Skip to content Skip to footer


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 Trevor Toppen – music lover, spreadsheet jockey, and humble partner of Shayne in this crazy journey of Val’s halla Records. 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!

I started this crazy journey of partnering with Shayne back in November.  I am humbled to be a small part of the amazing story of Val’s halla Records that proudly marches on.  I never imagined how much work AND how much fun was in store.  Vinyl Views is at the top of the FUN LIST when it comes to new things at Val’s halla. Shayne has been bugging me to write one for months, so on Shayne’s birthday week, here it is!

One of the most rewarding things about hanging out in a record store is discovering new things.  I decided to focus this week’s picks on 3 albums that I was unfamiliar with, then discovered while hanging out at Val’s.  There’s just something amazing about a new discovery.


Artist: Tokyo Sex Destruction
Album: The Big Red Box For The Syndicate Of Emotion

This record was one of the “other things” that came along with the purchase of an entire used record collection. I had never heard of Tokyo Sex Destruction, which is not an unusual occurrence. Shayne and Jaxon were also unfamiliar with them at the time, though, and that doesn’t happen very often.

A quick internet search and we found that the record was pressed in Germany, but the band hailed from Spain, and the name was Tokyo Sex Destruction…curious. Jaxon or Shayne put the record on while I was doing some paperwork in the back room, but it caught my attention. I came out to see what they were listening to and we all had the same stupid looks on our face. Damn…this is good!

The band was heavily influenced by garage rock legends MC5 – so much in fact, that all 4 members of the band changed their names to Sinclair in honor of John Sinclair, legendary poet, activist, and manager of MC5. Hope you enjoy the discovery as much as we did.

Check out the track Power to the People.


Artist: Howlin’ Wolf
Album: The Howlin’ Wolf Album

This all starts with the album cover. How awesome is that? Marketing gold.

When this album came to us through the purchase of a record collection, my first reaction was “Great! We can always use more good blues records.” I was also excited because when we get used records in the store, we get to play them! On the turntable it went, and then something magical happened. There was something different about this album that I couldn’t put my finger on, but ooooh,  I liked it! There were elements in this that reminded me of Hendrix.

Off to the internet again to find out what I could. As it turns out, the album cover may have been a marketing ploy, but it was rooted in truth. Marshall Chess, son of legendary label owner Leonard Chess, was trying to expand the market for Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, so he decided to introduce elements of psychedelic rock which were dominating the charts. Chess brought in the Chicago psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection as the backing band. According to the story, Wolf was kicking and screaming throughout the process and was unhappy with being taken out of his element.

I seem to gravitate to music where genres overlap and I must say that while Howlin’ Wolf wasn’t a fan, I clearly am. The record wasn’t in the store that long before being sold, but while it was there, a day didn’t go by that I didn’t put it on the turntable. 

Check out the track Built for Comfort.


Artist: Bullion
Album: Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee

Where to begin with this? Shayne, Jaxon and I were doing some reflecting in the store and we set out on a mission to bring in more Rap / Hip Hop titles. This is an ongoing focus at the store, by the way. In this quest, we came across this mash-up record by UK-based producer Bullion.

We all gravitated to it immediately because of the take on the iconic Beach Boys album, Pet Sounds, which has been a staple at Val’s since the store’s inception and continues to this day. This creation mashes up the amazing harmonies of the Beach Boys with the chill swag of J-Dilla’s Donuts. There are spoken interview clips cleverly overlaid throughout.

This is not something normally in my wheelhouse, but I’m sure thankful for the discovery.  Give it a listen – I guarantee you will find yourself bopping your head up and down as an involuntary response to the groove.

Check out the track Wouldn’t It Be Nice.

Artist: Fisher Price
Tape: Discover a World of Sounds

In honor of my own impending birthday (which my back continues to remind me about) I’m choosing three early milestones in my musical legacy.

It all starts here. I don’t know exactly how young I was or who actually gave it to me, but the Fisher Price tape recorder was EVERYTHING! It was a rarity to catch me not holding that thing. With it came a cassette, and while I unfortunately can’t link to it, I still remember every word! (So does my Mom, again this got a LOT of play.)

