Bandbox Unboxed Vol. 26 – Hiss Golden Messenger + Waxahatchee
Prepare your turntable for heavy rotation spinners vinyl fans, ’cause Bandbox record club is out to bring the record store to your own front door.
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. And Bandbox is currently boasting a record store style variety of artists with a treasure trove of exclusive pressings you really do not want to sleep on.
Having it your way really is the Bandbox mantra. Offering subscribers the choice of a single album from an artist you adore, 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 a little 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 record club cake. So what’s my latest Bandbox? Well, thanks to a few unfortunate shipping delays, my December box came jam-packed with a pair of stunners from indie stalwarts in Hiss Golden Messenger, and Waxahatchee.
You should know up front Bandbox’s format is designed to ease the nerves of folks wary of the record club scene. And yes, you can still choose to be surprised 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
If you call yourself a music fan, the names Hiss Godlden Messenger and Waxahatchee should be more than familiar. That’s because they’ve both spent the better part of the past decade releasing first-rate, folk-tinged rock records that hit as heavy on the heart as they do the mind. And it’s safe to say Bandbox tabbed arguably their best albums for exclusive treatment. Let’s take a look.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee (2016)
I’ll go ahead and say I’m pretty obsessive about keeping an ear open for bands and music I’ve never heard before… which means I don’t have a lot of blind spots in my knowledge of artists new and old. I’m not saying that in a bragging sort of way, for the record. Mostly, I just want to be clear not much gets by me on the musical front. And that means when something extraordinary like Heart Like Levee does sneak through, I’m genuinely shocked that I missed it.
That’s especially true in Hiss Golden Messenger’s case as he operates out of Durham, North Carolina, which is about an hour from where I grew up. Communal connection aside, the folky, introspective, and occasionally groovy as hell music MC Taylor has been making under the moniker fits so snugly in my wheelhouse, it’s a legitimate mystery that I’d never heard any of his stuff prior to Heart Like a Levee arriving on my doorstep.
After a single spin, I can tell you I’m fully obsessing over the album. Ditto for Hiss Golden Messenger. So much so that I’m actually having a bit of trouble figuring out exactly what to say about either here. As it is, I’ll keep it simple and offer that the song’s here are as emotive, insightful, and effortlessly catchy as any folk-rock confections you’ve ever heard. And if I had a do-over for my best album’s of 2016 list, Heart Like a Levee would almost certainly sit at the top. So in case I wasn’t clear Heart Like a Levee has officially made me a fan of Hiss Golden Messenger, and I can’t wait to explore his catalogue further.
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt (2013)
Unlike Hiss Golden Messenger, I’m extremely familiar with the work of Katie Crutchfield, and her indie rock outfit Waxahatchee. And this is, in fact, the second time Bandbox has featured work from her impeccable oeuvre this year, after releasing their exclusive pressing of Crutchfield’s Saint Cloud back in March. As it is, I feel like I wrote, and wrote, and wrote about how great Waxahatchee is in that unboxing, so if you’re looking for a deep dive, I’ll simply refer you it.
In regards to “Volume 2” of Waxahatchee’s Bandbox experience, it’s actually centered around two releases, Crutchfield’s 2012 debut American Weekend, and its stunning 2013 followup Cerulean Salt. I jumped at the crunchy, sludgy, soulful, and simmering Cerulean Salt because 1) it’s maybe my favorite of Crutchfield’s releases, 2) I hadn’t listened to it in a while, and 3) I somehow also hadn’t picked up a copy for myself over the years.
I’m happy to report Cerulean Salt is every bit as engrossing as I remember. As Waxahatchee fans know, it’s a decidedly different sort of beast than the bright and sunny sound Crutchfield conjured for Saint Cloud. In comparison, one might even say Cerulean Salt is a bit of a downer. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong either, as the sonic energy here is very much of the moody sort. The songs are no less engaging, however, with Crutchfield waxing poetic on life, love, loss, and growing up with the same wicked wit and piercing inward gaze we’ve come to expect from her. And yes, the album may well feature the strongest guitar work of her so-far brilliant career.
A Cardboard Box for Sharing Music
By definition, a bandbox is: “a cardboard box, typically square, for sharing music.” Every single Bandbox lives up to that billing, allowing super fans of featured bands to delve deeper into their music and background than ever before via an artist-centric zine featuring interviews, album breakdowns, and killer behind-the-scenes photos.
Zine #53 takes an in-depth look at the works and processes of Mr. MC Taylor, better known as the man behind Hiss Golden Messenger.
As for zine number #52, it finds the Bandbox team touching base with the inimitable Katie Crutchfield for a second time, and turning up another round of behind-the-music gold from Waxahatchee.
Sure, everybody loves a good zine, but this is a vinyl unboxing, so let’s go ahead and have a gander at those albums, shall we?
Heart Like A Levee
As far as covers go, this one more than captures the raw-nerve earnestness at play throughout. It’s also a gatefold sporting full lyrics on the inside.
And for those who still dig download cards (they’re awesome!), Heart Like a Levee indeed comes with its very own, ensuring you can take this gem can live in your headphones wherever you go.
As for the vinyl inside, well, they’re calling this one “Smokey’s Song” colored… and I’m calling it an absolute work of art.
As with Heart Like a Levee, Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt is a limited edition artifact. It’s also boasting some seriously lovely cover art via a more abstract portrait of the artist herself.
Sadly, Cerulean Salt did not get the gatefold treatment. But there is a full lyric sheet tucked away in the sleeve – one which also boasts another great photo of Crutchfield on the flip side.
Regarding the treasure inside that sleeve, I’ll say I tend to feel quad-colored vinyl pressings are kind of overdoing it. But this blue and white beauty for Cerulean Salt is absolutely divine.
Battle of the Bandbox
Oh man, this is without a doubt the toughest Battle of the Bandbox yet. Not only are both of the battling albums absolute stunners in terms of sound and content, they also came on two of the best color ways Bandbox has ever delivered. I have to admit, however, that I was a bit more bowled over by both the music and the color of Hiss Golden Messenger’s Heart Like a Levee… if only because it was a first-time spine for me. So let’s all give a hearty “hoorah” for Heart Like a Levee, an album that will be spinning on the regular in my house for ages to come.
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 on snazzy colored wax, you can do that. Ditto for some of those overlooked albums chock full of tasty deep cuts. Rest assured you’ll find vinyl treasures galore from each artist in the fully-stocked Bandbox vaults.
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 find in our next Bandbox!