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Holiday Gift Guide 2023: 12 Gifts For The Serious Music and Culture Fan

You can never go wrong with a good album for a gift at Christmas time. 

This year’s Gift Guide has a few choice premium titles with the physical media enthusiast in mind. We do love our box sets, after all. But there’s plenty of other stuff out there both online and in actual brick-and-mortar stores that any music or pop culture fan will love to find under the tree this year. 

From turntables and tape players to books and baggage, this plethora of personable gift ideas for the loved one who merits more than a package of dress socks and a bottle of Aqua Velva this season.

Bob Dylan

The Complete Budokan (Columbia-Legacy)

Price: $159.98 

It’s understandable how Bob Dylan’s double live album from a pair of 1978 shows at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan Hall is considered one of the worst albums by rock critics like Jimmy Guterman at the time. Indeed, it was notorious for its drastically altered renditions of his most famous songs, backed by an 11-piece band and a copious amount of flute. Now, 45 years later, these performances feel like a revelation when presented in this lavish four-disc box set. It features both the Feb. 28 and March 1 shows in their entirety and newly mixed from the original 24-channel analog tapes along with a 60-page color book and an envelope of ephemera from the era. Will it make you enjoy the reggae version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” or the Jethro Tull-esque take on “All Along The Watchtower” more than you did before? Perhaps. But for those who are relatively new to their Dylan obsession, listening to these oddly experimental spins on his greatest hits in the context of this imported collection just might hip you to its hidden brilliance. 

Atmosphere Revolution GO Victrola Portable Turntable

Price: $220

Victrola has been making turntables for over 115 years. Yet nebbish vinyl hounds always seem to have something obnoxious to say about the iconic brand. Normally, the main gripe is the 10-inch turntable and the subpar needles they’ve used in the past. That said, would a pair of serious music collectors like Atmosphere’s Ant and Slug mess with anything less than the best, let alone put their name on it? That’s why the company’s limited edition Revolution GO is well worth the gamble. What sets the Revolution apart from other portable turntables on the market is its distinction as the very first of its kind with Bluetooth capabilities and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 12 hours. A moving Audio Technica magnetic cartridge, built-in premium Bluetooth speaker, and an anti-vibration enclosure ensure the Revolution GO’s supremacy on the turntable market in its price range. Plus, with a foldable handle and detachable guitar strap, you can bring the Revolution to your next record fair to test out potential purchases. Don’t let the naysayers fool you, this is one Victrola that’s well worth seeking out.

We Are Rewind Cassette Player

Price: $159.95

Manufactured in France, We Are Rewind delivers a portable cassette player worthy of the format’s renewed popularity. Inspired by the first Sony Walkman, this sleek, modern-looking device is made with an aluminum finish and comes in three different colors (orange, blue, and gray). As for functionality, despite a little motor noise, it plays like a dream, a nod to the handiwork of the experienced French engineers hired to create it. What’s more, this player can be listened to the old-fashioned way through wired headphones or Bluetooth. Plus, there’s a built-in lithium battery that holds a charge for up to 10 hours. Additionally, a recording function along with a 3.5mm input jack that allows you to record from digital to analog (if you wanna hear what that André 3000 album sounds like on a Maxell XL-II).

Green Day

Dookie 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Reprise Records)

Price: $174.98

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more definitive pop-punk album of the post-Nirvana era than Green Day’s major-label debut. The 30th anniversary Dookie box set gives you everything you loved about the original 15-track LP and doubles down on bonus material. The cassette demos are far better than the 4-track demos (especially if you’re a fan of Mike Dirnt’s vastly underrated bass guitar skills), while a bombastic set from a June 5, 1994 concert at the Garage Club in Barcelona rivals their famous Woodstock ‘94 gig, both included in this collection. In addition to the sonic superlatives, the Dookie vinyl box also contains such cheeky memorabilia as doggie doo bags, an air freshener, a poster, coloring litho, buttons, magnets, a postcard, a bumper sticker, and even a paper plane.

Wheatus

Just A Christmas Dirtbag EP (Legacy Recordings)

Price: Free on streaming services

Few songs bring you back to the AOL era like “Teenage Dirtbag” from Long Island alt-rockers Wheatus. Now, they’ve transformed their singular hit into a cheeky Christmas jingle as part of this holiday EP. If you’re a fan of the tune, a string quartet version of which bookends the set, you’ll get a kick out of this yuletide rendition. Meanwhile, the three new Christmas tunes the group penned, highlighted by the Brenda Lee-esque “Feels Like Christmas” featuring longtime background vocalist Gabrielle Sterbenz, prove this EP is no cheap gimmick. I mean, who could resist a Christmas dirtbag? 

