As the stockings get hung by the chiminea with care in hopes that Papa Noel soon will be there, you might be hard-pressed to find gifts that will bring true joy to the music-obsessive in your life. Especially if they seem to have every new album or box set that comes out.
But fear not, dear consumer, as SPIN has spent these first days of the holiday season in search of the coolest gift ideas with the music fan in your life in mind.
From action figures of your favorite rappers to choice box sets to quality cannabis to spirits made from spuds, the 2021 holiday season is a cornucopia overflowing with possibilities for the music fan who seems to have everything.
Let It Be: Super Deluxe Edition (Capitol-UMe)
Get Back (Callaway Arts & Entertainment)
Paul McCartney The Lyrics (Liveright)
For the Fabs fan on your list, it’s not a question of what to get them this year but how much are you willing to get them, as this season is runneth over with marquee Beatles material. Chief of which is the Let It Be box, which may not have enough of the 150-plus hours of unreleased session material for diehard fans, but is long on quality. Especially in the context of recreating the original Glyn Johns version of Get Back LP that was scrapped in favor of the Phil Spector-produced LIB. The coinciding coffee table look book published by Callaway Arts & Entertainment serves as a beautiful companion to director Peter Jackson’s engrossing six-hour documentary on the Get Back sessions, while an exquisitely packaged hardcover set of Paul McCartney’s complete lyrical work proves once and for all why he will always be seen as the Fabs’ fearless leader.
Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash: Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
The Replacements’ 1981 debut is a scrappy mess of Minneapolis teen angst whose beautiful recklessness has been expanded across four CDs in salute of its 40th anniversary. Teeming with basement jams, demos, alternative takes, and live tracks from a hometown gig at 7th Street Entry, if you have a lapsed Mats fan in your life, surprise them with a deluxe amount of Trash sure to jolt them out of any suburban malaise.
50 Heavy Metal Years of Music (Legacy Recordings)
Postponed from its intended release in 2020 because of you-know-what, every person who fancies themselves a Judas Priest fan needs this massive box set released in honor of the Metal Gods’ golden anniversary. Not only does it include remastered editions of literally every JP album from 1974’s Rocka Rolla to 2018’s Firepower, but there’s also a metric ton of previously unreleased live recordings as well, including a 1979 show at the famed NYC punk/new wave venue The Mudd Club and a slaying stop in Los Angeles on the 1990 tour in support of their mid-period masterpiece Painkiller.
The Vinyl Collection, Vol. 1 (Columbia-Legacy)
Yes, we know you can likely get most of these LPs in the dollar bin of your local record shop. But not since they were originally pressed in the ‘70s have Billy Joel’s first seven albums sounded better on vinyl. In addition to hearing Cold Spring Harbor at its correct speed on wax for the first time ever, this box of dad-rock gold contains a previously unreleased1975 live album from San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, offering a treat that allows Joel’s New York fans to hear how the piano man plays for West Coast audiences.
Run The Jewels
Ooh La La Cannabis
The time has finally come for Americans to legally leave actual trees under the Christmas tree for their stoney loved ones. But just like the street, you gotta trust the people you buy your buds from. This is why on the commercial landscape there’s nobody I trust more than my dudes El-P and Killer Mike of Run The Jewels, whose collaboration with breeder Lemonade to produce their own Ooh La La strain is some of the nicest cannabis I’ve ever smoked. With an aroma of your favorite holiday spice cake and a satisfying head high, a nice fat bowl of this tree will pair up perfectly with that bangin’ holiday brisket you’re ready to devour.
Black Album Deluxe Box Set (Blackened)
For those of us who came of age in the early 90s, Metallica’s eponymous fifth album played a quintessential role in the soundtrack to our collective teenage angst. So for some, this is the Spruce Goose of the band’s championship-level reissue program. This Black Album box set is a Metallica fan’s equivalent to getting the Ewok Village for Xmas. And it’s easily the most generous of the series yet, stuffed with five 180gm vinyl LPs, 14 CDs, and six DVDs, four tour laminates, a lanyard, three lithos, three guitar picks, lyric sheets and a 120-page hardcover look book. Don’t let thee be dubbed unforgiven by overlooking this Holy Grail collection for your favorite deserving Metallica fan.
Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore (1994–2007) (Mariner Books)
Any music fan worth their salt can appreciate a book that also serves as a guide to a particular period in history. For those looking to revisit the period between Kurt Cobain’s suicide and the advent of Facebook, veteran rock critic Dan Ozzi’s indispensable Sellout is the sherpa you’ve been looking for. Each of the 11 acts featured in this book–especially groups like Jimmy Eat World, Thursday, My Chemical Romance and Against Me!–represent some of the most crucial rock coming from the major labels in the years following 9/11. They deserve to be explored with the same curiosity and interest as landmark Ramones and Clash albums. Ozzi nails the balance of knowledge and appreciation in this fantastic read.
Dave Grohl The Storyteller (Dey Street Books)
The perpetual omnipresence of Dave Grohl on the national stage these last 10 years or so has become somewhat of a running joke on social media. But for the forever fan of the loveable, goofy yet eternally cool Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman, the Virginia native leaves no stone unturned. He chronicles his journey from a starving punk rocker in a van to sharing moments with such rock titans as Paul McCartney, Neil Young, David Bowie, AC/DC and Little Richard. He also sets the record straight about his state of mind in the immediacy of Kurt’s suicide. The Storyteller might even inspire you to order that copy of Fumble, Scream’s 1989 LP with Grohl on Dischord.
Z2 COMICS: Graham Coxon, RZA/Bobby Digital, Chuck D
New York’s own Z2 Comics continues to bring pop music and comic book culture together with a fervor unseen since the heyday of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. The coolest titles are the ones that include or are paired with some kind of physical audio component–and this trio of brand-new graphic novels is no exception. Seeing how well Blur cohort Damon Albarn has done in the comic book game, guitarist Graham Coxon stepped into the illustrated arena with Superstate, which contains 15 short stories with the work of 15 different artists. It’s accompanied by a soundtrack composed by the guitarist himself, a funky and kinetic affair that beautifully complements Coxon’s stellar playing on the new Duran Duran album, Future Past.
Meanwhile, Wu-Tang Clan’s abbott The RZA resurrects his Bobby Digital alter-ego from a 20-year slumber with the first in what we hope to be a series of graphic novels, animating his id-driven avatar beyond the unseen sounds of such classic albums as 1998’s Bobby Digital In Stereo and 2001’s Digital Bullet in this psychedelic journey to seek out his superego if he could survive the Pit of Snakes. This riveting time would make an even better gift to the Wu-Tang fan in your life if you paired it up with the gorgeous Vinyl Me Please edition of Bobby Digital In Stereo, the imprint’s hip-hop album of the month for December 2021, pressed on “Mantis” Green vinyl.
The most intriguing title, however, is from Public Enemy’s Chuck D, who revisits his group’s classic fourth album with Apocalypse 91: Revolution Never Sleeps, a spiritual sequel of sorts to The Enemy Strikes Black that features the genius of such modern comic book heavyweights as Black Panther/Spider-Man: Miles Morales author Evan Narcisse and Che Grayson of Batman: Urban Legends. Your best bet is the Hardcover Deluxe Edition, which includes a handsome slipcase as well as a copy of Apocalypse 91 on colored vinyl.
“The potato is a staple that keeps us alive,” Devo’s Gerald V. Casale once mused in an interview. “It is totally unglamorous and underrated. It is also a conductor of electricity. You know that they teach you in science class how to make potatoes transmitters and potato radio receivers. They have all eyes around.” And nearly 50 years after the Midwestern New Wave icons made spuds a forever-staple in our sonic diet, the irreverent bassist and composer tosses his flower pot dome into the spirits game with Trust Me premium vodka, created from actual potatoes. How wild is that? Regular bottles of this surprisingly smooth drink go for $39. But if there’s a special spud in your life who only has “eyes” for De-evolution, cough up the extra cash for the limited-edition box set, each signed by both Casale and his longtime cohort Mark Mothersbaugh. It contains two bottles, including the soon-to-be-ultra rare “Energy Dome Hat” graphic designed by the band.
Epiphone Guitars are to Gibsons as Hondas are to Acuras, if that makes any sense. So when Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong collaborated with Epiphone to create a more affordable version of his classic white Les Paul Junior (similar to the one he’s been playing on since 2000’s Warning), it instantly became one of the hottest guitars on the market. And this thing is a beaut, with a Mahogany body, Indian Laurel fretboard, Billie Joe’s autograph emblemized behind the headstock and housed in a ridiculous faux leopard fur-lined hard case. According to a salesman at my local Guitar Center, the Billie Joe Epiphone Les Paul Junior is the most in-demand ax this holiday season, so get hunting!
