The music lover’s guide to holiday gifting
Few personality aspects are more bespoke than music interests, which makes shopping for the serious listener a thornier endeavor than most. It’s never been as easy as looking at the Billboard Top 10 and grabbing whichever record is on sale, but the machine recognizes this and thus, there are more gifts than ever this year that are just so well conceived, or simply so far out there, that they’ll uniformly fit the most mercurial of tastes.
Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection (Legacy), $248
The great irony of buying music on physical media in 2013 is that it feels far more antiquated to own a record on CD format than it does to have it on vinyl. That’s why it makes perfect sense for Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection to come on quaint ol’ polycarbonate. Everything about this big box full of genius feels that way, though. It contains 35 studio albums, six live albums and two discs of non-album tracks, and the plus version comes with a harmonica USB drive with digital versions of them all. The catch is, that’s all it is. It eschews the refined feel of expensive to produce vinyl, or the stillpricier streaming media in for the favorable margins of CD. The Dylan fanatic will kvetch more over The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait, the very existence of which illustrates just how deep into Dylan’s catalog the dedicated are willing to go, but there’s more than enough discovery to be had on 41 Dylan albums in one place.
Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book (Abrams), $13
If anyone thought that nothing could top the splendid audacity/novelty of last year’s Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, then Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book is here to confirm that the crayon will always be mightier than the Glock. The Underground Kingz legend curated what is actually a pretty clever and entertaining collection of activities for the junior hip-hop head (or the grown-up one), and Pimp C’s mink coat will finally provide a reason to break out that littleused Triple White crayon. Once those 48 pages are completely exhausted (and they will be), hit up Bun B’s accompanying Tumblr at rapcoloringbook.tumblr. com for supplementary, seasonal activities, like building a festive Drake dreidel or coloring Ludacris Kringle.
Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound (Numero), $85
There’s a cold war going on between two of the Midwest’s finest purveyors of rare groove, and it’s for good reason (that won’t be explained here) that the Triad has a vested interest in the continued success of Chicago beat excavators Numero Group over Minneapolis archrivals Secret Stash. With releases like the four-LP (with a 108-page, hardbound book of the scene’s history) Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound, however, Numero’s primacy is more or less implicit at this point. Minnesota, imminently before the era of Prince Rogers Nelson, was a nerve center of slithery synths and on-the-ones funk made by early Jimmy Jam projects like Mind & Matter, or 94 East with a young Prince slumming it as a session player. They were essentially party tunes for the urbane Minnesotans of the ’70s and didn’t have the polish of the sounds that would come from Prince, Morris Day and Jam a few years later, but as party tunes, they’re still ice cold.
The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932 (Third Man), $400
Wrigley first sold soap. Nokia started as a paper mill. The long-defunct Paramount Records, ingeniously, began as the subsidiary of Wisconsin Chair Company, an economic device to give people who bought turntables something to play on them. The fascinating, often sordid history of how its proprietor, a man with no knowledge of the music business who would build one of the greatest artistic rosters ever, plays out in academic detail within arguably the best release yet to come out on Jack White’s Third Man Records imprint, The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records 1917- 1932. At $400, it’s one of the priciest boxes of the year, but the package itself a sort of objet d’art — an oaken suitcase, emblazoned with the Paramount logo, and lined with velvet to contain 800 tracks across six LPs and digital media.
2 Chainz — B.O.A.T.S II: Me Time (Deluxe Edition) with #MealTime Cookbook (Def Jam), $15
Unfortunately, Ja Rule’s hint at a prison microwave culinary text was all in jest, but 2 Chainz has yet to let anyone down. Pick up the Deluxe Edition of his new record B.O.A.T.S II: Me Time, and it will come with a digital guide to eating well on the tour bus. Follow him on Instagram and you’ll notice that, after money and shoes, he loves pictures of his dinner the most — and it’s not haute cuisine in the least, but his process certainly qualifies this as slow food. It’s not simply about making great chicken piccata or searing salmon at just the right temps; it’s about draping yourself in the finest Adidas sweat suit or making sure your mani/pedi is fresh before attempting anything in the kitchen. Example:
One step to preparing the most baller crab cakes with mango salsa is to “position yourself in a room surrounded by a handful of TVs playing “Sportscenter” with the sound off, while pre-meal “me time” should include catching up on old seasons of “The Wire.”
Bill Wyman’s Scrapbook (Wyman), $250
It seems oddly fitting that a coffee table book of rare Rolling Stones images and ephemera, taken by one of the boys himself, would cost as much as a ticket to see the living legends of all living legends. Bill Wyman might have missed his calling as a librarian, but he found time enough to indulge his archivistic fancies to collect everything from accounting ledgers to photos of the band kicking it with Sammy Davis Jr. Its appeal lies mostly in its production value, however. It’s hand-sewn, limited press and all signed by Wyman himself.
Mo Beta Blues: The World According to Questlove (Grand Central), $26
While his Miller Lite commercial is evi dence that this Questlove business may be getting a little out of hand, there’s an ineffaceable charm throughout the memoirs of music geek nonpareil Ahmir Thompson. Whether his gushing on the first time he heard “Rapper’s Delight” on the radio or relaying the time he hung with KISS, who were staying in the same hotel as him — a touring 6-yearold drummer — his life feels imminently relatable, if only because his passion for the music he grew up on is so real. He offers mini-reviews and scene critiques, but most of all, his memoirs are simply a field guide for the tenacious crate digger to retrace his footsteps.
Eminent Hipsters (Viking), $34
There are 25 instances of the word “hipster” in the memoir by hipsterdom’s godfather, Donald Fagen. Seems light, given the fact that its title, Eminent Hipster, suggests a profoundly blindered exploration of the notorious crank Fagen’s own inexorable gravitas. Really, what this book is about is how the weirdo creative geniuses that lived on the margins in his formative years would exasperate, mold, challenge and exalt his own creative pathos. Fagen muses on Mancini, Morricone, how the crummiest venues were usually the best, and his near-sociopathic loathing of entertainment media, and does so with the visceral snark that only a man dubbed “Old Uncle F***wad” could.
Slayer’s Reign in Blood Cabernet, $41
Nothing says it’s raining blood like sitting upon a throne of skulls with your pinkie claw curled diabolically around a pewter goblet holding this sumptuous red, drawn from a gunmetal miniature coffin. Described as having “a soft nose of dark berry fruits, oak and spice nuances…”, there’s no better beverage to help work you into a berserker rage, except….
Iron Maiden’s Trooper Ale (Robinsons), $26
The first thing you’ll notice about this British-style ale, created by Robinsons for one of the heaviest bands of all time, is that it’s actually rather light. At a flyweight 4.7-percent alcohol per volume, it’s a session ale at best. One can’t help but feel they missed out on a golden marketing opportunity by nailing this brew right at 6.66-percent, but Bruce does have to fly the plane, after all.
Or Thousands of Prizes: The Merge Records’ 25th Anniversary Subscription Series, $125
Like Light In the Attic’s incredible subscription set, Merge Records’ 25 th anniversary will be a gift that keeps on giving. Buy it, and Merge will ship its recipient a 7” vinyl record from an artist in their ever-expanding catalog once a month. The title is a reference to Lambchop’s gorgeous 1994 lament, and it’s assured that they’ll be among artists like Mikel Cronin, Destroyer (hello, Five Spanish Songs) and Superchunk, but the real surprises will be the random swag that comes along with them. !