VINYL VIEWS: WEEK OF 7/13/20
Vinyl Views is our new weekly blog where we feature album recommendations from our store team (Shayne and Jaxon), and reveal picks from guest contributors. This week’s contributor is Kelly Pink-O. Kelly is a former DJ and long-time friend of the Val’s family. Scroll down to read this week’s album picks or start shopping! Sign up now to be a part of our Vinyl Views family and be the first to hear about new releases, store events, and exclusive promotions. Looking for a prior week of Vinyl Views? If so, CLICK HERE!
Kelly Pink-O is a retired DJ (Detroit Techno, Chicago House & Italo-Disco) and current Software Engineer and UX Designer. As a longtime friend of both Shayne and Val, he is a frequent visitor to Val’s Halla Records in spite of the long journey from New York City and has found a lot of gems in the vinyl racks including a mint copy of Brian Ice’s “Talking to the Night” and the Chicago House classic “Love Can’t Turn Around.” As a DJ, his residencies included the decadent/queer monthly Fierce Hot Mess parties at Oslo, and Disco/Secret at The Detroit Eagle (unfortunately, both clubs have since closed). While in Detroit, Kelly Pink-O performed alongside a roster of other DJs including BMG from Ectomorph (I.T. Records), Osborne (Ghostly Records) and Savas Pascalidis (Lasergun/Gigolo). After working in the art world in Detroit and New York City, Kelly transitioned to working in tech and is currently obsessed with building expressive design systems, prototyping, and engineering software solutions that empower designers (with little coding experience) to make big changes to multifaceted websites.
Artist: Roxy Music
Album: For Your Pleasure
Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure is the last album by the group to feature synthesizer and sound wizard Brian Eno (a bit of a shame as it’s only their second record!). As you might surmise from its cover art For Your Pleasure is dark, elegant, and erotic, while maintaining a balance of absurdity and hilariousness with catchy bangers. The opening track “Do The Strand” implores the listener to do The Strand, a perpetually modern youth dance craze like the Locomotion or Mashed Potato were (only for a short period of time) back in their day, but there are no dance moves for The Strand (I guess that’s how it always stays fresh).
“Beauty Queen” is dripping with melodramatic beauty and nostalgia. Eno’s synths and effects match the drippiness. Ferry opens by breaking up with a girlfriend
Valerie, please believe
It never could work out…
And then spends the entire song singing her praises, evoking a film goddess from the golden era heading toward her zenith
Ooh, the way you look
Makes my starry eyes shiver
Swaying palms at your feet
You’re the pride of your street
The fast paced and catchy “Editions of You” features sax solos and heavy synth experimentations. Followed by the much slower “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” a brooding monologue of decadent luxury, penthouse surroundings with lyrics that meander, zombie-like into a love song of devotion to a rubber doll. A darkly comic portrait of bourgeois decadence – the audio equivalent of pop artist Richard Hamilton’s collage, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? Ferry is a huge fan of Hamilton’s work.
Eno and Ferry end on a high note with “For Your Pleasure” with an incredible vocal performance from Ferry and Eno going nuts with the synths and effects (well, as nuts as he could go on a glam rock record in 1973).
Check out the title track For Your Pleasure.
I hated Robyn. As a gay man, I should have been her target audience, but her debut album and single “Show Me Love” represented all that was wrong with the overprocessed 1990s pop music machine. One could be forgiven for thinking she would have aged out of the bubble gum pop scene and already be forgotten by the 21st Century, but Robyn has evolved and has created a music empire on her own terms – with integrity. Her sixth studio album, Honey, is beautiful, catchy, and like its namesake – deceptively easy-to-swallow.
“Missing U” with its uplifting arpeggios and pulsing drum beats is an incredible opening dance track. And it is in serious conflict with its subject matter,
The space where you used to be
Your head on my shoulder
All of the plans we made
That never happened
Now your scent on my pillow’s faded
At least you left me with something
There’s this empty space you left behind
Now you’re not here with me
The track abruptly ends mid-arpeggio, unresolved, like one of the studies from David Bowie’s Low album, because, well, it seems like a mix of artistic formalism and that Robyn just has other things to say, like declaring “I’m a Human Being” in the next track. And these are Swedish club songs!
As the album progresses the songs become lighter and breezier. “Between the Lines” is a catchy, stripped-down house track that any Chicagoan would love. It challenges the listener not to dance along (perfect for dancing while cleaning your place in quarantine as I often was while listening to Robyn’s Honey). Oh! On that subject, Robyn has been doing some really fun COVID quarantine DJ sets.