If you made a seamless segue from collecting Star Wars and GI Joe into records, tapes and CDs in middle school, there’s nothing on the shelves of your local pop culture shop that’s cooler than Super 7’s music-based 3 ¾-inch action figure line. They’ve already brought such punk and metal icons as The Descendents’ Milo, Eddie from Iron Maiden and The Misfits’ Crimson Ghost to life. This holiday season, the Re-Action series continues to expand its line of hip-hop figures to include all three kings from Run-D.M.C., complete with microphones for Rev Run and Darryl Mac and vinyl for the late, great Jam Master Jay. And The Notorious B.I.G. comes with a replica of his beloved Jesus piece. It’s hard to keep these dudes in the blister pack, because the kid in you wants to play with them. But keep in mind your one-time original rocket-firing Boba Fett that’s now gone forever and, if you’re over 10, let them stay pristine.
You know what really sucks about having to listen to music on stupid little earbuds or through a pinhole-sized speaker on your phone? You immediately regret getting rid of those bulky Pioneer cabinet speakers your Uncle Lloyd kicked down to you in the late ‘90s. Well, Qobuz has managed to find a way to bring their optimal sonics to George Lucas’s THX sound technology by including a free three-month membership with the purchase of the Onyx DAC, a small connector device (or, I would assume, even one of those burner flip phones from 7-Eleven) and suddenly you’re chillin’ like drunk Mitch at the end of Dazed & Confused with a sound quality that’s 29 times the resolution of an MP3.
Here’s a fun life hack for those who dig gaming and quality music: the Arctis Prime Headset gives you arguably a better fidelity experience than those other headphones you paid twice as much money on. They’re a perfect fit whether you want to hear every “OOF” on Roblox in absolute crystalline clarity or prefer to get lost in The KLF’s Chill Out LP. And be it the Nintendo Switch or a vintage Sony Walkman that plays cassettes, you won’t be disappointed in the level of boom this headset brings to your earholes.
Teaser and the Firecat Deluxe Edition (UMe)
The artist presently known as Yusuf paralleled his contributions to the 1971 cult classic Harold and Maude with an album (and accompanying children’s book) about a boy and his cat trying to put the moon back into the sky. Fifty years later, Teaser and the Firecat remains undoubtedly the most celebrated Cat Stevens album ever issued, with its anniversary celebrated in the form of this Super Deluxe Edition set, which contains 41 previously unreleased demos, concert, and BBC session tracks and 21 live video performances made available on disc for the first time, along with a soft-cover replica of the original Teaser and the Firecat book, which was written and illustrated by Yusuf in 1972 and available in ten languages.
200 Motels: 50th Anniversary Edition (Zappa/UMe)
How Frank Zappa was able to convince MGM to back this complex celluloid suite of countercultural absurdism loosely based on the Mothers of Invention’s wild touring life is a mystery for the ages. But since its original theatrical release in October of 1971, 200 Motels remains a most cherished snapshot of its maestro’s madcap genius. In honor of its 50th Anniversary is a massive six-disc reissue of its long out-of-print soundtrack containing a wealth of riches from Frank’s vault, including original demos, studio outtakes, work mixes, interviews and movie ads, as well as newly discovered dialogue reels that offers the listener a completely different audio cut of the movie. Arf, we say!
Oneohtrix Point Never
Magic OPN (Warp Records)
There’s no real need to own physical DVDs or blu-Rays in 2021–unless it’s Arrow or Criterion, of course. But for a traveler on Daniel Lopitan’s journey into the matrix as Oneohtrix Point Never, this Blu-ray edition of the producer’s underrated 2020 studio LP is an essential own. In addition to an expanded version of the original LP in Dolby Atmos with four bonus tracks (including songs featuring vocals by Elisabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins and ROSALÍA), the visual Magic OPN also includes all 16 Oneohtrix music videos that will pair well with those RTJ Xmas trees, if you catch my meaning.
Green Day Father of All Dark Roasts
There is nothing more punk rock than a good cup of coffee. You know, the kind where you taste the roast in every sip. There’s no doubt Tre, Mike and Billie Joe of Green Day have enjoyed gallons of java while touring the world these last 30 years. And not just that fancy shit they drink now, but surely many, many cups of the cheap corner-store stuff as well. So with that kind of wide spectrum dictating their collective palates, it should come as no surprise that since being introduced by the Oakland Coffee Co. in 2016, the trio’s Father of All Dark Roast truly is the Big Daddy of celebrity coffee. What’s more, Green Day released a 7-inch exclusive to Oakland Coffee’s website featuring live performances of Dookie faves “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around,” taken from their 1994 BBC Session. Good to the last drop.