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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 Val’s halla alum, Joel Kenyon, who stopped by this weekend to help us celebrate Hallapalooza! 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!

Joel Kenyon is a Val’s Halla alumnus. While attending college in the early 90’s, he wandered into the store one afternoon and basically never left. As a former manager of the store and a longtime friend of Val and Shayne, he credits his ever expanding library of musical knowledge and passion on the tutelage of Val herself. Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri and currently residing in Rockford, IL, he is a published author, former assistant editor of ‘The Creepercast’, an artist, musician, an entertainer and a veteran podcaster. He began his podcasting career in 2006 with the legendary ‘Awful Show’ and since then, has worked steadily in the community with multiple shows being produced on a weekly basis. To call it a hobby would be an understatement. He currently is a part of the four man comedy nostalgiacast, ’40 Going On 14’. It’s a weekly pop culture podcast discussing things then and now including film, television, books, games and their own personal lives. He also produces his own solo musical mixcast called ‘The Sunshine Happy Kpants Hour’. It’s a show filled with music and musings and a little bit of self-help for good measure. It’s an outlet that allows him to share his passion with anyone who wants to listen. He believes that music is something that bonds us all together in this life and he’s constantly on the lookout for new artists to fall in love with and to share with the world at large. It’s another way of carrying on the gift that Val gave him all those years ago.

Artist: Sunshine Boys
Album: Work and Love

I’ve been a fan of Freda Love Smith since her days with Juliana Hatfield and John P. Strohm in The Blake Babies. In her latest power trio, she’s joined by Jacqueline Schimmel (Big Hello) and Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering) and they’ve just released their second album together. Once again, they have hit the power pop nail on the head. It’s no surprise though, considering their collective resumes, they’re essentially an indie rock super group. If you like your songs short, sweet and burrowing into your head like a delicious earworm, then have I got an album for you. With Dag’s honestly sung lyrics, Jackie’s power house bass and Freda’s thundering drums, they have crafted 12 perfectly formed songs that you’ll be singing along with long after it has ended.

Check out the track Infinity Girl.


Artist: HUM
Album: Inlet

One of my all-time favorite bands is back with a surprise new record, after not releasing an album together in 22 years. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. While each of them has been doing things on their own, there is just something about the music created when they’re together. Lead guitarist, Tim Lash, likes to create lush soundscapes with not a lot of pop song structure. While guitarist and vocalist, Matt Talbott likes to write dirge-like aggressive songs that are like reading an Isaac Asimov book. Within that giant wall of guitars he creates, he sneaks in a catchy chorus or a guitar hook that makes you want to immediately listen again. When you combine the two elements together you get magic. I’ve enjoyed everything that these guys have put out, individually, and as a group since 1995. Despite time and tide, they do not disappoint on this new album. I just hope it’s not another 22 years until the next one, but if it is, they’ve left a hell of a legacy behind.

Check out the track Cloud City.


Artist: The Beths
Album: Jump Rope Gazers

Coming straight out of Auckland, New Zealand, we have my final record. This indie quartet just dropped this sophomore album and it’s anything but jinxed. Full of bright, summer filled anthems and late night contemplations for driving home, they have succeeded to yet again hit my sweet spot. While they might not be reinventing the wheel with this record, why fix what isn’t broken? They’ve instead, woven clever lyrics, catchy hooks and strong pop sensibilities into an album that demands to be played from start to finish. A solid new release from a band that I look forward to enjoying for years to come.

Check out the track Dying To Believe.

Artist: Slowdive
Album: Souvlaki

Last week I pulled off the bandaid with one of my all-time favorites that I’m known for, so I figure I might as well get the big one out of the way too. This is my absolute favorite album full-stop! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve sold my own copy to someone having talked it up only to replace it and repeat the process. For me this is this perfect “Desert Island Disc” as it works on multiple levels, from crying in the bathtub to sexy-times and everything in between, it has you covered.

Check out the track Machine Gun.


Artist: The Wrens
Album: Meadowlands

Full disclosure, this album took me a while to really get into. It’s hard to imagine why now considering the staple it’s since become but upon release James really had to sell me on it. I liked a couple songs alright, but I guess I was just in a different place at the time. Since then though it really clicked and has cemented itself as a near-perfect classic. Still waiting on the follow-up album 15 years later you guys, WTH?!

Check out the track This Boy Is Exhausted.


Artist: First Aid Kit
Album: The Lions Roar

This one snuck up on me. We received a promo copy of the CD at the store and threw it on with very little attention. The second track “Emmylou” cut through however and had both Val and I doing a double take and playing it over again. Absolutely beautiful harmony and clear respect and reverence for the subject matter (you can find video of them performing for Emmylou Harris herself but bring tissues.) The rest of the album is also amazing, as well as their subsequent releases, but I can’t listen to this song without getting misty.

Check out the track Emmylou (Obviously).

Artist: Roxy Music
Album: Roxy Music

This is one of those albums that I find myself coming back to over and over again. The brilliance of Brian Eno shines through as his electronic experimentations drive the soundscapes of this record complementing the glam rock of Bryan Ferry. I would recommend you check out the song Re-Make/Re-Model, from this album, which shows off this unique combination.

Check out the track Re-Make/Re-Model.


Artist: Swans
Album: To Be Kind

This experimental rock album is a monster, but it is a daunting task to take on. Playtime clocks in at just over 2 hours. This may seem overwhelming, but its droning experimentation draws you in and won’t let go. My recommended track is Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture, which is only a 30-minute commitment. If you are up to the challenge, give it a go!

Check out the track Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverturescillations.


Artist: The Byrds
Album: Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Anyone that knows me would tell you that I am probably not the biggest fan of country music. I mean, I appreciate it, and there are a handful of artists who I really enjoy – Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, to name a couple, but still…  Simply put, this Byrds album has a hold on me. The Byrds were pioneers of Folk Rock in their early years with iconic songs such as “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”. In 1968, Gram Parsons joined the band and with  his influence, they created Sweetheart of the Rodeo, considered by many to be the first Country Rock album. Aside from creating a whole new genre of music, the songs on this album are just melodic and fun and the songs put a smile on my face.

Check out the track Hickory Wind.


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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