Posts Tagged ‘Fleet Foxes’

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This week we have a superb collection of early material from The Fleet Foxes, including their seminal debut album, a couple EP’s and some well-worth-it B-Sides and outtakes. It’s a hefty swathe of music, and all in a lovely clamshell box affair inc liner notes and booklet.

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J Mascis – Elastic Days

Everyone’s favourite tiny dinosaur is back too, with Mr. Mascis‘ first solo release since 2014’s ‘Tied To A Star’ encompassing aspects of Dinosaur Jr’s rockier moments but imbued with tender folkish acousticry, swooning Americana and soaring rock solos, delivered with the unmistakable gravelly vox we’ve come to know and love from Mr. M. 

Since then, through the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr lineup in 2005, J has recorded solo albums now and then. And those album, Sings and Chant for AMMA (2005), Several Shades of Why (2011) and Tied to a Star (2014) had all delivered incredible sets of songs presented with a minimum of bombast and a surfeit of cool. Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J’s own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc) among others. But the show is mostly J’s and J’s alone. For those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr’s live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young’s binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse. This is a lazy man’s shorthand, but it still rings true. Elastic Days brims with great moments. Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (Web So Dense) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (Give It Off) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (Drop Me). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze.

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In November 1968, millions of double LPs were shipped to record stores worldwide ahead of that tumultuous year’s most anticipated music event: the November 22nd release of The BEATLES (soon to be better known as ‘The White Album’). With their ninth studio album, The Beatles took the world on a whole new trip, side one blasting off with the exhilarating rush of a screaming jet escorting Paul McCartney’s punchy, exuberant vocals on “Back In The U.S.S.R.” “Dear Prudence” came next, John Lennon warmly beckoning his friend and all of us to “look around.” George Harrison imparted timeless wisdom in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” singing, “With every mistake we must surely be learning.” Ringo Starr’s “Don’t Pass Me By” marked his first solo songwriting credit on a Beatles album. For 50 years, ‘The White Album’ has invited its listeners to venture forth and explore the breadth and ambition of its music, delighting and inspiring each new generation in turn.

For it’s 50th anniversary, The Beatles release a suite of lavishly presented ‘White Album’ packages. The album’s 30 tracks are newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, joined by 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes, most of which are previously unreleased in any form.

“We had left Sgt. Pepper’s band to play in his sunny Elysian Fields and were now striding out in new directions without a map,” says Paul McCartney in his written introduction for the new ‘White Album’ releases.

This is the first time The BEATLES (‘White Album’) has been remixed and presented with additional demos and session recordings. The album’s sweeping new edition follows 2017’s universally acclaimed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Edition releases. To create the new stereo and 5.1 surround audio mixes for ‘The White Album,’ Martin and Okell worked with an expert team of engineers and audio restoration specialists at Abbey Road Studios in London. All the new ‘White Album’ releases include Martin’s new stereo album mix, sourced directly from the original four-track and eight-track session tapes. Martin’s new mix is guided by the album’s original stereo mix produced by his father, George Martin.

“In remixing ‘The White Album,’ we’ve tried to bring you as close as possible to The Beatles in the studio,” explains Giles Martin in his written introduction for the new edition. “We’ve peeled back the layers of the ‘Glass Onion’ with the hope of immersing old and new listeners into one of the most diverse and inspiring albums ever made.”

The minimalist artwork for ‘The White Album’ was created by artist Richard Hamilton, one of Britain’s leading figures in the creation and rise of pop art. The top-loading gatefold sleeve’s stark white exterior had ‘The BEATLES’ embossed on the front and printed on the spine with the album’s catalogue number. Early copies of ‘The White Album’ were also individually numbered on the front, which has also been done for the new edition’s Super Deluxe package. The set’s six CDs and Blu-ray disc are housed in a slipsleeved 164-page hardbound book, with pull-out reproductions of the original album’s four glossy color portrait photographs of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as the album’s large fold-out poster with a photo collage on one side and lyrics on the other. The beautiful book is illustrated with rare photographs, reproductions of handwritten and notated lyrics, previously unpublished photos of recording sheets and tape boxes, and reproduced original ‘White Album’ print ads. The book’s comprehensive written pieces include new introductions by Paul McCartney and Giles Martin, and in-depth chapters covering track-by-track details and session notes reflecting The Beatles’ year between the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and recording sessions for ‘The White Album,’ the band’s July 28 1968 “Mad Day Out” photo shoot in locations around London, the album artwork, the lead-up and execution of the album’s blockbuster release, and its far-ranging influence, written by Beatles historian, author and radio producer Kevin Howlett; journalist and author John Harris; and Tate Britain’s Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Andrew Wilson.

