A fan’s gift guide
It’s the holiday season and once again time to make a music fan’s eyes and ears light up like a Christmas tree. From modest to mammoth, and across a range of ways to access their passion, here are suggestions for your special someone.
If your giftee’s passion extends to creating music, check out Teenage Engineering, a Swedish company that makes the Pocket Operator, a line of mini synthesizers that resemble a calculator and sell for under a hundred bucks. If you’re feeling extravagant, the company has introduced the EP-133 KO II, a larger device with exponentially more groove and sequencing power; it’s $299 at teenage.engineering.
For the audiophile on your list, there’s the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt, a device that bypasses the crummy audio delivered on cell phones and laptop computers to truly leverage the enhanced sound offered by streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal, $199 at amazon.com, and for phones it’s a good idea to include an adapter in the gift box.
Or you can keep it simple while still turning it up to 11 with the Marshall Kilburn II Bluetooth Portable Speaker. Befitting its brand, the “stout-hearted hero” weighs in at five and half pounds and boasts the loudest output of anything in its class, while providing more than 20 hours of portable power with a single charge, $199.99 at marshallheadphones.com
Maybe your music maven is a purist with a throwback bent who loves only vinyl. Help them keep their prized albums clean with a Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush, perfect as a stocking stuffer at $15. But don’t give the leash without a puppy — there are many music box sets on offer this year.
Jason Isbell marked a decade since his breakthrough solo release Southeastern with a quadruple-vinyl, triple-CD edition that has the remastered studio LP along with a live version and demos of every song, with special packaging, $79.99 at amazon.com. The seemingly endless flow of Beatles music and the final drop of so-called new songs from the Fab Four continues with a repackaging of their Red 1962-1966 and Blue 1967-1970 albums, with a total of 21 previously unreleased tracks, $69.99 at amazon.com.
Wanna feel old? Green Day’s Dookie is turning 30 and the Berkeley punk stalwarts’ first big release has the deluxe treatment, with a six-LP (brown vinyl, natch) box set that includes a bevy of tchotchkes to go with outtakes, demos and live takes, including four songs from their notoriously mud-splattered Woodstock ’94 set, $121.32 at amazon.com.
Dolly Parton answered her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by inviting a big chunk of its membership (and Kid Rock) to work on Rockstar, her first rock ’n’ roll record. She even reunited the remaining living Beatles, along with Peter Frampton and Mick Fleetwood, for a version of “Let It Be.” It’s available as a four-vinyl album box set for $59.98 at amazon.com.
There is no shortage of books for the music fan. For superfans of the aforementioned Ms. Parton, give Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, a fashion-focused autobiography that peeks into the singer’s closet and is packed with more than 450 color photos, $25 at amazon.com.
To (extravagantly) mark the 60th anniversary of Beatlemania for your favorite fan, give 1964: Eyes of the Storm, a collection of photos taken by Paul McCartney with his 35mm camera from the end of 1963 through early 1964, the years when The Beatles blew up into an international phenomenon and altered the course of music history. It’s $77.79 at popmarket.com.
For those growing misty-eyed for the early days of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other flannel-shirted rockers, Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner’s Mud Ride: A Messy Trip Through the Grunge Explosion covers the evolution and growth of Seattle’s music scene, from DIY club shows to its Big Bang, which removed most hair metal bands from the earth. $28.79 at popmarket.com.
One of the latest classic rock memoirs is My Effin’ Life, from Rush bassist, keyboard player and singer Geddy Lee. It’s filled with anecdotes of his time with the prog rock power trio, along with personal stories of growing during World War II, with a grandfather who was murdered during the Holocaust. Novelist Michael Chabon praised the “warmth, care, artfulness, hard-earned wisdom and … gently skewed humor” in his book. $24.99 at amazon.com.
It’s always a good idea to keep things local. Here’s a thought: The next time you attend a show at The Shaskeen, Penuche’s, the Press Room or Strange Brew, pick up a CD and pay it forward by giving it to a loved one who’s unfamiliar with the performer’s music. That’s the most effective way to put cash in an artist’s pocket.
Of course, there’s always merch. Roots of Creation, one of the busiest bands around, offers a huge selection of T-shirts, caps, pins and posters at their shoprootsofcreation.com website. Sepsiss, the female-fronted heavy metal band that just won another NEMA, has a line of T-shirts calling attention to the insidious practice of pay to play, where clubs force acts to buy tickets to their own shows and re-sell them for payment, along with other forms of financial exploitation. Available at sepsiss.com.
A few musicians have side hustles as artists making very cool stuff. Singer-songwriter Dan Blakeslee, who played his first main stage set at the Newport Folk Festival this year, sells line drawings (also available as T-shirts) at etsy.com/shop/DanBlakeslee. Nick Lavallee, front man for Manchester power pop band Donaher, runs Wicked Joyful, making bespoke action figures and apparel like the Devil Church Explorer Club hoodie or a Taco Tour at Tender Town T-shirt, at shop.wickedjoyful.com.
Featured photo: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rinestones by Dolly Parton