Cara Louise

Now Spinning: Cara Louise ‘Wholesome Dread’

Check your list for Album of the Year and add Wholesome Dread by Cara Louise to the queue. Soul Step Records drops two exclusive vinyl variants of the folk-inspired indie rock LP this weekend. Subscribe now and don’t miss the chance to check out the Orange Sunburst vinyl, a sweet Wax Mage variant, and a free 45 of “Fragile Heart” by Cara Louise.

St. Louis to Nashville singer-songwriter Cara Louise is the missing piece to your emerging artist vinyl collection. Cara Louise’s vocal style often reminds music fans of Brandi Carlile or Sharon Van Etten. Her indie rock disposition blended with folk roots also draws parallels to folk sisters, Joseph and Larkin Poe. Wholesome Dread, released September 30th, pivots on the themes of existential dread and self-discovery. Take a deep dive into the 9-track LP and you’ll be captivated by Cara’s lyricism and affinity for a genre bending album.

Subscribe and check out the Wholesome Dread Orange Sunburst variant HERE!

Cara Louise

// Favorite Tracks //

“Wholesome Dread” encapsulates the ever-present theme of the album with relatable lyrics, “can’t deny we’re all the same, afraid of dying.” Something about this intro track makes you feel like you are experiencing the live version in the same room with Cara Louise.

“Must Be Nice” is a lyrically relatable track for twenty and thirty-somethings trying to navigate adulthood and mental health struggles. Cara’s vocal range on the chorus easily lands “Must Be Nice” as a standout track on the 9-song LP.

“Empty Me” has an upbeat danceworthy backtrack, yet is starkly contrasted by deeper lyrics of uncertainty. The single has the right amount of push and pull for a well-crafted melancholic hit.

“Julia” has more of a country folk feel with twangy guitars and vivid picturesque lyrics. Cara’s voice remains serene as the instrumentals amplify to a height.

*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

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Parker Louis

Now Spinning: Parker Louis ‘All Good Things’

Soul Step Records* brings the heat for the end of the year with a stunning repress of Parker Louis’s 2019 LP All Good Things. The independent record label in Nashville launches two hypnotizing vinyl variants, Jungle Swirl (pictured below) and a limited edition Wax Mage beauty.

Parker Louis, of Columbus, Ohio, can be compared to soulful songwriters Sam Cooke, Raphael Saadiq, Anderson East, and Allen Stone. Louis’s smooth, bluesy style ranks him high among R&B and neo-soul fans of today.

All Good Things is now restocked and available for excellent audiophile listening on wax. From “No Love, Lately” to “Waiting,” listeners absorb jazzy instrumentals and raspy alluring vocals. Not only does the album sound exquisite on vinyl, but Parker Louis has recently shown off his vocal range on the road, opening most recently for fellow Columbus, Ohio, band Caamp. All Good Things is a timeless R&B gem to add to any collection.

Pick up the Jungle Swirl variant HERE!

Parker Louis

// Favorite Tracks //

“No Love, Lately” is a first-listen showstopper the minute the needle hits the groove. The overall bones of this track go deep in classic R&B with relaxed instrumentals, choir-like backing vocals, and a sweet-singing guitar.

“Vibe” is a smooth, sultry track to accompany your romantic dinner or evening party. One-thousand percent not lying when we say these songs sound superb on vinyl.

“Gemini” is our favorite of the 8-track LP. Louis’s vocals shine brighter than ever on this slowed-down confession of love. The guitar-driven outro calls for some wine and slow dancing in the dark.

“Lights” has a highly reminiscent vibe of Anderson East, which is a lofty compliment in our book. While listening to this side B opener, fans will quickly realize that Louis’s incredible songwriting talent is not letting up.

*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

// FOLLOW SOUL STEP RECORDS // FOLLOW PARKER LOUIS //

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beginner turntables

Our Simple Guide to Beginner Turntables

Drop the needle in the groove, hear the crackle of some vintage tunes, and join the ever-growing community of vinyl record collectors. Whether you’ve got a stack of vinyl passed on from a relative or splurged on all four copies of Midnights at Target, we’ve created a simple guide to beginner turntables for the holiday season.

beginner turntables

All-in-one Record Players

Crosley, Victrola, or Suitcase Players $45-$100*-A suitcase player is the cheapest way to start a collection of a few records. It is convenient for size, portability, and price; however, it is simply not the best option for quality, design, and longevity purposes.