The Deluxe 3CD is presented in an embossed digipak with the fold-out poster and portrait photos, plus a 24-page booklet abridged from the Super Deluxe book. Presented in a lift-top box with a four-page booklet, the limited edition Deluxe 4LP vinyl set presents the 2LP album in a faithful, embossed reproduction of its original gatefold sleeve with the fold-out poster and portrait photos, paired with the 2LP Esher Demos in an embossed gatefold sleeve.

Much of the initial songwriting for ‘The White Album’ was done in Rishikesh, India between February and April 1968, when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr joined a course at the Maharishi’s Academy of Transcendental Meditation. In a postcard to Ringo, who had returned to England before the others, John wrote, “we’ve got about two L.P.s worth of songs now so get your drums out.”

During the last week of May, The Beatles gathered at George’s house in Esher, Surrey, where they recorded acoustic demos for 27 songs. Known as the Esher Demos, all 27 recordings are included in the new edition’s Deluxe and Super Deluxe packages, sourced from the original four-track tapes. Twenty-one of the demoed songs were recorded during the subsequent studio sessions, and 19 were ultimately finished and included on ‘The White Album.’

The Beatles’ studio sessions for The BEATLES (‘White Album’) began on May 30, 1968 at Abbey Road Studios. In the 20 weeks that followed, The Beatles devoted most of their time to sessions there for the new album, with some recording also done at Trident Studios. The final session for the album took place at Abbey Road on October 16, a 24-hour marathon with producer George Martin to sequence the double album’s four sides and to complete edits and cross-fades between its songs. The Beatles’ approach to recording for ‘The White Album’ was quite different from what they had done for ‘Sgt. Pepper.’ Rather than layering individually overdubbed parts on a multi-track tape, many of the ‘White Album’ session takes were recorded to four-track and eight-track tape as group performances with a live lead vocal. The Beatles often recorded take after take for a song, as evidenced by the Super Deluxe set’s Take 102 for “Not Guilty,” a song that was not included on the album. This live-take recording style resulted in a less intricately structured, more unbridled album that would shift the course of rock music and cut a path for punk and indie rock.

The Beatles’ newly adopted method of recording all through the night was time consuming and exhausting for their producer, George Martin. Martin had other duties, including his management of AIR (Associated Independent Recording), and he had also composed the orchestral score for The Beatles’ animated feature film, Yellow Submarine, released in July 1968. After the first three months of ‘White Album’ sessions, Martin took a three-week holiday from the studio, entrusting the control room to his young assistant Chris Thomas and balance engineer Ken Scott. Scott had taken the place of engineer Geoff Emerick, who left the sessions in mid-July. On August 22, Ringo Starr also left the sessions, returning 11 days later to find his drum kit adorned with flowers from his bandmates. While the sessions’ four and a half months of long hours and many takes did spark occasional friction in the studio, the session recordings reveal the closeness, camaraderie, and collaborative strengths within the band, as well as with George Martin.

The BEATLES (‘White Album’) was the first Beatles album to be released on the group’s own Apple Records label. Issued in both stereo and mono for the U.K. and in stereo for the U.S., the double album was an immediate bestseller, entering the British chart at number one and remaining there for eight of the 22 weeks it was listed. ‘The White Album’ also debuted at number one on the U.S. chart, holding the top spot for nine weeks of its initial 65-week chart run. In his glowing ‘White Album’ review for Rolling Stone, the magazine’s co-founder Jann Wenner declared: “It is the best album they have ever released, and only The Beatles are capable of making a better one.” In the U.S., ‘The White Album’ is 19-times platinum-certified by the RIAA and in 2000, it was inducted into the Recording Academy’s GRAMMY® Hall of Fame, recognizing “recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance.”

Boygenius

Boygenius  –

Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus formed boygenius after booking a tour together, but the trio had subconsciously been in the works for longer than that. Through a series of tours and performances together, and chance encounters that led to friendships – including Bridgers’ and Dacus’ first in-person meeting backstage at a Philadelphia festival, greenroom hangouts that felt instantly comfortable and compatible, a couple of long email chains and even a secret handshake between Baker and Dacus – the lyrically and musically arresting singer-songwriters and kindred spirits got to know each other on their own terms.

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Fleet Foxes  –  First Collection

First Collection 2006-2009 is a special limited edition collection to mark the 10th year anniversary of Fleet Foxes’ debut album.
The collection comprises content spanning the early days of the group’s career, including the eponymous debut album, as well as the Sun Giant EP, The Fleet Foxes EP, and a compilation of B-sides & Rarities.