“On top of Old Smokey
all covered with grass and stuff
I lost my pet rhino
cuz I didn’t run fast enough.
I went to a rhino expert
to find out how to get my rhino home.
He said take my advice son,
and no more will your rhino roam.
He said here’s what you do son!
Get some apple juice and hold out a cup to him.
When he smells it he’ll slow down,
and you can catch up to him.
I did what he told me
and I caught up but then
the rhino drank my juice and ate my cup
and ran away again!


NOTE FROM TREVOR: Ok, so this is where Shayne’s post ended and it just didn’t seem complete.  Thanks to the glorious powers of the internet, we bring you that recording.  The internet…is there anything it can’t do? Happy Birthday, Shayne!

Check out the track On Top of Old Smokey.


Artist: Poison
Album: Flesh & Blood

Skipping ahead through much of the music of my youth, including the period of time I was carrying a boombox on my shoulder on the bus and put in charge of music for our “fitness program.” While I had a lot of music already at this point, I’m pretty sure this was the first album I ever bought with my own money. So kind of a big deal! Is it great? No? Listen to anything Jaxon recommends over this. I still (Rock Of) love it though…

Check out anything else from Jaxon, or, if you insist, the track Something To Believe In.


Artist: Frank Zappa
Album: Strictly Commercial

I feel like I’m wasting my Zappa cards since there are SO many to play! But I’d be lying if I didn’t talk about this collection. Ya’ll remember Columbia House?! For our younger readers they would spam you with offers of 12 albums for a penny, but then charge you way beyond later. I received one such invitation when I was about 12? While I’d always been into music (see above), I didn’t really have a musical identity. So I picked mostly things I knew (because my parents had them) and then I needed a 12th… “Well I like that album cover… And I know the name from “Smoke On The Water?'” It took about a year for Mom & Mike to find it, remember “Dirty Love” and make me give it a proper go. I proceeded to sell off my CDs to buy more Zappa (you’ll absolutely hear about them soon, can’t wait to get to Thing-Fish) and opened the doors to jazz, doo-wop, classical…. I’d not be doing this. I wouldn’t even be me. Oh and when they came calling for the bill, Mom shut ’em down! Happy Birthday Me!

Check out the track Dirty Love.

Artist: Cure
Album: Disintegration

Ok, ok, I know. I have done this album already. But there is a story that I did not tell last time that I feel I should tell. Before I started working at the store, I had decided that I was going to begin my vinyl collection. I went to Val’s halla and started shopping for that magical first record. It was an original pressing of Disintegration by The Cure. As I was checking out, I noticed a small “S” written on the price tag, but I didn’t think much of it. Months later, after I had started working at the store, I learned that the “S” on the price tag meant that it used to be in Shayne’s personal collection. So, the first record I ever owned used to belong to Shayne. If you want to read me talking more about this album, you can look to the vinyl views of 6/15/20. I will, however, offer up another recommended song from this amazing album..

Check out the track Plainsong.


Artist: Love & Rockets
Album: Love & Rockets

Have I mentioned that Shayne is too generous? He proves this by always surprising me with musical gifts. Around Christmas time, he came into the store with a box, plopped it into my hand, and told me to open it. Inside were a few records, one of which being the self-titled Love and Rockets album, which I love. What’s cool is that he was as excited to give it to me as I was to receive it. I was completely surprised because I had absolutely no clue that he was even considering giving me a gift. The same thing happened for my birthday this year, when I received a choice haul of some of his collection. He is a true record store guy as he loves to share HIS love of music. Love & Rocket’s fourth album was their most commercially successful in the US. It features heavy distortion complemented with some surprise harmonica and string synths.

Check out the track Jungle Law.


Artist: Depeche Mode
Album: Construction Time Again

Shayne has always joked about how many of his records I have. So, when we had 2 copies of the Depeche Mode album Construction Time Again, I purposely chose not to take the copy with the “S” on it, just to try and prove that I was not taking all of his records.

This was Depeche Mode’s third album.  It is a beautiful mix of their defining synth samples layered with guitar and Dave Gahan’s signature vocals (with a little Martin Gore thrown in as well). 

Check out the track Told You So.


Before concluding my VV for the week, I just want to wish Shayne a very happy birthday!   Working with him at the store has been an amazing experience for me and he is a wonderful guy and a great friend.

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!

What Are You Looking For?