VINYL VIEWS: WEEK OF 9/28/20
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 one of our most beloved friends of the store – Ian Gegenheimer and we bask in the glory of another awesome Record Store Day Drop. Let’s hear what music is being discussed this week.
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Ian is a former roommate of Shayne’s and a longtime friend of the store since the original location, having volunteered for such tasks as Record Store Day, hallapalooza and walking Loki. He was born in Oak Park with an unending love of music, which his family earnestly indulged. He plays drums for cmn ineed yr hlp, occasionally does his best Ringo for The Beatleleles on a drumset fashioned from a suitcase, and has been recording cover songs with some collaborators to keep his sanity while live music has been abdicated. He currently resides in Chicago with his astonishing partner, Mary Kroeck, and their cat, District Attorney Jack McCoy the cat.
I’m not sure if it’s public interest or labels hedging their bets, but there seems to be weird fault lines as decades change where old things start sounding dated and there’s a chance for something new to try and catch the zeitgeist. While in the ’90s that paid off for the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, or Soundgarden, the yarl-less Jellyfish never got their fair shake.
“Bellybutton,” their debut album, sees the group answering the question of what it would sound like if Bad Finger were produced and arranged by Brian Wilson, while borrowing the whimsy and dress sense of The Dukes of Stratosphear. While they definitely wear their influences on their sleeves, this is probably a bit unfair. They may use the tracks their forefathers laid out, but their train heaves and careens from the weight of ideas—explosions of harmony or bursts of flourish. It never manages to bog down the album and there are still plenty of songs with room to breathe, but you get a sense that songwriters Andy Sturmer (the ever rare lead vocalist/drummer) and Roger Manning (keyboards/vocals) were seizing the opportunity of major label backing to fit as much into the album as they could.
They may have held their own against Oasis as an American answer to Brit Pop, but the group broke up after their 1993 opus “Spilt Milk.”
Check out the track The King Is Half-Undressed.
Artist: The Dismemberment Plan
Album: Emergency & I
When looking for the next big thing a lot of labels will look for indie acts to call up to the big leagues, which is what Interscope Records did with The Dismemberment Plan just ahead of the millennium. They had paid their dues with 1995’s “!” and taken a large step forward with 1997’s “The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified” solidifying their rhythm section and adding more diversity (with specific nods to Gladys Knight and Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock) to their post-hardcore roots.
They seemed poised to let all of the punk and indie kids know it was okay to occasionally put their guitars down, plug in a keyboard, and dance. After recording their follow up it was announced that Interscope was merging with Geffen and Polygram to become Universal Music Group, and The D-Plan were one of a slew of smaller acts handed their walking papers as the labels downsized their rosters. Luckily, those papers also included the rights to their album, 1999’s “Emergency & I.”
The resulting album is more sentimental than their snarky, confrontational early work, and finds a way of giving language to themes like the isolation of adulthood, finding oneself and fitting in, and trying to hold it all together. While the propulsive herky-jerky rhythms are still there, they also find more opportunities to settle into a steady groove and use keyboards to add more texture and atmosphere. The album may not have moved the marker on the charts, but the result was something that continues to be relevant today (especially in times of social distancing) and certainly prepared me for the coming of acts like Franz Ferdinand or The Rapture in the early 00sies.
Check out the track The City.
Artist: Janelle Monáe
Album: The ArchAndroid
To close this out, here’s one that had a little bit more impact. Janelle Monáe self-released her first demo in 2003 and by 2005 had caught the attention of OutKast’s Big Boi, who featured her in the film Idlewild and introduced her to Sean “Diddy” Combs, who signed her to his Bad Boy Records. She digitally self-released her 2007 “Metropolis: The Chase Suite” EP via her website, which Bad Boy re-released in 2008.
This first EP starts to hint at Monáe’s zeal and was the first of a slated four (now expanded to seven) part Afrofuturist concept series featuring Janelle as a cyborg messiah. Bad Boy recognized her artistry and opted to take a slow and steady approach to let her be herself and organically build her fanbase instead of hoping to cash in on a big single. Doing so shaped Monáe’s releases for the next decade, and specifically, 2010’s “The ArchAndroid,” which features parts two and three of her larger concept.
