
  • Here Come The Runts Here Come The Runts Quick View

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    Here Come The Runts

    Multi-platinum artist AWOLNATION's third studio album 'Here Come The Runts' has been released by Red Bull Records.

    "When all else is taken away, as long as your passion remains, anything is still possible," says singer, songwriter and producer Aaron Bruno. "'Passion' is about finding the balance that can lift both you and those around you to make the world a more positive place. It doesn't matter what names or labels people throw at you."

    Serving as a follow up to the platinum-certified debut album Megalithic Symphony, and 2015's Run, which included No. 1 hit "Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)" as well as Top 5 tracks "I Am" and "Woman Woman," AWOLNATION's third undertaking sees Aaron Bruno once again at the helm producing, writing and recording. "With this record I really wanted to make a rock n' roll/pop album." says Bruno. "And I say 'pop' how I grew up listening to it, in the sense of Dire Straits or Born In The U.S.A or The Cars or Tom Petty."

    Bruno spent 2016 crafting the album in his home studio nestled in the coastal mountain range separating the Pacific Ocean and the suburbs of Los Angeles where he grew up. The secluded location is reflected throughout the album. "The record definitely has a feel to it that seems parallel to the vibe of this mountain and the land," Bruno notes. "It's like a non-GMO record. There's no fake shit on there, none of the vocals are tuned. It's all real playing."

    With the albums he grew up listening to as a sort of goal post, Bruno set out to create his version of an all-American rock n' roll album; 2017, AWOLNATION style. "I wanted to make an album that felt like the dream of America that isn't necessarily true, certainly not as much as it once was. Or maybe it never has been but the idea of when you listen you just feel this nostalgic sentiment of a high school reunion, or that girl you fell in love with that you never got to talk to in junior high The feeling of unity and anthemic songs. The spirit of what I thought Born In The U.S.A was is what inspired this record in a lot of ways."

    1. Here Come the Runts
    2. Passion
    3. Sound Witness System
    4. Miracle Man
    5. Handyman
    6. Jealous Buffoon
    7. Seven Sticks of Dynamite
    8. A Little Luck...And a Couple of Dogs
    9. Table for One
    10. My Molasses
    11. Cannonball
    12. Tall, Tall Tale
    13. The Buffoon
    14. Stop That Train
    Vinyl LP - Sealed PRE-ORDER Buy Now
  • Little Death Shaker Little Death Shaker Quick View

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    Little Death Shaker

    Stripped of all noise influences and focusing on straight-up songs, Little Death Shaker is a record evocative of late nights and dusty parking lots, long drives and boozy hookups. This is the work of a dude who's spent his youth and young manhood on tour and it comes through in both the music and the lyrics. Where Castanets' lyrics gave us Ray Carver-ian fragments and it's-what-you-leave-out-that-counts minimalism, here we see Raposa back from the battleground with stories to tell.

    This is the most lyric-heavy Raposa's been and it's also the most playful and humorous, and you get the feeling some of these songs would be the ones that would go down best near 2am at some weird sports bar dive in southeast Alabama/Iowa/Mississippi. (We can just see some big biker dude/fallen NASCAR star/Gary Busey lookalike sitting back-to-bar, Bud in hand, having a good-natured laugh over the punchline from Some of My Friends or the WTF premise of the Dan Reeder penned You'll Never Surf Again.)

    The record begins with fighting spirit. Allegiance comes on with a punch of electric guitar and Raposa singing I woke up feeling/bold as shit. It's his rowdiest and most confident song to date, a real knockabout that'll take you by surprise if you're used to Castanets. Up next the title track verges on Queen (Flash Gordon soundtrack?) and Some of My Friends is a barnburner with the ghosts old Sun Studios players holding court.

    Highlights are many. The dark-as-Skoal interstate roller Whippoorwill, the slowly ramping Some Kind of Fool, which rolls easy and pretty with backup vocals from Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent before building to a shitkicking rock 'n' roll peak where we find Raposa delivering some of his best and most racy lyrics, singing the very un-indie-rock, I could spend this good money wherever I care to/taste all the honies that I choose /lay myself down beside anyone's flower/all alive in the morning with the dew. It's a song about libertine freedom and heartbreak ignored and taking the bull by the horns and being, well, kind of a bastard.