Available on limited edition 4-disc vinyl, as well as CD, the release also includes an extensive booklet featuring show flyers, lyrics, and artwork from the period.

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Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers – Bought to Rot

14 tracks spanning Laura Jane Grace’s fractured relationship with her adopted hometown of Chicago, true friendship, complicated romance, and reconciling everything in the end, Bought to Rot stands as the most musically diverse collection of songs Grace has written to date.
Inspired in large part by Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, the first album Grace ever owned, Bought to Rot finds her at the same age Petty was when he created his solo debut masterpiece. In light of his recent passing, Grace was motivated to pay homage to one of her lifelong heroes.

Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers are Laura Jane Grace, Atom Willard, and Marc Jacob Hudson. Grace is a musician, author, and activist best known as the founder, lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist of the punk rock band Against Me!. Willard, also of Against Me!, is a drummer who has played in iconic punk bands such as Rocket from the Crypt, Social Distortion, and The Offspring. Devouring Mothers bassist Hudson is a recordist and mixer at Rancho Recordo, a recording studio and creative space in the woods of Michigan, and the sound engineer for Against Me

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The Beths  –  Future Me Hates Me

The Beths from New Zealand occupy a warm, energetic sonic space between joyful hooks, sun-soaked harmonies, and acerbic lyrics. Their debut album Future Me Hates Me on Carpark Records, delivers an astonishment of roadtrip-ready pleasures, each song hitting your ears with an exhilarating endorphin rush like the first time you heard The Breeders / Jale / Veruca Salt..

Front and center on these ten infectious tracks is lead singer and primary songwriter Elizabeth Stokes. Stokes has previously worked in other genres within Auckland’s rich and varied music scene, recently playing in a folk outfit, but it was in exploring the angst-ridden sounds of her youth that she found her place. From the irresistible title track to future singles Happy Unhappy and You Wouldn’t Like Me, Stokes commands a vocal range that spans from the brash confidence of Joan Jett to the disarming vulnerability of Jenny Lewis.

Beths guitarist and studio guru Jonathan Pearce (whose other acts as producer include recent Captured Tracks signing, Wax Chattels brings it all home with an approach that’s equal parts seasoned perfectionist and D.I.Y. Channeling their stew of personal-canon heroes while drawing inspiration from contemporaries like Alvvays and Courtney Barnett, The Beths serve up deeply emotional lyrics packaged within heavenly sounds that delight in probing the limits of the pop form. “That’s another New Zealand thing,” Stokes concludes with a laugh. “We’re putting our hearts on our sleeves—and then apologizing for it.” The result is nothing less than one of the standout records of 2018.

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The Wave Pictures -Look Inside Your Heart

The Wave Pictures return with the promised second album of the year, Look Inside Your Heart – a warm, joyous record celebrating friendship, happiness and drunken party times. Like the first album they released this year, the more contemplative Brushes With Happiness, this one was recorded late at night whilst inebriated back at the tiny Booze Cube Studio in Stoke Newington, live to reel-to-reel tape with no computers of any kind. The album is peppered with giggles and chatter, which adds a sense of spontaneity and place.

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Sun Kil Moon – This Is My Dinner

Prolific singer / songwriter Mark Kozelek presents yet another Sun Kil Moon album, focusing less on actual singing and more on storytelling and observation. The 10-track effort follows the chronological journey of Sun Kil Moon’s November 2017 European tour. After the trek, the band set up shop at TAPF Studio in Copenhagen, Denmark before finishing the record at San Francisco, California’s Hyde Street Studios. In addition to eight original numbers, This Is My Dinner includes a cover of AC/DC’s Rock ‘N Roll Singer (featuring Jordan Cook of Reignwolf) and the iconic theme song to The Partridge Family, Come On Get Happy.

Mary Lattimore and Meg Baird  –  Ghost Forests

Musical conversations between Meg Baird (Espers) and Mary Lattimore are intimate, fluid, effortless and spontaneous. They’re filled with the euphoria of creation and, at times, they articulate hard truths and tangled emotions with an ease only trusted friends can manage. The songs alternate between extended ethereal instrumental excursions, gauzy and dreamy pop, blown-out Bull of the Woods heavy haze, and modern re-imaginations of epic traditional balladry all while touching on the strange and otherworldly places between these stations.

