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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 contributor is John Scholvin, guitarist from the band Tiny Bit of Giant’s Blood.  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!

John is a lifelong Chicagoan, and a guitarist, composer, arranger, and sometimes singer who has been kicking around the local music scene since the mid-80’s. His critically acclaimed but commercially misunderstood band The Good played every club within an eight-hour drive around the turn of the century. His current band, Tiny Bit of Giant’s Blood, recently released their first full-length album, Gigantosaur, a raucous glam-punk assortment which draws on influences from Queen, Bowie, and The Tubes. TBGB is a multimedia experience, so be sure to watch their videos for Five Foot Heels and their cover of AC/DC’s If You Want Blood.  You can purchase Gigantosaur from Val’s on CD or Vinyl in our online shop.

John first became aware of Val’s in high school, trekking there with his friends from Oak Park after their shifts flipping burgers at Brookfield Zoo. He still believes there’s no better way to listen to new records than on the shag carpet of your friend’s basement, while wearing your zoo uniform, and smelling like fryer grease. In his scant spare time, he blogs eponymously, and having successfully deployed that word, now feels like he’s finally a music writer.

Artist: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Album: Reunions

Knowing that Jason was going to release an album in late May was pretty much what got me through the first part of the lockdown. Failing to live up to that kind of expectation during these unprecedented times is the sort of thing that could have triggered an existential spiral, but the risk was low: since sobering up in 2013 and releasing Southeastern, all Jason Isbell did was put out three of the best albums of the decade. Make it four for four: Reunions is a masterpiece.

Anyone with a functioning heart knows that he’s been one of America’s best songwriters for a while now, and there’s no let-up on that front here. His ability to empathize is unparalleled. In “Dreamsicles,” he inhabits an awkward fourteen-year-old loner, moving from town to town with his single mom and trying to find connections, dreaming of a better future. “Only Children” is a conversation with a childhood friend who died too young. These songs back to back, after the opening anthem “What Have I Done To Help,” are the point where you set down your book or close your browser, and realize you are in for a journey that demands your full attention.

Beyond the masterful storytelling, this is his backing band The 400 Unit’s best album to date. I’d buy solo tracks of just the rhythm section of Jimbo Hart on bass and Chad Gamble on drums if they were available. And soaring above it all is Jason’s finest work as a guitarist yet. He’d clearly been listening to a lot of Dire Straits and Pink Floyd as part of this process, and the result is guitar nerd heaven. The solos (and the tone!) in “Overseas” could be the basis of a full-semester class at GIT or Berklee someday. It’s basically unfair that one guy should be hoarding this much songwriting and guitar talent, but he’s willing to share the result at least, and we’re all richer for it.

Check out the track Overseas.


Artist: Dawes
Album: All Your Favorite Bands

It was a challenge to decide which Dawes album I wanted to write about. It seemed like picking three albums by the same artist for this exercise was not in the spirit of the thing. It’s also like picking your favorite child (though, if we’re being honest, all parents have one of those).

But this life is about hard choices, and so All Your Favorite Bands it will be. It’s the album which captures the breadth of their capabilities most completely, and is perhaps the best showcase of lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith’s total mastery of his craft. Another guy who’s unfairly good at all of the things, Taylor is the musician I want to be when I grow up, and never mind that he’s twenty years younger than me.

He had clearly been through the wringer when he wrote these songs. There’s the relationship in bloom (“Right On Time”), in trouble (“Don’t Send Me Away”), ending (“To Be Completely Honest”), over (“Waiting For Your Call” and “Now that It’s Too Late, Maria”), and looked back upon as a growth experience (“Somewhere Along The Way.”) Damn, what did she do to you, buddy? Here’s the thing, though: it never drops into something maudlin or self-pitying. He’s taking an honest look at the whole thing, and sharing how he felt in those moments. It’s hopeful, romantic, painful, wistful, sometimes funny. A complicated weave, just like real life. It’s not intended as a concept album, I don’t think. Just an open-hearted review of all the parts of the trip.

There’s much, much more here than that arc, though. For years now, they’ve closed their shows with the title track, and the tradition is that the band stops for the last chorus, and the entire audience sings the last verse a capella. It’s a farewell blessing, a benediction:

I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be
I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever
I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me
And may all your favorite bands stay together

These are perhaps the kindest words you could say to a kindred spirit; imagine a couple thousand such spirits incanting it to, with, and for each other. If we ever have live music again, promise me you’ll go see them.

Check out the track Somwhere Along The Way.


