Home Geek LifeCulture Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 25 – Gregory Alan Isakov

Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 25 – Gregory Alan Isakov

by Patrick Phillips

Prepare your turntable for heavy rotation bangers vinyl fans, ’cause Bandbox record club is bringing the record store to your own front door.

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Groove is in the Bandbox

That’s right music fans, Team Bandbox is offering a truly tailor made vinyl club experience every month by letting you fill your box with artists and albums that fit your own personal tastes. As their slogan goes, it’s pretty much like having the record store delivered to your front door every month. Bandbox is currently boasting a record store style variety of artists including Marvin GayeElliott Smith, and Mr. David Bowie. And just so you know – they’ve got a slew of shiny, exclusive color variants currently in stock, including glorious new pressings of works by Black Pumas and Adrianne Lenker.  

As it is, having it your way really is the Bandbox mantra. Offering subscribers the choice of a single album from an artist you love, and a fresh edition of Bandbox’s artist-specific fan zine showing up every single month, the B-Box service has effectively made it possible to do some legit bin-diving from the comfort and safety of your very own home. And you can now dig their vinyl+zine treasures for a beyond reasonable $29 a month.

Did I mention Bandbox even offers FREE SHIPPING for members? Well they do. And it’s sort of just the icing on the vinyl club cake. So what’s in the box for September? An indie folk classic perfect for ringing in a little crisp Fall weather.

Bandbox unboxing
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Bandbox

You should know up front Bandbox’s have it your way format is designed to ease the nerves of folks wary of the record club scene. And yes, you can still choose to be surprised by Team Bandbox every month if surprises happen to be your bag. If you’re not feeling any of the album’s Bandbox is offering, you can also pump the brakes on your subscription at any time by simply pausing your sub. It’s unlikely you’ll want to pause anything once you’ve signed up and experienced BandBox for yourself. Just know that your Bandbox experience will be every bit as amazing as you make it.

Let the Great World Spin

Gregory Alan Isakov is is hardly a household name, but he probably should be. And for a very specific set of indie music lovers, his introspective folk tunes hit a sweet spot few modern artists can. If you’re among them, you no doubt know his 2009 self-released offering This Empty Northern Hemisphere to be a pastoral folk stunner of the first order.

Sadly, it was sort of lost in the shuffle by much bigger hits from the era’s indie folk boom. It’s also been out of print on vinyl for quite a while now, all of which makes This Empty Northern Hemisphere ripe for a shiny new re-press and the good ole Bandbox treatment. And Bandbox did not disappoint with this release. Let’s have a look.

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Yes, this is a limited edition, Bandbox exclusive pressing. More on that sweet, sweet color variant later.

Bandbox
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews

And as noted by this this little tag on the back cover, the Bandbox team was very involved in getting this reissue of This Empty Northern Hemisphere pressed.

Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews

One of the exclusive features of this Isakov collaboration is a lovely album-inspired postcard, which actually arrived separately from my box along with this lovely not from the B-box team apologizing for the snafu. And I must say, personal touches like that make all the difference in the vinyl subscription game.

Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews

This Empty Northern Hemisphere (2009)

By all rights, Gregory Alan Isakov should’ve been a much bigger name on the indie folk scene. But while contemporaries like Fleet Foxes, The Avett Brothers, and Mumford & Sons found themselves unexpectedly at the forefront of full-blown folk revival, Isakov always seemed happy enough to linger in the background, fronting album after album of lush, introverted Americana for the wall-flower set.

Released in 2009, This Empty Northern Hemisphere is the middle child of Gregory Alan Isakov’s seven releases. And it’s easily his most complete collection of songs to date. Understand, that’s hardly a knock against the artists other releases, all of which are first-rate folk records sporting stripped back gems, lavishly orchestrated laments, and gloriously country-fied crooners.

Now, if you were to ask me what exactly it is that sets This Empty Northern Hemisphere apart from its folkified brethren, I’m not sure I could tell you. But I can’t help but adore the album’s sparse production and DIY vibes, as it gives the feeling each track was captured spontaneously, in utter isolation, and with no particular audience in mind other than Isakov himself.

And in reality, that’s largely the way This Empty Northern Hemisphere came together, with Isakov largely recording the tracks therein on-the-fly and in make-shift studios. That approach could not have been more effective with Isakov delivering a spell-binding collection of folk songs endearingly simple as they are emotionally complex. I’m not gonna waste your time breaking down Isakov’s stark magnum opus track by track, because in my opinion it’s almost unfair to deconstruct them outside of the context of the full album. Just know that those songs explore as stark an emotional landscape as the works of Leonard Cohen… who Isakov even covers on the album closer “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong.”

Just FYI – if you are looking for full track by track break down, Isakov himself examines each song in This Empty Northern Hemisphere‘s accompanying Bandbox zine, and there’s obviously nobody better for explore those songs than the man who wrote them.

A Cardboard Box for Sharing Music

A bandbox can rightfully be defined as “a cardboard box, typically square, for sharing music.” And yes, every single Bandbox lives up to that billing, allowing super fans of featured bands to delve deeper into their music than ever before via an artist-centric zine featuring interviews, album breakdowns, and killer behind-the-scenes photos.

Bandbox #47 finds the man behind This Empty Northern Hemisphere shining a light on how the album came together, including that track by track breakdown, and an illuminating interview about the how’s and where’s of recording his masterpiece.

Bandbox
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews

Now that we’ve had a look at Bandbox’s Gregory Alan Isakov zine, let’s have a look at that vinyl already yeah? Not so fast, ’cause there’s a printed inner in that sleeve with more pretty pictures and a full lyric breakdown.

Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews
Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews

As for the precious wax in there with it, well, this “moon marble” effect is truly stunning, and maybe Bandbox’s prettiest pressing yet.

Bandbox

And I do not have words for the sonic glory this lunar lovely will bring to your deck.

Geek insider, geekinsider, geekinsider. Com,, bandbox unboxed vol. 25 - gregory alan isakov, culture, featured, geek life, music, reviews

It’s the Bandbox You Want and the Bandbox You Need

Vinyl is here to stay, friends. And if you’re one of the many who’ve found themselves fervently swept up in the madness, you’re already aware there’s a million and one ways to get your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, subscription vinyl clubs really are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.

The great thing about Bandbox is that they ultimately leave the decision making up to you. So if you’re looking to snag a copy of your fave band’s most popular album, you can probably do that. The same goes for all those blessed deep cuts. For most of the world, every Gregory Alan Isakov release is sort of a deep cut as he’s just never earned the same stature as many of his contemporaries.

To be clear, if you’re discovering him for the first time, This Empty Northern Hemisphere is the place to start. And if you like what you hear, you’ll find several of Isakov’s albums in the Bandbox vaults… and yes, they’re all worth a little bit of your time and money.  

A thousand THANK Yous to the folks at Bandbox for sponsoring this subscription. If you like what you’ve seen here, you can head over to the Bandbox website and sign up to have a sexy new Bandbox delivered to your own front door every single month. While you’re there, feel free to check out their podcast and merch section too! And be sure to check back soon to see what goodies we select from the the Bandbox vaults for October!

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