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Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Edition

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1968 album Electric Ladyland. Electric Ladyland was remastered by Bernie Grundman, who did an analog direct to disc vinyl transfer of the original LP, as well as a new 5.1 surround sound mix of the original album by Hendrix’s original engineer Eddie Kramer. The box set includes Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes with demos, studio outtakes, and more. It also includes the 1997 documentary At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland on Blu-ray and the unreleased live recording Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at the Hollywood Bowl 9/14/68. The 50th anniversary reissue arrives with a 48-page book featuring Jimi’s handwritten lyrics, poem, and instructions to his record label Reprise, previously unpublished photos from studio sessions by Kramer, and more. The Deluxe Edition comes with new cover art that features a photo of the band at New York City’s Alice in Wonderland statue by Linda McCartneyHendrix’s personal choice for the album art. Electric Ladyland was Hendrix’s last studio album. It included the iconic tracks Voodoo Child, their cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, Crosstown Traffic, and others. It was the only Hendrix LP to reach No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

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Dave Kusworth  –  World of Dave Kusworth Vol 1 and 2

Career spanning anthology from 1983-2018, includes newly remastered classic tracks from The Jacobites, The Bounty Hunters, The Tenderhooks and The Dave Kusworth Group as well as solo material including a track from the as yet, unreleased new album 22b.The very first time a ‘Best Of ‘has been committed to vinyl. Compiled by Dave himself and designed by long standing designer Dave Twist.

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Alela Diane – The Pirate’s Gospel (Deluxe Edition)

An Album Of The Year when it was first released and it is still an Essential listen. Now with a swanky remastered edition of Alela Diane’s first mythical album including 10 bonus tracks. 2006’s The Pirate’s Gospel was the debut release from singer and songwriter Alela Diane. Hailing from the deep woods and winding rivers of Northern California Gold Rush town Nevada City, Alela grew up singing songs with her parents (both musicians). During a stay in San Francisco in 2003, she began teaching herself guitar and writing her first songs, blending tense, trance-like arpeggios, with warm, thick vocals and meditative lyrics about family and nature. Written in response to a loss of home and familiarity, The Pirate’s Gospel is a powerful document of personal re-evaluation and renewal set against the backdrop of generations past and future, mothers and fathers, life, death, and birth.

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Jethro Tull – This Was – The 50th Anniversary Edition

After several name changes, Jethro Tull played its first show as Jethro Tull in February 1968. Months later, Ian Anderson, Mick Abrahams, Glenn Cornick and Clive Bunker released the band’s debut – This Was. The album debuted at number 10 on the U.K. album chart, but more important, it was the first step in a 50-year (and counting) journey that made Jethro Tull one of the world’s most successful progressive rock bands. To celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary, a special deluxe edition

Recorded during the summer of 1968, This Was is the only Jethro Tull album to feature guitarist Mick Abrahams, who left the group shortly after the album came out to form Blodwyn Pig. The title of the album refers to the band moving away from its early blues-based sound, which was referenced in the original liner notes: “This was how we were playing then – but things change – don’t they?” The album includes songs that have been in and out of Jethro Tull’s live show for 50 years, like My Sunday Feeling and Beggar’s Farm. Also featured are several bonus tracks: Love Story, A Christmas Song. Sunshine Day and Aeroplane. In 1968, BBC Radio featured the band twice on its award-winning program, “BBC Top Gear Session.” Both of those performances – nine songs in total – are featured on the second disc, including live versions of Serenade To A Cuckoo, Love Story and My Sunday Feeling. Rounding out the disc are b-sides, outtakes, radio advertisements, and an unreleased mono mix of Someday The Sun Won’t Shine For You(Faster Version). The final CD features the album’s original U.K. stereo mix and its original mono mix.

The DVD features the original album and bonus tracks remixed by Steven Wilson in 4.1 DTS and AC3 Dolby Digital surround and 96/24 LPCM stereo. There are also 5.1 surround versions of Love Story and A Christmas Song. Also included in 96/24 LPCM stereo is the 1969 stereo mix that was released in the U.S.

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Fleet Foxes’ “Icicle Tusk” from The Fleet Foxes EP in First Collection 2006–2009, out November 9th.  The special edition First Collection 2006–2009 honors the tenth anniversary of Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut album. It features content spanning the early days of the band’s career, including the self-titled full-length debut album on 12″ vinyl, as well as the Sun Giant EP on 10″ vinyl, and the first vinyl releases of both the very limited-edition, previously only self-released The Fleet Foxes EP on 10″, and B-sides & Rarities on 10″. Also available in a four-CD set. In addition to its musical offerings, the special edition features a 32-page booklet with show flyers, lyrics, and artwork from band’s early history.

Fleet Foxes’ debut album made a tremendous impact on the international musical scene, topping numerous “best of” lists, including Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Albums of the 2000’s and Pitchfork’s 50 Best Albums of 2008, and earned the band Uncut’s inaugural Music Award Prize. Fleet Foxes is certified Gold in North America and Platinum in both the UK and Australia.