Artist: Warren Zevon
Album: Warren Zevon

This masterpiece from 1976 has been in heavy rotation for me most of this year. I stumbled into it in a roundabout way, as I was surfing Dawes videos on YouTube one night when I came across their cover of “Desperados Under the Eaves” which they’d played on Letterman. I’d been aware of Warren at the “Werewolves Of London” level, and I kind of remember the Sentimental Hygiene record from when I was in college, but I’d never really gotten much deeper than that. So I picked this album up for a song I found accidentally, and I haven’t really put it down since.

He covers so much ground on this record—a western tale (“Frank and Jesse James”), his father’s gambling addiction (“Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded”), one of the all-time “your new boyfriend sucks” songs (“The French Inhaler”), pirate radio (“Mohammed’s Radio”). But the two that really stick to your ribs are where he addresses his own experience with addiction. “Desperados Under the Eaves” paints an uncanny picture of the slow descent into alcoholism from a crappy hotel room in a forgotten corner of Los Angeles. And “Carmelita” is the story of a heroin addict who is just about out of money and options, contemplating his trip down to this point, and maybe a final exit strategy.

Musically, the album positively glows with the sunshine mid-70s Southern California. The record was produced by Jackson Browne, who called in every favor he could for backing musicians to ensure this record wouldn’t be the flop that Warren’s debut seven years prior had been. The resultant galaxy of stars included the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Carl Wilson, and a who’s who of LA session musicians. But don’t let that roster fool you into thinking this is a yacht rock record. There are plenty of sharp edges and teeth here, and even under the hazy sun, they still cut.

Check out the track Poor Poor Pitiful Me.

Artist: The Cranberries
Album: No Need To Argue

Yeah yeah, you already know! I had to get to it eventually right? As many (if not all) of you are aware, I’m kind of “The Cranberries guy.” To the point where when lead singer Dolores O’Riordan passed a couple years ago I was overwhelmed with phone calls and texts from people who I didn’t even realize had my phone number. I love everything in their catalogue, but this album will always be my standby. This has been a consistent fixture in the soundtrack of my life for, wow, 26 years. Yikes.

Check out the track Daffodil Lament.


Artist: Les Rita Mitsouko
Album: The No Comprendo

I can barely count to ten in French, but in this case language is no barrier. This album is so infectious it doesn’t even matter and I’m more than happy to sing along phonetically. Produced by the legendary Tony Visconti, it has that perfect new wave vibe that is just impossible not to groove to..

Check out the track C’est Comme Ca.


Artist: Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Album: Dress For Excess

This was among the items stolen from Championship Vinyl in the movie version of High Fidelity, and for good reason. It’s just plain RAD! Formed by former Gen-X bassist Tony James, for my money Sigue Sigue Sputnik went on to create far more interesting, though much less marketable, music than his ex-bandmate Billy Idol (though I do love me some Billy as well.)

Check out the track Boom Boom Satellite.

Artist: Isaac Hayes
Album: Hot Buttered Soul

This album is one of my favorite soul albums of all time. It may be only 4 tracks long, but each one is filled with some ultra-smooth sounds, grooving on for as long as needed to take your soul for a ride. The music reminds me of a rainy day stuck inside, just looking out the window. Isaac’s vocals sound so pained, yet so calm and deep. His voice is buttery and smooth, being the heat of the heart of this soulful masterpiece. The musical arrangements on the record have a quite cinematic quality to them, seamlessly weaving together elements of soul, jazz, and funk.

Check out the track Walk On By.


Artist: Silver Apples
Album: Silver Apples

This album was way ahead of its time. If you played it for me without me knowing what it is, I could have easily mistaken it as a new release from Animal Collective, not a 1968 release. The songs on the album feature repetitive, hypnotic melodies, layered with Simeon’s ethereal and otherworldly vocals. It combines the DIY synths made out of miscellaneous electronic equipment such as oscillators and audio generators with a hypnotic repetitive drumming style to create a spacey, futuristic sound. If you’re into any sort of electronic music, you should seriously check out this influential album, especially the song “Oscillations.”

Check out the track Oscillations.


Artist: X-Ray Spex
Album: Germfree Adolescents

When talking about the history of movements such as Riot Grrl, not enough people bring up X-Ray Spex. The band was making rebellious female-led punk reminiscent of Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney a whole decade before these bands formed. Their songs are fast, crunchy, and full of attitude. The centerpiece of Germfree Adolescents is Poly Styrene’s powerful and distinctive vocal delivery. Her voice has an intensity that serves as a powerful vehicle for delivering messages of social commentary and feminist themes, all delivered with a sense of urgency and rebellion. It remains a significant and influential work, with the themes found on this record inspiring the subsequent generations of punk and alternative rock musicians.

Check out the track Art-I-Ficial.


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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