    More highlights: Castanets collaborator Talia Gordon taking main vocals on You're Not Standing Like You Used To (Kate Wolf); the after-afterhours minor chord jam Stateline, Little Death Shaker's most ruckus track of all, a late-night spent trapped in the stripclub/rig cab/country bar/tour van/your own damn head. At 10 minutes it's a tale of drugs and wayward love, a real red-lit kind of aloneness, backed by a legit live crawl, with high and ghostly organ and distorted vocals crackling like a bad CB connection.

    With Meridian, Raposa and Houck bring back the vibe of Some Kind of Fool and take it on a humid trip through the deepest South, gators in the water, snakes in the sand, a stormhead looming over the sun-dappled river. When Raposa sings oh honey here comes the storm you can just FEEL the weather breaking.

    One of this record's real charms is you can close your eyes and see these 13 tracks played live; you can see the drummer leaning over his kit with his brushes (and sunglasses on?), the backup singers standing around the mic, beers in hand, eyes closed, swaying side to side, the lights crisscrossing the stage. Meridian is no different. You can see this band. You can see these people playing together, and in a world of records that bands can't duplicate live, it's crazy-refreshing!

    The album's closer, Allegiance 2, brings backlongtime Castanets collaborator Bridgit Jacobsen (nÉe Decook) for a hushed and barely-there apology. Oh lord be kind to me/after all these devils I have kissed. As a prayer, a shrug, and an exhausted offering, it's a fitting way to end an album so concerned with sin and vice. It's also a fitting end-introduction to this new band. So meet Raymond Byron and the White Freighters and their record Little Death Shaker. Here's to the new!

    1. Allegiance

    2. Little Death Shaker

    3. Some of My Friends

    4. Turnpike/Bedsheet

    5. You'll Never Surf Again

    6. Don't That Lake Just Shine

    7. Whippoorwill

    8. A Little More Credit

    9. Some Kind of Fool

    10. You're Not Standing Like You Used To

    11. Stateline

    12. Meridian, MS

    13. Allegiance 2
    Raymond Byron And The White Freighter
    Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
  • Porcupine Meat Porcupine Meat Quick View

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    Porcupine Meat

    Naming one's album after a song titled "Porcupine Meat" may seem a little unusual - unless, of course, you're Bobby Rush, who earned his first gold record in 1971 with a hit entitled "Chicken Heads." He elaborates on his recent composition: "If a lady won't treat me right, but she doesn't want anyone else to have me, that is hard to digest." Hence the lyric, "too fat to eat, too lean to throw away."

    Porcupine Meat is Rush's debut release for Rounder Records, and one of the best recordings of his astonishing 60-plus year career. The album is due out September 16, 2016.
    Rush estimates that he has cut over 300 songs since he first began making music. He has been honored with three Grammy nominations, as well as ten Blues Music Awards and 41 nominations. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.

    Make no mistake: Rush is not your typical octogenarian. At age 82, he exudes the energy of a 20-year-old, on the road for more than 200 dates a year. His hectic tour schedule has earned him the affectionate title King of the Chitlin' Circuit. Rush has traveled the globe including Japan and Beirut. In 2007, he earned the distinction of being the first blues artist to play at the Great Wall of China. His renowned stage act features his famed shake dancers, who personify his funky blues and the ribald humor that he has cultivated during the course of his storied career.

    Born Emmet Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, he adopted the stage name Bobby Rush out of respect for his father, a pastor. According to Rush, his parents never talked about the blues being the devil's music. "My daddy never told me to sing the blues, but he also didn't tell me to not sing the blues. I took that as a green light."

    Rush built his first guitar when he was a youngster. "I didn't know where to buy one, even if I had the money. I was a country boy," he says. After seeing a picture of a guitar in a magazine, he decided to make one by attaching the top wire of a broom to a wall and fretting it with a bottle. He also got some harmonica lessons from his father He eventually acquired a real guitar, and started playing in juke joints as a teenager, when his family briefly relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. The fake moustache Rush wore made club owners believe he was old enough to gain entry into their establishments. While he was living in Little Rock, Rush's band, which featured Elmore James, had a residency at a nightspot called Jackrabbit.