Most people start with a small collection of vinyl and a suitcase record player, myself included.  There is a lot of stigma about these record players because of their design and reputation for “ruining records.” In my experience, I didn’t have any issues with damaged records, but I do know many people have discovered their records became scratched or skipped after long-term use.  I enjoy the Crosley suitcase for its portability and often played French records in my classroom.

That being said, my recommendation and other collectors’ recommendations would be to consider a better-designed entry-level turntable and build your setup from there.  You can start with an affordable turntable with a built-in preamp (aka no need for a receiver/amp) and hunt for bargain powered speakers. Some newer turntables have a Bluetooth feature you can use until you can complete your setup.  *Bluetooth is not the best option for an authentic audio listening experience.

If you want more opinions on all-in-one record player recommendations and entry-level turntables, visit Reddit r/vinyl and r/turntables. I am nowhere near as knowledgeable as this subgroup, so check out some of the posts I have referenced below.

Best New Entry-Level Turntable to Start Out With (Sort by Price and Country): vinyl (reddit.com)

Turntables and Speakers: sharkamino (reddit.com)

I understand that Reddit can be overwhelming, so I’m breaking down some of the best, affordable beginner turntables in 2022.

Beginner Turntables and Accessories-$130-$275 (Total Budget)

Insignia turntable $130-Availabe at Best Buy and has a built-in preamp. Bluetooth capability.

Crosley C6 $148.40-This turntable is recommended over the Audio-Technica LP60x because it does not have the same design mechanism as a suitcase-type player. The Crosley C6 also has Bluetooth capability. We found the lowest price on Wayfair.

1BYONE High Fidelity Turntable Built-in Speakers $180*-PRICE DROP. Current deal as of 11/24/22. If you’re looking for an all-in-one space-saver deal and unsure how much you will invest in the hobby, this system might be for you.

DIGITNOW Record Player with Speakers $180*-Current deal as of 11/24/22. All-in-one package with separate speakers included.

If you need to invest in speakers, check out one of the following options for a budget-friendly setup:

PreSonus Eris 3.5 Speakers $100*-PRICE DROP. Current deal as of 11/24/22.

Edifier 1280T $83*-PRICE DROP. Current deal as of 11/24/22.

True and Trusty Turntables-$200-$350

Sony PS-LX310BT $198*-PRICE DROP. Current deal as of 11/24/22. Fully automatic turntable with Bluetooth and USB output.

Fluance RT80 $200*-Built-in preamp. Comes with an Audio-Technica AT91 cartridge.

U-Turn Orbit Basic $200-No built-in preamp. Multiple color options (blue, purple, green, red, white, black). You can purchase with preamp for $269.

Crosley C200A $220*-Built-in preamp. Comes with Audio-Technica-3600 moving-magnet cartridge.

*Denon DP-300F $329*-This is the turntable that I purchased in 2019. The cartridge that comes with the setup is of decent quality (i.e., you don’t need to change it unless you want to upgrade for better sound). I recently upgraded to an Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge*. This is an automatic turntable with a start and stop feature. The Denon DP-300F is currently on sale on Amazon.

Audio-Technica LP120X $349*-Audio-Technica is probably the most common entry-level turntable. This model is recommended for its longevity and ability to upgrade in the future.

Browse Used Turntables on eBay for a sweet retro deal to get your collection going! You can also find speakers, amps, receivers, etc., to build your entire setup from vintage gear.

Upgrade-$300-$599

Pioneer DJ PLX-500 $299*-PRICE DROP. Current deal as of 11/24/22. A few more features for digital recording and DJ-type use.

Fluance RT85 $500-Multiple color options (white, black, bamboo, walnut). Comes with Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge.

Rega Planar 1 $595*-Manual Belt Drive Turntable with Rega Carbon MM Cartridge.

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO $599-Multiple color options (red, yellow, black, white, walnut). Comes with a Sumiko Rainier cartridge. This turntable would be my choice for an upgrade from the previous selection.