Fleet Foxes‘ most recent release was the critically acclaimed full-length, Crack-Up, released June 2017 on Nonesuch following a six-year hiatus. Additionally, the band sold out notable venues including Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the Hollywood Bowl, performed on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert as well as CBS This Morning, and earned year-end recognition from Esquire, Consequence of Sound, Paste, Uproxx, Vulture, and more.

Fleet Foxes: <i>Crack-Up</i> Review

It was reasonable to think we would never get another Fleet Foxes album.

After the band’s rustic self-titled debut took off unexpectedly in 2008 (eventually earning a Gold record for mega-indie label Sub Pop), frontman and core creative force Robin Pecknold poured himself fully into making its excellent follow-up, 2011’s Helplessness Blues. Then Fleet Foxes toured the world for a while, a process that seemed to take a toll on the band. Pecknold moved to Portland and dropped out of public life. His drummer left the band and became a star in his own right. Other members moved on to their own projects. A couple years ago, Pecknold popped back up as a student at Columbia University, then disappeared again. At some point, he took up surfing, apparently. With the future of Fleet Foxes firmly in his hands, Pecknold seemed ready, willing and able to check out for good.

Thank the heavens he didn’t.  Fleet Foxes third album, “Crack-Up”, is at once sumptuous and ambitious, a serpentine journey from the center of harmony-drenched folk-pop out to the edge of Pecknold’s brain and back. It is lovely, strange and generous, and ultimately a very welcome return for the Seattle band.

On Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes pushed back against the successful formula of their debut, expanding their palette and inserting some free-jazz skronk just because they could. Crack-Up, on the other hand, sounds like a band that has become perfectly comfortable with its wanderlust. The evidence comes early, as opening track “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar” is three songs in one, evolving from yawning anti-tune to orchestral gallop to a collage of cozy vocal ooohs, sloshing water and found sounds.

Later, the band juxtaposes its bracing first single, “Third of May,” with a coda called “Odaigahara” that slowly drips with a sort of submerged desperation. “I Should See Memphis” is built out of insistent acoustic guitar, playful string arrangements and Pecknold’s Civil War and Muhammad Ali references, rumbled below his natural register. And “Mearcstapa” might be the album’s most curious track, with Pecknold singing inscrutable lyrics over restless rhythms and a mishmash of sounds.

These kinds of explorations might’ve sunk a Fleet Foxes album five years ago. Now, they hang together enough to counterbalance Crack-Up’s half-dozen classic, gorgeous gospel-roots hymns; the kinds of songs that have defined this band since it oozed from the gaps in a pile of old Beach Boys, CSNY and Simon & Garfunkel LPs just over a decade ago.

“Third of May” and “Fool’s Errand” and the title track, these are the faster, more urgent ones. The slower, sparser numbers include “Kept Woman” and “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me.” They are all paragons of songcraft, teeming with lush instrumentals, indelible melodies and the kinds of harmonies you expect to hear as you approach the pearly gates. There is perfection here in among the exploration.

Crack-Up is a collective effort, no doubt. These are skilled singers and players, up and down Fleet Foxes lineup. It’s Pecknold, however, who is blessed with not only an incredible songwriting gift, but also the unwillingness to sit still for very long. The latter took him away from music for a while, but perhaps that was necessary to recharge the former. It’s good to have him back.

Fleet Foxes have announced a special Black Friday release edition 10″ EP available exclusively at independent record stores starting on Record Store Day’s Black Friday, November 24th, 2017.  The EP features four songs, thoughtfully selected from a WFUV session recorded at the historic Electric Lady Studio in New York on June 13th, 2017, days before the band’s new album, “Crack-Up”, was released.

Side A of the vinyl includes “Cassius,-“ and “- “Naiads, Cassadies” while Side B includes “Mearcstapa” and “On Another Ocean (January / June).” Each pair is recorded and cut as one long track to reflect the intentional fluidity between these songs, on both the album and in live performance. In addition to the announcement, Fleet Foxes have released a Classic Album Sunday Q&A which premiered via Record Store Day,

WFUV (90.7 FM) has been a noncommercial, member-supported public media service of Fordham University in New York for 70 years. WFUV has received national recognition for its award-winning weekday format of adult album alternative music, award-winning local news and sports, and a diverse weekend lineup. Electric Lady Studios is the oldest working and thriving recording studio in New York City. Made famous by Jimi Hendrix and classic 70s sessions with The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, and Patti Smith, among others, the studio maintains its reputation as hallowed grounds for recorded music.

Live recording from Electric Lady studios

A:  1.  Cassius, 2. –Naiads, Cassadies.  B:  1.  Mearcstapa 2.  On Another Ocean (January / June)

Bella booklet

Simon Raymonde never really meant for Bella Union to become a music industry success story.