On the album there’s a coyness to her ambition—the songs and singer hold your attention without being boisterous, but seem to go off in so many different directions while still sounding like a unified whole. Why “The ArchAndroid” over her more recent “The Electric Lady” or (Grammy-nominated) “Dirty Computer?” There’s a certain cinematic Golden Age of Hollywood, lens coated in Vaseline quality to the songs where they all seem familiar and timeless, but without sounding derivative, and I think the album benefits from there being fewer expectations on Janelle. Fewer people were anticipating the album, so it left her freer to try different styles and to go to different places. I don’t think she’s ever recorded another song that pushes her vocals as hard as “Come Alive (War of the Roses)” (goosebumps live!) and the lead single, “Tightrope,” in my mind is a thesis statement on who Janelle Monáe is. At the time the album drew comparisons to Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814,” but I’d also include the likes of David Bowie and Prince in the category of apt comparisons. While we still may not know what the sound of the ’20s will be, I’m hoping we continue to get to see Janelle’s career blossom.
Check out the track Tightrope.
Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Album: Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant
I’ve never understood why this album ranks so low compared to the others for so many people. For me, it’s every bit as strong as Belle & Sebastian’s more popular work. Vocally in particular everyone gets a chance to shine here and the results are beautiful. Front to back this album is rainy day perfection. I’m honestly agonizing trying to pick a single song to feature here cause there is nothing but right answers! I really think this one deserves a reevaluation even from B&S fans.
Check out the track Family Tree.
Artist: Dance House Children
This is a bit of an outlier in my collection as it’s technically a contemporary Christian album. Not throwing any shade or anything, just that outside of some classic Gospel that’s not usually my bag. Before moving to Chicago and teaming up with Val I worked at a different music store back home in Saginaw. While we sold and carried all genres, the owner was adamant about having the definitive collection of Christian CDs. While I’m not sure that the business model paid off in the long run it did introduce me to Joy Electric and this earlier incarnation of Ronnie Martin. The ethos seems to be less about preaching lyrics and more about having fun and avoiding negativity. If there’s anything identifiably religious about the song “Sea Breeze” I don’t hear it. All I hear is an odd creepy jam that I could have conceivably saved for “Spooky Vinyl Views” month.
Check out the track Sea Breeze.
Artist: The MagnetIc FIelds
If you pIcked up “69 Love Songs” because It was requIred (It Is BTW) don’t thInk for a second that you’re done. WhIIe that Is rIghtfully consIdered the masterpIece there Is so much more to mIne from MagnetIc FIelds & StephIn MerrItt’s other outIngs. ThIs album In partIcular Is just… So IncredIbly great! Every track Is metIculously constructed and personal, whIle beIng unIversally relatable. “I” thInk I‘ve used every sIngle track from thIs album on a mIxtape at some poInt. “I” very much encourage you to check It out.
Check out the track I Thought You Were My BoyfrIend.
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Album: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
This is the 10th studio album from The Flaming Lips and it is brilliant. There is some debate as to whether this is a “concept” album or not, but the title character is definitely inspired by Yoshimi P-We of the noise rock band, The Boredoms. It was said that her abstract “machine-sound” vocal style sounded like she was battling a monster. P-We does add vocal work on this album.
The psychedelic indie-rock soundscapes are something very unique. There are all kinds of samples overlaid throughout the album, but at its core, these songs are simple melodic gems. One of the highlights of 2019’s Riot Fest was seeing them play this album from beginning to end. What a treat.
Oh, and we have recently been able to locate a few copies of this record for the store. Go in and grab yours, and while you are at it, the Flaming Lips also just dropped a new album also worth checking out.
Check out the track Fight Test.
Album: In Search Of Space
This album is a space-rock masterpiece. Though many prefer their album, Space Ritual, this one is my personal favorite. It is sonically diverse, with both softer, more relaxed songs, as well as droning and distorted pieces. There are two songs I would like to highlight to illustrate these differences. “Master of the Universe” showcases Hawkwind’s signature, mellower sound, but also “We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago”, which shows Hawkwind taking the pace of the album up a bit (and probably my favorite song by the band).
Check out the track Master of the Universe.
Check out the track We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago.
Album: De Capo
I know this may be sacrilege, but I think I prefer this album over Forever Changes, but I rightfully acknowledge the brilliance of Forever Changes. High energy garage rock (which is my jam), combines with beautiful sounding psychedelic pop, and fantastic songwriting to boot. It’s hard for me to pick one song off this one, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be ¡Que Vida!.
Check out the track ¡Que Vida!.
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!