My Complete Setup

Turntable: Denon DP-300F*

Cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge*-Researched Reddit for the best cartridge upgrades for my turntable.

Speakers: Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 Bookshelf Speakers*-These speakers require a receiver and speaker wire. PRICE DROP. Current deal as of 11/5/22.

Receiver: Yamaha R-S202*-Found an Open Box Deal ($60) purchased in 2019. You do not *need* a receiver if your turntable has a built-in preamp.

Main Shelf: Tactile WoodShop Mid-Century Modern Record Player Stand Etsy-Purchased in 2019. Prices have significantly increased; here is the shop if you are interested.

Storage Shelves: Kallax Cubes-IKEA’S most common and cheapest vinyl storage shelves. I have eight cubes, but you can customize how many and the design you would like. You can also check Facebook Marketplace for secondhand Kallax shelves.

Cleaning & Accessories

Outer Sleeves*-100 12″ Record Outer Sleeves

Inner Sleeves*-50 count

Clear Book Ends*-Holds records in place when they don’t fill the shelf

Record Cleaner*-Liquid cleaner for vinyl records

!! Needle Cleaning Hack-Use a plain white Magic Eraser to clean your turntable needle. Video HERE.


If you have any questions on a specific turntable or accessory, I may not have all the answers, but I can point you in the direction of someone who can help.  Please keep in mind that this list is a guide to beginner turntables, not an expert audiophile experience. Happy spinning and happy holiday season!

*Indicates affiliate link with a paid commission.

#VINYLCOMMUNITY Contributors & Feedback: @danielsonwax2.0, @chrisking_1983, @all.the.records, @themusicwillplay, @what.kate.listens.to

Modern Nomad

Now Spinning: Modern Nomad ‘There It Is, There You Are’

Indie pop record There It Is, There You Are by Modern Nomad sounds flawless on white vinyl from Soul Step Records. Soul Step denotes the 2021 album as “psychedelic indie pop for fans of Tame Impala, Mac Demarco, and Toro Y Moi.” Furthermore, There It Is, There You Are is a surprising nod to The Beach Boys and The Beatles. This week, we chat with Tom McLean, solo artist under the moniker Modern Nomad, about his most recent album.

Pick up the white vinyl from Soul Step Records HERE!

Modern Nomad

Q&A with Modern Nomad //

PDLR: Soul Step Records mentions similarities to Tame Impala, Mac Demarco, and Toro Y Moi, as well as influences from The Beatles and The Beach Boys. 

Do you have other influences or anecdotes to share about what inspired There It Is, There You Are?

Modern Nomad: “Harry Nilsson is one of my biggest influences, he is at the top of my list! As for the overall inspiration, I wrote and recorded this record at a time when I entered a long-term relationship. I spent two months with my partner, hanging out and getting to know each other basically every day. It went from that to long distance. Navigating the newness of distance inspired a lot of these songs. Specifically, the song “Feel This Way Forever” has a lot of lyrics about our relationship.”

PDLR: “Baby, I Love You,” “Electrify,” and “I Want You to Stay” have an evident influence from The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

What specific elements in your music draw inspiration from these iconic bands?

Modern Nomad: “I love the harmonies in The Beatles and The Beach Boys’ music. Harmony is something that I spend a lot of time on, so I’ll obsess over stacking vocals. The balance of simplicity and complexity is an element I admire in The Beatles’ music. They’ll have weird chord changes that don’t seem to fit, yet they work out smoothly. I will undeniably be searching for a McCartney-quality melody my entire life.”

PDLR: Can you discuss the songwriting process for There It Is, There You Are?

Modern Nomad: “I write, record, and produce everything myself, so the process changes from song to song. Several songs, like “All in My Dreams,” were recorded and worked on for over a year, whereas I finished “Get a Little Closer” in one night. Usually, I’ll start with an idea for a chord progression and part of a melody; then, I produce a track around it. Once I arrange and map out the idea, then I’ll finish writing the verses, choruses, and bridges. Writing like this also allows me to revisit songs if something else I did in a newer song inspires me. I love having that freedom.”

PDLR: How would you describe the album’s sound to someone who has never heard your music?