When he started the label back in 1997, it was nothing more than a vehicle for his artistic endeavours with Cocteau Twins. Bruised by dismaying music business experiences, Raymonde and bandmate Robin Guthrie made a brave, autonomous move – starting a label with which to put out their own records.

Then, in a classic indie-label-starts-with-laughable-disaster moment, Cocteau Twins split up. Six months after we started the label, Liz called up and said she didn’t want to do the band anymore. The intention of the label was to put out our own music – it was never to sign other bands, to be an actual record label; we hated record labels! We had such a terrible experience with 4AD, and then another terrible experience with a major.

Raymonde knew if his fledgling record label wasn’t going to be dissolved before it had got going, he needed to become an A&R, and sign some bands. The band [Cocteau Twins] had an undeniably difficult relationship with 4AD. Then we made a huge mistake and signed with Universal – with Mercury – in 1994.

We started the label, got the logo done, letterheads, an office, staff… and then we had no band.

Nineteen years later, we have his willingness to do so to thank for standout records from the likes of John Grant, Explosions In The Sky, Laura Veirs, Midlake, Beach House, Father John Misty, Ezra Furman, The Walkmen, The Flaming Lips, PINS, Money and Lanterns On The Lake.

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Of course, you can also add to that list Fleet Foxes – whose self-titled 2008 debut and 2011 follow-up, “Helplessness Blues”,have reached a level of commercial success all-too-rarely enjoyed in the independent label sector.

Getting a BRIT Award nomination for John [Grant, 2014] and Father John Misty [2016] – that’s huge when you think how this label started.

It’s a real challenge to break a new band – much more than it was five years ago. Yeah, we’ve got John Grant, Beach House, Father John Misty, Explosions in the Sky and several artists like these who sell 20,000 to 50,000 records. And that’s decent. I’m very happy. But those are all bands who are now in their 30s.

The challenge is, how do we break a band in their 20s who haven’t put three albums out back in the age when CDs were still selling and you could get blanket press? I fear it’s not easy.

There’s brilliant bands everywhere. Especially Fleet Foxes, That band has been massive for Bella Union. I probably wouldn’t be here without them, and the signing, to keep the whole thing going, was pivotal. I was about to give up the label before I heard that song, “White Winter Hymnal”.

I’d gone to Oya Festval in 2007. We’d had Midlake’s record [The Trials Of Van Occupanther], which came out in 2006. I was so upset this record hadn’t sold a million copies. I still think it’s a classic album.

We’d sold 30,000 copies in the UK, which was good, but it wasn’t what it deserved. I was thinking, if only I had some money in the bank, even something small – £10,000 extra to do some posters or some more marketing.

In those days our marketing was literally: put the record out. There was no money for anything beyond a press and radio campaign that we did in-house with Duncan and Cool Badge.

It was the same with Fionn Regan [who released Mercury-nominated album The End Of History on Bella Union in 2006]; we got to that 30,000 level but we didn’t have the cash injection to get it above 50,000. It was so frustrating.

So I was at Oya Festival, miserable, thinking, ‘I don’t think I can do this any more.’ My first marriage had gone all wrong and I’d just gotten divorced. I was at a low ebb.

Claus who runs Oya had invited some people including me to his house for a get-together but I was really not feeling sociable at all, quite out of sorts, sat overlooking the fjord – I thought, okay, I’m going to go home, tell everyone at the label, that’s it.

I got back to my hotel room and got an email from this friend called Trey, who booked Midlake and Beach House in the US. He said, ‘You’ve got to listen to this MySpace link. I just saw this band’s third ever gig – I think you might like it.’

I pressed play and within ten seconds, I was like, ‘I HAVE to sign this band. This is the one.’ I wrote to the band on Myspace, from my hotel room and it turned out that Robin the band’s singer/writer was in Norway with his brother and sister – despite living in Seattle. His ancestors are Norwegian. A really weird coincidence.

I explained what Bella Union was and that I used to be in [Cocteau Twins], and I was encouraged that he knew who I was. He was flying to London the next day, and that’s where we met the next week. We got on really great.

I offered him a worldwide deal, even though we didn’t really have anything going on in the US at the time. I also offered to manage him! Whatever I could do, you know. Then it went a bit quiet – a month went by after I’d made him an offer, and I’d heard a whisper that he was talking to Sub-Pop. He lives in Seattle, so it made sense he would be speaking to them.

I put 2 and 2 together and realised something was going wrong, and that I needed to do something about it. Eventually, he wrote me and said: ‘Listen, we’ve had a worldwide offer from Sub-Pop and I think we’re going to do it. I wanted to let you know about it first.’

