What to get for the music fans in your life
Unfortunately, despite what Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation might have led us to believe, you can’t kidnap someone and then give them to a loved one for Christmas. Which is to say, sorry, but forget about wrapping up Taylor Swift and sticking her under the tree on December 24. Same goes for Justin Bieber, Drake, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and those tools from One Direction. Luckily, there are other options if you’ve got a certain someone in your life with an unquenchable thirst for all things pop music–related. Santa himself would be more than proud to load the following gifts into his sleigh.
The Beatles Vinyl Box Set
Funny how everything old becomes new again, and, in the case of a must-have for Fab Four fans, heavier than “Come Together”, “Helter Skelter”, and “Revolution” combined. How heavy? Well, let’s just say that this lovingly assembled collection weighs enough that lifting with your legs, instead of your back, is the sensible option. What you get is a treasure chest of old-fashioned vinyl, namely the Beatles’ 12 U.K. studio albums, the U.S. version of Magical Mystery Tour, and Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2, as well as a 252-page booklet celebrating the greatest group in the history of pop music. Oh, and each record is pressed out of 180-gram black wax, the new international sign of quality. So set yourself up in front of a Walker Black Diamond Mk III turntable, marvel at the mind-bending cover art of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and love the fact that vinyl smells better than digital files ever will. Screw compact discs, cassette tapes, and 8-track—this is the way God (not to mention George Martin) intended the Beatles to be heard.
Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989
Thanks to a surprise breakout hit from a previously unknown band called Nirvana, 1991 is generally considered to be the year punk broke in North America. Believe it or not, though, the hype machine didn’t go from zero to warp speed the day MTV deigned to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time. Nirvana was making waves in the underground long before Beavis and Butt-Head gave the band their official stamp of approval, this proven by Bruce Pavitt’s behind-the-flannel e-book capturing Kurt Cobain and company on a 1989 late-fall European tour. As a photographer, the Sub Pop cofounder isn’t going to make anyone forget Glen E. Friedman or Charles Peterson. That doesn’t make his shots of the pre-stardom group any less fascinating, whether it’s Kurt Cobain signing autographs in the aisles of London’s Rough Trade record store, or Nirvana ripping up a London Lame Fest UK showcase. Funnily enough, Cobain often looks miserable, difficult as that might be to believe for anyone who’s ever listened to In Utero.
Die Antwoord Evil Boy sculpture
Die Antwoord’s limited-edition Evil Boy figurines are definitely NSFW, unless you happen to be employed by Jenna Jameson. The figurines, which come in both red and black, are inspired by an art show the South African rappers and performance artists staged earlier this year at San Francisco’s FIFTY24SF gallery. More than earning the “Explicit Content: 18 Yrs or Older” warning on the box, the six-inch vinyl sculptures depict the Die Antwoord Evil Boy (who looks disturbingly like Casper the Friendly Ghost) wrapping his hands around his telephone-pole–size twanger, which is accessorized by sugarplum-size nuts. Plunk these sculptures on your desk at work, and see how long it takes Myrtle in accounting to file a complaint with human resources. ($75 at Upper Playground, www.upperplayground.com/)
Nothing says “arrested development” like an apartment where the only art on the walls comes from the Rock Shop on Granville Street. Sooner or later you need to aim higher than four thumbtacks and a Tupac Thug 4 Life poster. Show that you still rock with limited-edition prints from Brian Ewing or Frida Clements. The New York–based Ewing’s site offers pop-culture–cool posters spotlighting the likes of Texas psychedelic rockers the Black Angels and L.A. alt-metal icons the Deftones. (Beg him, and he might pony up a “sold out” Swans prints featuring a hypnotic Bride of Frankenstein.) Just down the I-5 in Seattle, Clements offers more muted and classic-looking, art-nouveau–inspired prints paying tribute to acts such as the xx and the ever-enigmatic Andrew Bird. The best part? When they aren’t sold-out, prints go for between $15 and $30, considerably less than a decent Frank Kozik. (www.brianewing.com/; www.fridaclements.com)
Gramophone for iPod and iPad
With the possible exceptions of health care, education, television, and sex, everything was better back in the old days. Restoration Hardware’s Gramophone for iPhone lets you travel back to a simpler time, when cigarettes were good for you and there was nothing wrong with driving home after four happy-hour martinis. (And, yes, there’s one for the iPad.) As you might expect, the Gramophone for iPhone looks like something that obviously idiotic dog from the old RCA logo might have sat in front of for hours, convinced he was going to hear the sound of his master’s voice. The base is solid walnut, and the horn iron and brass, but the coolest thing might be that it requires no electricity or batteries. Instead, the Gramophone relies on physics to amplify Steve Jobs’s greatest inventions. The senior citizens in your life will be impressed—until you cue up that playlist that starts with the Geto Boys’ “Gangster of Love” and ends with N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton”, both of which, ironically enough, make a good case that things were better in the old days. ($249 for iPhone/$299 for iPad at www.restorationhardware.com/)