Tariq Trotter

The Upcycled Self (Penguin Random House)

Price: $27.95

Tariq Trotter, frontman for hip-hop’s hardest-working band The Roots, has been performing at a samurai level of self-expression. Not only has he been releasing some of his best work as a lyricist with 2022’s Cheat Codes and the new-ish Glorious Game, but he turned 50 this year a published author as well. The Upcycled Self serves as a memoir and a guidebook, with Trotter weaving a narrative of what it means to live an existence examined by others. He illustrates how the four relationships in his life – community, friends, art, and family – enhanced his ability to upcycle a better means of pushing through. From his early childhood to the cusp of a half-century, Black Thought presents an origin story on par with his superhero status in the hip-hop multiverse.

The Black Crowes

The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion Deluxe Edition (UMe)

Price: $99.98

Upon its initial release in the thick of the grunge era, the Crowes’ sophomore set seemed poised with a vibe that felt more 1972 than 1992. The Atlanta band’s allegiances to the Faces and Humble Pie paid in dividends earning the band the top spot on the Billboard Top 200 when it was released. This 30th anniversary deluxe edition of Southern Harmony contains a wealth of audio bonus treats sure to excite any Crowes fan. Among the nugs to be discovered amidst the Rarities are spirited covers of “99 Pounds” by Ann Peebles and Ry Cooder’s “Boomer’s Story” (the latter coming from a concert the band held in their studio after wrapping up the album). There are also live versions of Southern Harmony culled from a show in Houston, TX, on Feb. 6, 1993. 

Nirvana

In Utero 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (UMe)

Price: $324.98


In Utero should not have been the final Nirvana studio album. But 30 years later, the band’s third album continues to reveal its beauty beyond the noise. This special anniversary SDE offers the deepest look at its radiant aura with 72 tracks, 53 of which were previously unreleased, across eight records. In addition, the inclusion of famous studio outtakes and b-sides like “Marigold” and “Moist Vagina.” There are also two complete concerts: Live in Los Angeles from Dec. 30, 1993, highlighted a version of the Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam,” which Kurt Cobain dedicates to the then-recently departed River Phoenix. You also have the group’s final hometown show in Seattle from Jan. 7, 1994 that features the best version of “Drain You” made available on the commercial market. Both concerts were reconstructed from the original soundboard tapes by longtime band associate Jack Endino. The actual box offers a wealth of collectibles including a removable front-cover acrylic panel of the anatomy angel on the front cover, a 48-page hardcover photo book, a special fanzine created specifically for this release, a tour poster for the L.A. show, a record store mobile, gig fliers, ticket stubs, and backstage passes.

MF DOOM DOOMSDAY Gear

Price: $7 – $100

The unexpected death of MF DOOM in 2020 left an irreplaceable hole in the hip-hop multiverse. But the iconoclastic steez of the man born Daniel Dumile remains a vital force in rap geek culture with a new wave of DOOM-branded apparel that dropped on the third anniversary of his death. Among the items available through the family-run Gasdrawls label includes an enamel pin, socks, a pair of high-quality slides in a collectible shoe box, skate decks, sweatpants and a hoodie that runs a little small but is well worth the squeeze. The sweats are currently sold out in black but are still available in yellow, red and New York Mets blue and can be purchased at  gasdrawls.com. 

Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein bag

Price: $76

There’s nothing that will make your next overnight trip to the countryside rock harder than packing your clothes in a bag emblazoned with the trademark design of the late, great Eddie Van Halen. And that’s precisely what the estate of the virtuoso guitarist has done for the otherwise uncool duffel, adorning this durable tote with the red, white and black colors of Eddie’s trademark Stratocaster on the straps and the inside lining. A tasteful EVH logo patch graces the front of the bag, adding to the authenticity of this family-approved product that will surely let you know whether or not the TSA worker checking your luggage at the airport is an OU812 fan. 

Alias Pro Microphone 

Price: $329

Thinking about finally starting that podcast about famous fourth albums or your own YouTube channel dedicated to Taito retro gameplay? Don’t go on the air and come across as a NOOB. The Alias Pro is a studio-quality microphone that will have you sounding as crystal clear as your favorite broadcast personality. This studio-quality mic has a pro-grade XLR amplifier that connects to your PC through a USB cord and includes such features as customizable controls and user-friendly audio mixing software. Plus, with a vocal capsule three times larger than normal, you can capture a greater vocal range while a custom-designed shock mount will prevent any unwanted vibrations from interrupting your flow. Pair your audio experience with the Arctis Nova X wireless headphones for quintessential spatial satisfaction.