    During the mid-1950s, Rush relocated to Chicago to pursue his musical career and make a better life for himself. It was there that he started to work with Earl Hooker, Luther Allison, and Freddie King, and sat in with many of his musical heroes, such as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter. Rush eventually began leading his own band in the 1960s. He also started to craft his own distinct style of funky blues, and recorded a succession of singles for a various small labels. It wasn't until the early 1970s that Rush finally scored a hit with "Chicken Heads." More recordings followed, including an album for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Label.
    Rush relocated one final time, to Jackson, Miss. in the early 1980s. He was tired of the cold up north, and he realized that setting up his base of operations directly in the center of the South would make it easier to perform in nearby cities on weekends. More indie label recordings followed. Songs like "Sue, A Man Can Give (But He Sure Can't Take It)," "What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander Too," and" I Ain't Studdin' You" became regional jukebox favorites in juke joints throughout the region, and many of those songs are still fan favorites that are an integral part of his live repertoire.

    Since 2003, Rush has self-released the majority of his work (including the critically acclaimed Folk Funk album) on his Deep Rush label, but recently, he came to the realization that having a bigger record company behind him would be beneficial. "I outgrew myself," he says. "I need someone to help in doing the things I can't do. When you are wearing all the hats, you can't be everywhere at once."

    Enter esteemed producer and two-time Grammy winner Scott Billington, Rounder Records' longtime VP of A&R. Billington first met Rush at a Recording Academy meeting 25 years ago, and they became fast friends. He has wanted to work with Rush ever since. "He is the most vital bluesman of his generation," says Billington. He continues, "There are many people who still don't know Bobby Rush, even though he is a hero in the parallel universe of the Chitlin' Circuit - fans stop him on the street in Memphis and Helena and Little Rock."

    Porcupine Meat will not only please Rush's older fans, but is likely to win over many new ones. Billington reflects, "We wanted to come up with something fresh, while staying 100% true to Bobby."

    The album was recorded in New Orleans, and Rush was pleased and proud to be given the opportunity to make an album in his home state for the very first time. His impassioned vocals and in-the-pocket harmonica playing are among the best performances of his career. Unlike most of his recent releases, these sessions only feature real instruments and no synthesizers. All of the rhythm tracks were cut live in the studio, often edited down from jams that on several occasions ran close to ten minutes.

    For the project, Billington assembled some of the best Louisiana musicians, including Shane Theriot, David Torkanowsky, Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, Kirk Joseph, Cornell Williams, and others. Rush brought along his old friend and longtime collaborator, guitarist Vasti Jackson, who worked with Bobby and Scott on getting the songs ready for the studio. Guitar greats Dave Alvin, Keb' Mo', and Joe Bonamassa all make guest appearances on the album.

    Rush has always been a prolific and clever songwriter. The songs he penned for Porcupine Meat such as "Dress Too Short," "I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around," "Me, Myself And I," "Nighttime Gardener," "It's Your Move," and the title selection, all equal or rival his best material. "Funk O' De Funk" delivers exactly what the title suggests and what Rush has always done the best, which is putting the funk into the blues. While "Got Me Accused" is inspired by events from Rush's own life, the lyrics tell an all-too-familiar tale about the rampant racial injustice that afflicts our society. Producer Billington and his wife Johnette Downing (the well known New Orleans songwriter and children's musician) co-wrote a couple of fine selections, "Catfish Stew" and "Snake In The Grass."

    Bobby Rush is the greatest bluesman currently performing. Porcupine Meat is a testament to his brilliance, which presents him at his very best, and doesn't try to be anything that he is not. "I just try to record good music and stories," he humbly states. With this recording, he has more than accomplished his goal, and has produced one of the finest contemporary blues albums in recent times.

    1. I Don't Want Nobody Hanging Around
    2. Porcupine Meat
    3. Got Me Accused
    4. Snake in the Grass
    5. Funk O' De Funk
    6. Me, Myself and I (feat. Joe Bonamassa)
    7. Catfish Stew
    8. It's Your Move (feat. Dave Alvin)
    9. Nighttime Gardener (feat. Keb Mo)
    10. I Think Your Dress Is Too Short
    11. Standing on Shaky Ground
    12. I'm Tired (Tangle Eye Mix)
    Bobby Rush
    Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
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