The best kind of Christmas gift is arguably the one you’re secretly buying for yourself. Sure, your punk-obsessed teenager is the ostensible recipient of that four-disc Sex Pistols reissue, but don’t even front like you’re not going to be blasting Never Mind the Bollocks and pogoing around the living room when no one else is home. And there’s no sense pretending that you won’t be reading that copy of Dylan Jones’s David Bowie: A Life that you allegedly bought for your significant other.
Slightly more tricky are the things you buy for the music lovers who don’t live under your own roof. For instance, it will start to seem a tad suspect that you “just happened to be in the neighbourhood” and decided to stop by and see how your cousin Steve’s new Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster is doing. Sometimes you just need to wake up on Christmas morning to find that Santa Claus has tucked a Strat of your very own under the tree—even if the jolly old elf isn’t the one who has to pay the credit-card bill in January.
Celebrity prayer candles
It used to be that death was a prerequisite for sainthood, but the folks at Kitschup Creations apparently don’t subscribe to that notion. Sure, their Celebrity Prayer Candles line features many likenesses of the dear departed (including David Bowie, Prince, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, and 2Pac), but it will also enable you to show your devotion to Katy Perry, Drake, Adele, and Justin Bieber. There are plenty of nonmusical celebs on offer as well, and these could actually be a handy dating filter. If you let a Tinder date take you home and you spot a Steve Harvey, Donald Trump, or Guy Fieri prayer candle in their pad, get the fuck out of there. (US$24 at www.celebrityprayercandleskc.com/ )
Marshall bluetooth speakers
Thanks to Vancouver’s impossible real-estate market, the days when a music connoisseur had room for a wall-mounted Marantz stereo system and Stonehenge-sized KEF Coda speakers are long gone. Because we’re all shoehorned into 400-square-foot condos, small-and-powerful is king. Sonos has cornered the smart-speaker market with a product that sounds great but looks nondescript.
Obsessives who value design as well as function will get a far bigger jolt out of a line of Marshall speakers that range from the shoebox-sized Acton model to the waking-up-the-neighbours Woburn. Each unit looks like a miniature Marshall—the legendary amps favoured by rock gods like Slash, Eddie Van Halen, and Slayer’s Kerry King. Proving you can sometimes judge quality by weight, even the Acton is heavier than a Gibson Les Paul. Soundwise, it’s every bit as killer as you’d expect from something emblazoned with the famous Marshall logo. Settings are simple: Volume, Bass, and Treble.
Crank the bottom end when the neighbours upstairs are pissing you off and you want to retaliate with N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton. Go all-in on the treble when immersing yourself in the majesty of Hüsker Dü’s masterful Zen Arcade. Should you actually dream of owning a house one day, Marshall smart speakers are all Bluetooth-compatible, meaning you can link components together with a Stanmore in the kitchen, a Woburn in the living room, and an Acton in the bathroom—each blaring “Sweet Child o’ Mine” loud enough to terrorize the poor tenants in your mortgage helper. (From $324.99 at www.marshallheadphones.com/mh_ca_en/speakers/)
If you were stoked to get your current-gen iPhone out of the box, only to wonder where the hell the headphone jack was, you’re evidently living in the past. All the cool kids are going wireless, because wires are for losers, apparently. AirPod earbuds are driven by the W1 chip, which according to Apple produces “extremely efficient wireless for a better connection and improved sound”. And five hours of battery life on a single charge, too. You can also use AirPods to listen to your iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and (presumably) incoming transmissions from Skynet. ($219 at www.apple.com/ca/airpods/)
Master Of Puppets Metallica Christmas sweater
If you’re looking for off-the-wall gifts, old-school rock and metal bands are a good place to start. Take, for instance, KISS’s two-in-one knife and money clip, or Motörhead’s official line of vibrators (bullet and torpedo, in case you were wondering). Adopting a more festive approach, the merch gods for Metallica have this year created a range of Christmas-themed items that might be less risqué, but will still likely offend your grandma.
Our favourite? This beautiful ugly sweater. Taking inspiration from the Master of Puppets album cover—an artwork that depicts First World War military-style grave markers tied up by shadowy strings that lead to the unseen hands of an evil puppet master—the sweater pays homage to the record’s grisly lyrics while still offering some festive cheer. Several graves have been transformed into jolly candy canes, and one of the crosses even sports a Santa hat.