Modern Nomad: “Maybe something like if The Beatles in 1967 had access to Ableton, 80’s synths, and were listening to the Spotify playlist ‘Modern Psychedelia’ a lot.”

Our Favorite Tracks //

“Reflection” -A captivating intro track to the 10-song LP. “Reflection” oozes psychedelic indie rock à la Tame Impala.

“Get a Little Closer” -On this second track, Modern Nomad brings a sultry, mellow vibe that sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Get a Little Closer” is our favorite tune, based solely on the smooth instrumentals.

“Baby, I Love You” -This track that draws clear inspiration from The Beatles and The Beach Boys. We go back and forth between connections of the two iconic bands in “Baby, I Love You.” Catchy, cute, timeless, and undoubtedly nostalgic.

“Electrify” -Infectious and quite literally electrifying. It’s as if The Beatles and Tame Impala came together right now over this song.

“Feel This Way Forever” -A psychedelic, dreamy track with jazzy undertones. “Feel This Way Forever” has a perfect fade-out on vinyl into the album’s last two tracks.

*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

// FOLLOW SOUL STEP RECORDS // FOLLOW MODERN NOMAD //

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Aquarius Purple

Now Spinning: Marcus Machado Aquarius Purple

We are head over heels for this Purple Ink Spot repress of Marcus Machado’s 2021 debut album, Aquarius Purple, from Soul Step Records*. Described as “guitar-driven rhythm and funk for fans of Raphael Saadiq and Jimi Hendrix,” something kept calling me to spin this album.

Aquarius Purple is a Guitar & B type record with funky instrumental tracks such as “Aq Intro” and “Table Dance.” Marcus Machado’s style, rooted in soul, rhythm, and dream-like instrumentals, sends you into a temporary reverie. Throughout the galactic-sounding journey of the album, music fans may also liken Machado to Thundercat or Black Pumas. “Let’s Play” is a soul-heavy instrumental track contrasted by “Her,” a funky dance-beat bop. Collaborative sounds from Jermaine Holmes, Daru Jones, JSWISS, Ahrel Lumzy, and TFOX make Aquarius Purple an eccentric album with striking layers.

Pick up the Purple Ink Spot variant from Soul Step Records HERE!

Aquarius Purple

// Favorite Tracks //

“Let’s Play”

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

“Her”

“Running”

*Soul Step Records pays the upfront costs of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records, their mission, store, and contact info, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

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Dream Vinyl Room Decor

The idea for this room started as an imaginary dream considering I didn’t own a single vinyl record or turntable. For those of you that have seen One Tree Hill, you will understand when I that say Peyton Sawyer’s room was music lover GOALS. Her immense vinyl collection inspired me to want to create a similar space. So, I began collecting vinyl records little by little. I am nowhere near close to her wall-to-wall library, but that’s the fun in building a collection.

I also started to collect some things and “pin” lots of decor inspiration for what would be our future “vinyl room.” The only thing holding me back was moving from place to place and not having the ideal space.

Once I started collecting records, it didn’t take long to realize that it might become a bit of an obsession. Plus, I had already built up quite the collection of tour posters, albums, books, magazines, and tickets from countless shows.

If you’re into music and vinyl, you can surely incorporate your interests and feature your favorite artists. Let me take you on a shortened journey of how to turn your music memories into a dream room.

THE LISTENING SPACE

You will want to find a space that is away from distractions. It could be a bonus room, basement, office, formal living room, or even a cozy corner in your home. Our space is right inside the front door of our house and, yes, it screams, “Welcome to our home; I’m a crazy music addict!” It has quickly become a relaxation spot (for the fur babies and me anyway).

The room has double French doors which are helpful to close if we don’t want the music to carry throughout the house. It is a decent-sized room with two windows that look out onto the front yard. I foresee this being an office or a place where our family can hang out and spend time technology-free.

THE THEME

I’m not going to pretend that the theme didn’t have anything to do with my favorite band, The 1975, because it so clearly did. I found a few modern, black & white, minimalist style pieces and built the rest around it with pops of color. I am by no means an interior designer. The room itself has to do more with the music rather than the way that each piece goes together.