(*Note: I didn’t actually hate Robyn herself, just the music that her producers and handlers were making her put out in the 90s before she took control – see her dancing to Prince during quarantine in this video – who could hate Robyn?)
Check out the track Missing U.
Artist: Blood Orange
Album: Freetown Sound
The mood of this record from Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) is prescient and raw. “Augustine” opens with lyrics through the lens of African diaspora, St. Augustine, longing, and the imagery of black people being killed in America, which is unfortunately quite relevant in 2020:
My father was a young man
My mother, off the boat
My eyes were fresh at 21
Bruised, but still afloat
Our heads have hit the pavement
Many times before
Tell me, did you lose your son?
Tell me, did you lose your love?
Cry and burst my deafness
While Trayvon falls asleep
If that’s not relevant enough for 2020… the outro of “Augustine” begins with the chant:
We heard it all from you
Nontetha being a South African prophet who believed she survived the flu pandemic of 1818 to reform society by returning to African customs, avoiding mechanisms of social control, and empowering women.
Toward the middle of the album, just before the hauntingly beautiful “Hadron Collider” the track “Hands Up” both asks and warns:
Are you sleeping with the lights on baby?
(Hands up, get out, hands up, get out)
Keep your hood off when you’re walking cause they
(Hands up, get out, hands up, get out)
Freetown Sound also includes an ensemble of amazing women as prominent guest artists including Debbie Harry, Carly Rae Jepsen, Empress Of, and Nelly Furtado on danceable tracks including “Best to You” and “E.V.P.” In addition to the eclecticism of guest artists, the songs shift seamlessly in genre and tone from synth pop, jazz, 80s funk, and r&b.
Check out the track Augustine.
Artist: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Cast
Album: Once More With Feeling
The soundtrack to the Buffy musical episode (well the whole show itself, really) is one of my most frequent go-tos. The story goes that the cast and creator Joss Whedon had semi-frequent get-togethers after filming that often broke into song and realizing that (most) of his actors were surprisingly talented singers, musicians and/or dancers, he couldn’t resist the urge to put them through it. In most hands this would mean a goofy one-off that would shatter the illusion of the show. In this case however, the songs actually advance the ongoing storyline in a natural way that I think is simply incredible. While also tossing in some delicious easter-eggy fan-service for those familiar with the show’s lore. For my money (and man I have spent a lot of money on this series) this is the best modern musical. Sorry Lin.
Check out the track I’ll Never Tell.
Artist: Harry Belafonte
Album: At Carnegie Hall
This is a perfect example of a peerless performer at the height of their powers. Harry’s natural charm just oozes through on every track, not only musically, but in the banter in-between. I maintain that that is an undervalued skill and anyone with dreams of the stage should study this masterclass on how to engage an audience and keep them in the palm of your hand til the very end.
Check out the track Matilda.
Artist: Malcom McLaren
Another on the relatively short list of artists that are wholly and wonderfully “unclassifiable,” Malcolm McLaren could have rested on his laurels after advising and/or managing the likes of The Sex Pistols and The New York Dolls, but instead went on to a mind-boggling solo career dabbling in practically every genre. Sometimes brilliantly, others cringe-worthy, and others still a little of both. Here he fuses Puccini’s Madame Butterfly with disco because why the hell not?
Check out the track Madam Butterfly.
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: Pretty Hate Machine
This was the first industrial album I ever listened to and it certainly paved a path for me in the industrial genre. I first listened to Pretty Hate Machine in the winter of 8th grade and over the next year and a half my interest in industrial grew and grew. This album uses a pop songwriting style as an introduction to industrial music. The song “Ringfinger” is a great example of a basic pop ballad using industrial elements to create an angry haunting atmosphere. So good. This album has permanently changed my taste in music.
Check out the track Ringfinger.
Artist: The United States of America
Album: The United States of America
This album was released over 50 years ago, yet it still sounds like almost nothing else. The songwriting style and themes remind me a lot of Lou Reed and Velvet Underground. The United States of America created what I would describe as a “spacey” sound using early electronics and a variety of effects in place of guitars. The song Coming Down is a great example of this trippy, unique psychedelic rock.
Check out the track Coming Down.
Artist: The Stooges
This album is fast, loud, and angry. Iggy Pop’s screeching vocals are sung over fast, unhinged guitars with wailing saxes cutting through the wall of sound. Simply said – I love it. The entire album is a spontaneous burst of energy, and it cemented Iggy’s position as the godfather of punk.
Check out the track Loose.
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!