I immediately wrote back, without self-editing, with what I felt. I said: ‘I get it. I’d probably do the same thing in your shoes. Why wouldn’t you? It’s an iconic label, one of the best, round the corner from your flat. But just think about it for a second. Over here, Sub-Pop don’t quite have the setup. Who’s going to meet you at the airport in London or Paris? If you sign to Bella Union, or any label with a similar setup around Europe, you’ll have a home here.’

It was true. The next day, I got the contract back from the band, signed, for Europe. It was musician to musician, not as a guy cynically trying to get him to sign. That’s where sometimes, I win, and sometimes I lose.

 


Bella Union also signed The Czars, 

Yeah. I’ve worked with John Grant since 1998; the year after the label started. In the days when people used to use DATs, he sent me one of a Czars demo and it was… awful.

I remember writing back – he seemed really nice in the letter – saying, ‘Your voice is good, really interesting. But the music’s not. Maybe send me some stuff another time.’ A few months later, another DAT, and some of it was pretty good, but the band still sounded pretty rubbish. I told him. He was like: ‘Yeah, I know. I’m trying to do something about it.’

Then I saw them play in Denver. The band were good, not great, but he had something about him. He was this big guy with this fragility and an amazingly powerful voice.

In those days, we had a beautiful recording studio which Cocteau Twins had on the river in Richmond. It was Pete Townshend’s studio and, well, ‘cos it was in Richmond, the rent was fucking ridiculous – like £60,000 a year.

The band had broken up by then, so there was no income to pay for the studio. Pete was a very generous guy [and let the band owe him rent]. It was the last days before we were kicked out, really.

I offered to bring The Czars over and to produce their album in that studio. That’s what I did; I played a lot of the instruments, got very hands on with it. I really enjoyed the process. I think John did too, in his own way.

Then we made another album, and I went to Denver to produce that one. I always knew that it was all about John. The Czars made a third album, then John was starting to have some problems with the band – they weren’t improving at the rate we needed them to improve, but his songwriting was getting better and better.

I should say, we were selling no records at all at this point. The Czars first three albums probably sold 5,000 copies each. But I just knew that John would make an amazing record at some point.

Then he got into trouble – he had big problems with drink and drugs and stopped making music. He was translating Russian medical text books into German and living in New York, I think; he’s an incredible linguist. He speaks about 10 languages fluently.

He was miserable as sin. Then the Midlake guys, God bless them, heard he wasn’t well – rumours were that he was on suicide watch in a hospital, I think – and they said: ‘You need to get back to Texas. We’ll look after you. We’ll get you well. Come and stay with us and make a record.’

They literally put him up in their houses for six months to a year. Going in the studio in the evening after they’d finished their own record during the day time. My part in this is very minimal, really. I believed in him and thought he’d make a great record, but I wasn’t the one looking after him. Midlake did it all off their own back. And then John delivered this amazing record, “Queen Of Denmark”.

The catalyst to the whole John Grant success story is Phil Alexander, the editor of Mojo, who had come to my office in Hackney. I was playing him the latest Midlake album and talking to him about getting on board with it – he’s a massive fan. And as he was about to leave, I said come back and let me play you this thing by John Grant from The Czars. I played him two unmixed tracks and he was completely blown away.

A month later, I was speaking to Phil about something else and I said, By the way, how did that interview with John go? And he was like, ‘It was unbelievable – it was a four hour phone call. I couldn’t ever transcribe it. It was like a therapy session. It was too intense, too personal.’

But two months later, Phil made Queen Of Denmark Album Of The Month in Mojo. That support was huge – for John Grant to get a five-star, two-page review with a hand-painted illustration on the second page… when no-one knew who he was. .

We are lucky enough to have two limited and exclusive coloured vinyl pressings of the long out of print Jonathan Wilson albums Gentle Spirit and Fanfare. If you purchase any of the Bella Union titles you’ll also get a free sampler CD and booklet, once again exclusive to Rough Trade

Jonathan wilson

20 years doing ANYTHING in music seems faintly absurd, let alone running a record label, something my previous 20 years making music mostly with my band Cocteau Twins certainly did not prepare me for. What I do know is that i have always wanted to run this label from the perspective of an artist and was always advised that this wasn’t possible to make work over a long and sustained period. So, even if this all goes pear shaped tomorrow, I think we have done a great job to still be in business after 20 of the most tumultuous years in the music industry’s history, and this I am sure is in great part down to the team I’ve been lucky enough to work with at the label throughout these dark times. Simon Raymonde – Bella Union.