The idea of the theme came from three lyric prints that I found on Etsy. The prints used the minimalist style to incorporate lyrics from different The 1975 songs. Etsy is a great place to find just about anything personalized that you want to add to your home. Although it appears that the shop I used has closed, you can quickly type in an artist’s name and browse decor pieces. The prints I found are mostly black and white with lyrics from “Robbers,” “The City,” and “Chocolate.” Check them out below!

Vinyl Room decor

The next several items that I added to the collection were mostly furniture items. Wayfair is a great place to start if you are looking for unique inexpensive pieces like the teal loveseat pictured above. To continue with the modern/geometric ‘box’ theme, I added a cube bookcase also from Wayfair. These types of shelves are great to display music-related books, magazines, CDs, and small decorative items. Target came through with two significant pieces that I LOVE! The mirror pictured below couldn’t be more perfect if you are into // THAT KINDA THING // and I’m in love with this calligraphy accent chair. Thanks, Suzanne!

Vinyl Room decor
The Tom Petty lyric decal was another an Etsy find. It is linked here!
Vinyl Room decor
The accent chair, mirror, and lamp are ALL from Target!

THE PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE

The last major decor piece that I added did not come at an effortless price. This was the item that I honestly thought my husband was going to lose his mind over when I purchased it. So, I ordered this beauuuuutiful chandelier from Turkey….amateur mistake as she was not wired for the U.S. I learned the hard way that that wasn’t a smart purchase and sent her back a few weeks later. Anyway, I found her twin sister right in Naperville, IL via my mother-in-law and ordered an authentic Turkish style chandelier from Little Light Bazaar (who also has fantastic customer service). If you are interested in this type of fixture, save yourself the headache and order from her.

Vinyl Room decor

THE GALLERY WALL

The concept of the gallery wall can be applied to any room and can be made up of whatever kind of pictures and frames you want. Once it’s up, you can always interchange the prints or posters to reflect the time in your life. Our wall is probably 90% complete, still room for improvement.

The gallery wall for the music room started with several artist posters that I collected over the years. Some are from album releases, concerts, online exclusives, and lyric artwork. My wall currently displays fifteen different pieces in different styles of frames. Only two sets of the frames are identical and placed on opposite sides of the wall. The rest of the frames have different finishes and styles but are all black, white, and silver tones. The center focus frame is a teal blue that matches the love seat and other accent pieces in the room. You can mix and match frames, but be careful when it comes to the color palette as to not create too much distraction. If you are going for a semi-symmetrical look, make sure that your frame colors are balanced.

It also helps if you lay out all of the framed pieces on the floor before you start hanging. That way, you can fit them all together, create the balance you want, and visualize your final gallery wall.

The credit for the hanging of the wall goes to my lovely husband. He did an excellent job making my vision come to life. You can find some of the best frames on Amazon, The Rusty Roof, Craig Frames, The Frame Market, and ArtToFrames.

Vinyl Room gallery wall
It’s not finished as you can see and there’s still some room!
Vinyl Room gallery wall

THE MUSIC

While the whole room focuses on vinyl albums, you can also feature several of your favorite artists in the decor items. You can find chic ways to display new artists and records in the room. The go-to place for vinyl storage decor is, yet again, Etsy! The pieces in our room include posters, lyric art, a neon sign, and artwork done by the AMAZING Jack Coulter featuring two of my favorite songs: Me & Paris.

Vinyl Room decor and artwork
Melody soaking up the sun and the beauty of Jack Coulter’s artwork. From left: Me, Paris. She also ADORES this Lotus Leaf Cat Shelf from Refined Feline.

The other artists featured are my girl T. Swift, Ed Sheeran, Prince, Tom Petty, James Bay, Andrew McMahon, Saint Raymond, and currently The Maine, Bear’s Den, & Jack’s Mannequin. The shelf pictured with the chandelier is perfect for displaying the albums that you are now playing. You can find this vinyl storage rack on Etsy to show off some of your other favs.

The possibilities are endless with a music room, especially if you have a concert addiction and enjoy collecting vinyl. Maybe it’s not a vinyl room but a vinyl corner to start. You can even convert your pets into music fans as well!

Check out more details of my vinyl room on Pinterest.