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Vinyl Views is our weekly blog where we feature album recommendations from our store team (Shayne and Jaxon), and reveal picks from guest contributors.  This week’s guest contributor is the young rocker, Miles Toppen.  Let’s see what Miles has been listening to. We will also check out picks from Jaxon and Shayne (I mean Casserole) continues his tasty and thankful picks.  It’s a musical feast!

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Miles Toppen is a Guitarist, Keyboardist, Singer, Songwriter, Lyricist, aspiring performer and producer. He is a freshman at OPRF High School, and an active student at School of Rock in Oak Park. He has started many bands, and hopes to release music sometime in the near future.

Artist: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Album: Flying Microtonal Banana

Not only is Flying Microtonal Banana (FMB) my favorite, as well as one of the most innovative, albums of all time, this Friday (November 20, 2020) also happens to be the release date for its sequel, K.G.

FMB, subtitled “Explorations into Microtonal Tuning: Volume 1”, was released on February 24th, 2017. It was King Gizzard’s 10th studio album, and first of 5 full-length releases that year. This album uses custom instruments to delve into the microtonal madness this album explores.

For those who are unaware, standard western music, which is 99.9% of the music Americans listen to today, is in 12 Tone Equal Temperament, or 12TET, tuning. This means that, between two octaves, there are twelve equally spaced notes, or semitones: A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, and it loops back around to A. However, there are infinite frequencies between any two of these notes. The only reason why you never encounter these microtones in western music is because standard music theory has created a system of scales designed around these 12 notes. In order to use microtones effectively, this prolific Australian band wrote their own scales and tuning system for this album by dividing each semitone in half to create quarter tones.

Given that they’ve invented an entirely new way of writing music, it may come as no surprise that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, abbreviated to King Gizzard, King Gizz, KGATLW, or any number of shortenings, is by no means a conventional band, either. Made up of 3 guitar players, a bass player, a keyboard/harmonica player, and 2 drummers, this incredibly prolific band has released 15 studio albums and 2 E.P.s in the past ten years. And that’s not counting K.G. (FMB’s sequel), coming out this week, plus another album already recorded and scheduled, and 3 more in the works for 2021. Given this volume and pace of work, you would expect at least some duds to come from their discography, yet I would argue that they haven’t yet released an album that wasn’t at least good, ranging up to some of the best music you’ve ever heard.

For a track to feature, I recommend Billabong Valley, sung by keyboardist Ambrose Kenney-Smith. It’s a great tune that I always look forward to when listening to this album. That said, with all of KGATLW’s music, I encourage listening to the entire album a couple times straight through in order to properly appreciate the songwriting expertise of this incredible band.

Check out the track Billabong Valley.

Artist: I Don’t Know How But They Found Me
Album: Razzmatazz

In terms of casting, this band is the complete antithesis to King Gizzard. Made up of singer/bassist Dallon Weekes and drummer Ryan Seaman, this Salt Lake City duo has quite the odd past. The two started playing together in Dallon’s original project, The Brobecks, until that band’s breakup in 2009. After that, Weekes joined Brendon Urie playing bass for his project, Panic! at the Disco, while Seaman joined post-hardcore band Falling in Reverse.

The name, idea, and lineup for IDKHOW has existed since 2009 when The Brobecks broke up. Formed in secret, the duo debuted at the Emo Nite Los Angeles’ two-year anniversary event on December 6, 2016. Initially denying the project’s existence, the band wanted it to naturally gain popularity as its own thing, rather than have the fame of the bands to which the members belong be the primary factor for their success. After months of denial, the two finally admitted to their relationship with the name I Dont Know How But They Found Me (stylized in all caps), or IDKHOW for short. The two quit their bands to pursue IDKHOW full time in 2017, releasing their debut EP, titled 1981 EP (1981 being the year of Dallon’s birth) the following year.

The poor punctuation in the band’s name was a conscious choice of Dallon’s. Previously being in Panic! at the Disco, he was fed up with punctuation being such an important part of the band’s name, and ditched it entirely. So while punctuating it wouldn’t be wrong, they specifically wanted it to be unimportant to the band’s name and identity.

I first listened to them because their music was recommended to me based on my Spotify playlist. I immediately fell in love with their fantastic blend of modern indie rock music like The Strokes and ‘80s synthpop music like Howard Jones or Duran Duran, plus the lyrical and vocal edge of 2000s pop punk bands like My Chemical Romance. IDKHOW creates an interesting blend of music, ranging from exciting up-beat synthpop jams, to hard-hitting jazzy tunes such as the title track Razzmatazz, to show tune-esque piano ballads like their first unofficial single Nobody Likes the Opening Band. The album carries you from a haunting love song about being hung to death (From the Gallows), to Dallon’s bittersweet slow jam duet with his daughter, Amelie, on Need you Here. In a genre that often feels overdone and stale, IDKHOW is able to stand way out from everything similar. This is one album that will make you dance and make you cry, allow you to intensely analyze every tiny detail of the music, or just sit back and enjoy the show.

For a track to feature, I recommend the first track and first official single, Leave Me Alone. This phrase became synonymous with Dallon after he wrote it on his number one bass after it was stolen and then recovered by the LAPD in October of 2018. After that, he had the phrase etched on his jacket and started using it regularly, so naturally, he wrote a song around it. While this might not be the band’s best song ever, it’s an excellent tune and a great representation of the band’s sound.