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When Fleet Foxes’ new album, “Crack-Up,” is released on Friday, June 16th, it will be more than six years since “Helplessness Blues.” But the band is returning with a weighty, ambitious album of shape-shifting songs that builds on the exacting finger-plucked guitar melodies and cooing multipart harmonies central to its earlier music. At a time when indie-rock seems be growing more culturally marginal by the day, “Crack-Up” is a defiant artistic statement, an album that dares to feel important. It leaked more than a month before its scheduled release date, a frustrating turn of events but one the band ultimately found encouraging.

Fleet Foxes’ “If You Need To, Keep Time on Me” from the 2017 album Crack-Up. pictured Hiroshi Hamaya’s “Peaks of Takachiho Volcano”,

Fleet Foxes Reveal New Single/Video, "Fool's Errand"

Fleet Foxes are preparing to release their third studio album, “Crack Up”, June 16th on Nonesuch Records. They’ve already shared an epic, 9-minute single, “Third Of May/Odaigahara” .

An altogether long disappearance might not have been on the cards for Fleet Foxes, but a couple of false starts, and front-fox Robin Pecknold eventually throwing up his hands and wandering off to get a college degree means it’s been around six years between drinks. Fool’s Errand (Nonesuch) is studied and carefully put together music, as has been their model before, although its widescreen approach is half a step away from the folkie undertones that were often present before. Keeping with the concentration on details that seems a hallmark, the clip was even shot on old-school 35mm movie film, just because it had the right feeling to it as well.

Now they’re back with another song, “Fool’s Errand” .

Fleet Foxes’ “Fool’s Errand” from the 2017 album Crack-Up. Video by Sean Pecknold & Adi Goodrich.

Album trailer for Fleet Foxes‘ new album, “Crack-Up” out 6.16.17. Video by Sean Pecknold.

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Fleet Foxes LP3 is almost here at last. Robin Pecknold’s acclaimed indie-folk outfit have announced their long-awaited third album, Crack-Up, out June 16th on Nonesuch Records. The record follows six years after the Helplessness Blues album , and almost a decade after debut. Robin Pecknold and company will release the 11-track effort from the band. the album title is inspired in part by an F Scott Fitzgerald essay of the same name .

Along with their album announcement,Fleet Foxes have shared Crack-Up’s epic lead single, “Third of May / Odaigahara,” along with a lyric video created by Sean Pecknold and Adi Goodrich. The track, in typical Foxes fashion, begins as a warm and inviting acoustic guitar- and piano-driven jaunt before taking a turn into expansive, even psychedelic territory.

On top of all this, Pecknold and company have unveiled a fresh batch of tour dates, including their first North American performances since October 2011. The band will start their international tour in the northeastern U.S.

Crack-Up is available for preorder now . Listen to “Third of May / Odaigahara” 

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While there’s been no official announcement of the new Fleet Foxes album this year, It will be their first since 2011’s Helplessness Blues, all signs are pointing toward a release very soon. Frontman Robin Pecknold has been suggesting at a new Fleet Foxes long player while also working on a solo album over the last couple of months and the band also reassured fans that they wouldn’t have to fly to an announced show in Ireland in July because “we’ll be doing a full world tour in 2017-18 .

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Father John Misty and his new album, I Love You, Honeybear“, is out next week.  New York radio station WFUV has posted a video of a  session featuring the man himself and his beautiful voice ,Father John Misty performing three songs from the record: “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)”, “Strange Encounters”, and “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow”. This is truly a wonderful session and just gives an insight into the new album. “I Love You, Honeybear’, a self-described “concept record about a guy called Josh Tillman”, which is a terminal smartarse’s way of saying it’s a confessional – and what a revelation it turns out to be.

 “I Love You, Honeybear” is out February 9th in Europe via Bella Union

Written around the time Tillman got hitched to this girlfriend, it’s a hugely ambitious, caustically funny album about the redemptive possibilities of love,  Songs like ‘The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment’ (“I love the kind of woman who can walk over a man/I mean like a goddamn marching band”) and ‘The Ideal Husband’ suggest a man whose soul needs, saving,

With a very Harry Nilsson-esque and a brilliant title ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow’, the ambition pays off beautifully. But he saves the best for a piano ballad, previous single ‘Bored In The USA’, which undercuts the lyric’s narcissism (“Is this the part where I get all I ever wanted?”) with a canned-laughter track – an exquisite touch, and a song Randy Newman would kill to have written, What saves our narrator is – you guessed it – the love of a good woman, and closer ‘I Went To The Store One Day’ finds him finally flirting with happiness, a concept the “aimless, fake drifter” in him always figured was for squares (“For love to find us of all people/I never thought it’d be so simple”).