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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 we hear from DJ and producer, Thomas Xu, from Steady Flight Circle. His dedication to the expansion of sound rings true through both his productions and his mixes.  Let’s hear what he is listening to.

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Thomas is a music producer and DJ born in Houston, raised in Detroit, that heads Steady Flight Circle, a record label that releases weird and honest music. His debut, “Roots That Talk”, was a split EP with Julion De’Angelo that was released on Sound Signature. From then he has been steadily releasing music to his recent release, “twenties”, a look at the decade leading to our place here in 2020. From production to blending records, Thomas delivers in the moment from experience. Or in his own words, “Music’s always been there for me as a means to deal with the unseen. It’s helped me process what I didn’t understand. For that I feel the need to put my all into it and feed back. Thanks to those listening and supporting.”

Artist: Extended Spirit
Album: Solid Water

Picked this up in a future jazz comp called “Freestyle Fusion”. Even though I was previewing it off of my phone speakers, I was instantly sold.It’s got a slow start to set the scene but it rewards those who stick around. (much like the music i make. hint hint)

The timpani marching along, creating a corridor. Percussion dancing with. Space is made and the synths come in. Synths drop out and whoa, jazz cymbals on the scene. From here you’ll have to hear it fer yerself..

Check out the track Solid Water.


Artist: Stevo Armani
Song: Don’t Say (It’s Over)

Chicagooooooo! Picked this one up right here at Val’s.

What stuck out to me wasn’t the digging basslines or beating drum programs, it was the lyrics. With all this end of the world talk, there’s an air of despair hanging about. And I’m not with it. Once she said “It’s over”, I already knew how to play it. Throw this one on and the floor’ll know what time it is.

Check out the track Don’t Say (It’s Over)


Artist: The King Orchestra
Album: Famous Melodies of Japan

Wanna talk about setting an atmosphere? Damn!

Close your eyes and you’re there with a full moon shining as the clouds cascade across the sky covering and uncovering castle ruins. Moonlight and blue earth wrap the landscape as the strings slowly pull and shamisen narrates. Slow plucks drop as you walk across with the cold air biting. Open your eyes and the feeling stays. Of course, you couldn’t have closed your eyes because you’re reading this but imagine!.

Check out the track Koojo No Tsuki (Moon-lit Ruins Of A Castle).

Artist: Alison Krauss
Album: Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection

My Mom nearly ruined Alison Krauss for me when this was released. She obsessed on the track “When You Say Nothing At All” and the title track and recorded them back to back to back on a cassette that became the sole soundtrack in the car for our family vacation. Each time that tape clicked over I was ready to pull a “Ladybird” and just tumble out of the vehicle. Thankfully years later I revisited her work and developed my own appreciation for her. I could pick basically anything she ever released, including her surprisingly great duet with Robert Plant but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t still this set that gets the most play even now. 

Check out the track Oh, Atlanta.


Artist: Dizzee Rascal
Album: Boy In Da Corner

When Dizzee’s debut album “Boy In Da Corner” hit in 2003 it was immediately the jam of the year, and played no small role in me pulling the trigger to go to Coachella in ’04 (being new on the scene and rating next to Radiohead, The Pixies, The Cure etc is very high praise indeed.)

I was fortunate enough to have a brief meet & greet with him and get my copy signed and I’ll never forget the look on his face seeing so many pasty Americans lined up for him.  Fast forward and he’s a worldwide celebrity consistently putting out killer stuff.

Check out the track Fix Up, Look Sharp.


Artist: Skinny Puppy
Album: Remix Dystemper

I’m not usually one for remix albums, it’s rarer still for one to become my default, but this stands as an exception. As I stated previously when discussing Ohgr, while I’m a big fan of Skinny Puppy it really clicks for me when there’s a bit more groove added to the mix which is what this collection offers courtesy of an impressive group of electronic and rock artists putting their spin on the songs. In particular the remix of Addiction by Gunter Schulz of KMFDM.

Check out the track Addiction.

Artist: The Get Up Kids
Album: Something to Write Home About

I have been on an angsty early emo kick over the past week, so I have decided to continue my recommendations on that front.

This 45-minute whirlwind of emotion is a masterpiece. The quick, catchy, and crunchy guitar riffs, unpolished yet charming vocals, punchy drums create a very distinctive sound. This album helped pave the path for the emo bands that came out of the 2000s. I would recommend checking out the opening song, Holiday.

Check out the track Holiday.


Artist: Motion City Soundtrack
Album: Commit This to Memory

This is one band who I feel more people should talk about when discussing the early 2000s wave of emo. Commit This to Memory has very depressing songwriting, but it is tied up in a bow of pop sensibilities. There is a layer of pop-punk driven guitar, mixed with heartfelt vocals and a touch of synth. I would recommend you check out the song, When You’re Around.

Check out the track When You’re Around.


Artist: The Promise Ring
Album: Nothing Feels Good

The Promise Ring was created from the scrap heap of earlier emo bands like Cap’n Jazz, None Left Standing, and Ceilishrine. The songs have a very heavy focus on the abstract vocals. The guitars have that early emo crunch, with the overall composition of the songs following a more Indie Rock style. The song Make Me A Chevy represents the lyrical uniqueness and musical stylings perfectly. 

Check out the track Make Me a Chevy.

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?