Check out the track Leave Me Alone.


Artist: Sex Pistols
Album: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Quite possibly the most influential album in punk rock, 1977’s Never Mind the Bollocks is the first and only full-length studio album by London punk band, the Sex Pistols. Despite a career that spanned only 2-and-a-half years, this band’s influence and controversy is seemingly unending.

Formed by manager and producer Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols is made up of singer/frontman John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and bassist Glen Matlock, later replaced by the infamous John Simon Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious). Together, they wrote, recorded, and briefly toured with, the most heavily censored record in British history.

Shortly after the release of their album, they embarked on their career-ending 1978 U.S. tour. Their frequent criminal record made the U.S. government hesitant to give the band temporary visas, which delayed their tour, originally expected to start on New Year’s Eve, 1977. While the band sounded excellent (according to videos and live recordings), the American tour crashed and burned. Partially due to them mostly holding shows in the deep, conservative South, and partially due to the nature of their music, they were frequently met with an audience of hatred. After a number of cancellations and poor audience response, Johnny Rotten announced the band’s breakup only 14 days into their tour while playing at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. A reunion tour in 1996 was also short-lived.
Despite their lack of longevity or success with touring, this band has been a major influence on many musicians and music lovers everywhere, including myself. Responsible for getting a generation of people into good and hard-hitting music, not to mention the punk attitude, The Sex Pistols is the quintessential punk band and the embodiment of punk rock. Because of this, their one and only album is very much worth dozens upon dozens of spins. For a track recommendation, my favorite song is Holidays in the Sun, but there is no such thing as the “best” Sex Pistols song. No song of theirs would make it on anyone’s “best” song list, but that’s what makes them so great at what they do.

Check out the track Holidays in the Sun.


Artist: Rufus Thomas
Album: Funkiest Man

It’s hard to argue with that title when you listen to a track like “Funky Hot Grits” which makes you wince through the sheer force of it’s funkiness despite saying, well, not much of anything at all really? Does it matter? Mainly known for his hit “Walkin The Dog” and largely out-shined by his daughter Carla, Rufus fully deserves to be recognized as one of the great R&B showmen.

Check out the track Funky Hot Grits.


Artist: Danny Elfman
Album: So-Lo

Part solo album, part Oingo Boingo and shortly before moving on to more orchestral fair, Danny Elfman dropped this gem. While it may be a bit on the sarcastic side for the theme of “thankfulness” I’m aiming for here, it was one of the very first things to come to mind and you just have to love his trademarked blend of goofy & creepy. An aesthetic he very much continues to showcase even this year with “Happy.” Never change.

Check out the track Gratitude.


Artist: Bobby Bare
Album: Bare

Two entries about grits this week despite it not being a traditional Thanksgiving side, but hey gravy and gizzards totally are! (Look, Thanksgiving songs are hard to come by.) Bobby Bare is a prolific songwriter in his own right but really made his name recording the songs of Shel Silverstein, (one of my all time favorites) evidenced on this album where all but 2 tracks are credited to him. Including today’s focus “Greasy Grit Gravy.”

Check out the track Greasy Grit Gravy.

Artist: Flipper
Album: Generic Flipper

Flipper was an interesting and highly influential band formed in San Francisco in the late 70s. They morphed the punk sound of their peers into a noisier, slower-paced conglomeration that would influence acts such as The Melvins, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, and countless other alternative rock, grunge, and noise rock bands. If you are in the mood for a heavy, sludgy, punk album, I would highly recommend you check this one out.

Check out the track Shed No Tears.


Artist: The Olivia Tremor Control
Album: Dusk at Cubist Castle

This album is a Neo Psychedelic masterpiece. It has pop sensibilities in its song writing, but isn’t afraid to experiment with sound. Their sound is slightly reminiscent of The Zombies or Love, but slightly modernized, with alternative and indie rock ideas being mixed into the blend. And they also occasionally dive into “Syd Barrett-esque” sound collages as shown in their track Green Typewriters. But the stand out track to me is Jumping Fences, with its harmonization, warm fuzzy guitar, and spacey indie rock production.

Check out the track Jumping Fences.


Artist: King Crimson
Album: In The Court of The Crimson King

I just realized that nobody has written about this masterpiece yet, which is quite shocking. So, I will be that person. This album is split up into 5 amazing songs. And while each song is quite long, ranging from 6 to 12 minutes, they never overstay their welcome. This album is an essential listen as it helped birth the genre that became progressive rock.

Check out the track Epitaph.

How Do I Order Music (Or Other Things)?

Val’s is now open again (safely)! Bring a face mask and we will sanitize your hands on the way in.  Social distancing, of course.  Val’s halla has worked hard over this quarantine period to launch its Online Store which has thousands of titles for you to choose from.  We will continue to add inventory everyday, but just let us know what you are looking for!  We are happy to look through our off-line inventory of over 50,000 titles to see what we have for you.  Also, we place orders with our distributor every Monday which means we see them in our store by Tuesday (most of the time).  We sell records (as well as turntables), CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, DVDs and more.  To get started, you can Click Here to access the Online Store, or fill out the form below to let us know what you are looking for.

What About Delivery?

Val’s is offering Curbside Pickup and No-Contact Delivery Service to customers who live within a 5-mile radius of the Oak Park Arts District. Orders can also be shipped to customers outside that radius for a flat fee of $5.  Order as much as you want – still $5 shipping! Stay safe and be well!

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