In keeping with the metal feel, it’s unclear whether the graphics at the top and bottom of the sweater are snowflakes or spider webs—but maybe that’s best left to your imagination. Either way, this 50 percent wool, 50 percent acrylic garment will keep your body warm and your heart cold all winter long. (US$89.99 at www.metallica.com/store/)
Star Wars: A New Hope soundtrack 40th anniversary box set
The music itself doesn’t need an introduction. After all, John Williams’s score to a little 1977 popcorn flick called Star Wars won an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and three Grammys, and was named the greatest American movie score of all time by the American Film Institute. You’ve heard it. But have you heard it remastered and pressed on three 180-gram vinyl LPs, one of which, according to StarWars.com, features “a 3D hologram experience with the Death Star”? No. No, you have not. The 48-page hardcover book only sweetens the deal. (US$150 at disneymusic.shop.musictoday.com/store/ )
Dark Side of the Spoon cookbook
Ever wondered what your favourite albums taste like? Dark Side of the Spoon artfully reimagines music as food with excellent recipes and headline-quality puns. From the gentle simmering of “Ladle of Filth”—a squid-ink-drenched seafood and chorizo paella—to the baked “Fleetwood Mac and Cheese” and lightly fried “Beef Patty Smith”, the cookbook features easy-to-grab ingredients and simple instructions.
Each of the 30 recipes showcases a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that title (“Iron Raisin”, “ZZ Chop”, “Metallikatsu Curry”) and accompanying subhead (“Rum to the Hills”, “Sharp Dressed Lamb”, “Master of Buffets”) that spice up any dish. The facing page, meanwhile, displays food-inspired musical artwork commissioned from a number of top illustrators—so be prepared to see Rammstein’s Till Lindemann floating in a bowl of Japanese pork ramen.
Presenting a range of appetizers, entrées, and desserts—including gluten-free and vegetarian dishes—for chefs of all abilities and tastes, Dark Side of the Spoon is not only hilarious, but likely the only way you can persuade your husband to cook. ($19.29 at www.chapters.indigo.ca/ )
Budweiser cooler and speakers
Alcohol and music go hand in hand—a fact that hasn’t been lost on Budweiser. Combining the two by creating a soft cooler bag with built-in Bluetooth speakers, the company has made a product that keeps 24 beer cans well chilled while allowing users to play tunes on the go.
Full disclosure: while the speakers go loud, they aren’t especially high-end—but that’s part of the cooler’s charm. Perfect for festivals, beaches, and boats, the bag is likely going to end up covered in sand, water, or worse—and who wants to spend hundreds of dollars on an item that will inevitably be left out in the rain? Great for the price—it’s nearly $50 cheaper than any competitor on Amazon—the bag allows you to listen to music wirelessly from smartphones, tablets, or MP3 players, and the rechargeable battery lasts for hours. ($45.03 at www.amazon.ca/ )
Push Turn Move electronic-music history book
There’s a reason no one under the age of 40 wants a Fender Stratocaster or Ludwig drum kit for Christmas in 2017. Rock is dead, with the smart kids instead realizing the money is in electronic music. Give the budding Diplo, Skrillex, or deadmau5 in your life the Kickstarter-funded book Push Turn Move: Interface Design in Electronic Music. Clocking in at a hefty 352 illustration-rich pages, Push Turn Move pays loving tribute to the past and present of electronic music. Those fascinated by aesthetics will want to flip to chapters celebrating artists and designers like Dorit Chrysler and Tatsuya Takahashi.
Tech-heads can dive into the stories of fabled gear manufacturers like Korg, Moog, and Ableton. Get a history lesson on how sequencers and iOS apps usurped old-fashioned guitars and drums as the go-to composing gear for a generation. If you’re lucky, you’ll even unearth tips for coming up with your own original DJ name, after which the mammoth paycheques are pretty much guaranteed to start rolling in. ($108 at www.pushturnmove.com/)
Looking for more gift ideas? Check out the Georgia Straight's 2017 holiday gift guide here.More