In the age of Spotify, no one collects music on physical media anymore. Well, okay, that’s overstating things a bit. Vinyl obsessives still do, because they are convinced that dragging a needle through a groove in an overpriced piece of plastic imparts an ineffable sonic quality and an intangible “warmth” that a digital file never will.
There is something on this list for such deluded souls, and for other music lovers, too, including those who would prefer to keep what hearing they have left and those whose tastes in fashion unashamedly include copious exposed chest hair and nut-hugging unitards.
If you have someone on your list who dragged you out to see Bohemian Rhapsody half a dozen times, even while pointing out the tiniest historical inaccuracies, they might appreciate the gift of an outfit that Freddie Mercury himself would have given his seal of approval. Based on the Harlequin-esque unitards that the Queen frontman wore on-stage circa 1977, Coquetry Clothing’s made-to-order catsuit is “a must-have outfit for the guy in your life who dares to live without fear”. Due to its skin-tight nature, it’s also for the guy in your life who’s not afraid to show the world exactly what he’s packing. Not included: bottomless microphone stand, iconic mustache, or talent. ($137.22 on Etsy)
The problem with the guitar is that it takes forever to get even semiproficient. Lessons can help, but then there’s the teacher sitting there rolling her eyes, secretly wondering why it’s taking someone three months to learn the intro to “Wild Thing”. Get that budding Slash, Jimi Hendrix, or East Bay Ray on your list Fender Play, a subscription-based service launched by the iconic makers of the Stratocaster, Twin Reverb amp, and Precision bass. Video lessons (approximately one hour per week; when and if students actually do them is up to them) are streamed through the Fender app and geared to everyone from sausage-fingered beginners to those one lick away from starting a Slayer cover band. For messing around in the bedroom, the service breaks down thousands of popular songs—from Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” to the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl”. Prepaid gift cards ($114.99 for 12 months of lessons; $64.99 for six months) for Fender Play are available at Long & McQuade. The service is also available to those who would love to learn to play the ukulele or bass, but have found themselves unable to master even a rudimentary version of Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner”. Rock on. (From $64.99 at long-mcquade.com/)
Sex Pistols: 90 Days at EMI
The past couple of years have seen the publication of more books about the Sex Pistols than anyone other than a truly obsessive fan could ever need. These include a memoir (Lonely Boy) by guitarist Steve Jones, an exhaustive recounting of the recording of Never Mind the Bollocks (1977: The Bollocks Diaries), and a pair of companion volumes documenting the Pistols’ tours of the U.K. and the U.S. (Anarchy in the U.K. and The Sex Pistols Invade America, both by Mick O’Shea). The most curious entry in the canon—and possibly the most interesting—is a new reissue of former EMI Records exec Brian Southall’s long-out-of-print Sex Pistols: 90 Days at EMI, the inside story of how the first major record label to sign the Pistols also became the first to drop the band in short order, in a move that, thanks to a hefty signing bonus, left the punks some £40,000 richer. Talk about a great rock ’n’ roll swindle! ($12.99 at Book Warehouse)
Justin Timberlake Ugly Sweater
Aiming to make up for that time in 2004 when he ripped Janet Jackson’s bra off in front of millions, Justin Timberlake was the star of this year’s Super Bowl halftime show—though we’re using “star” pretty liberally. With a show described as “eerily un-self-aware” by the New Yorker, JT was summarily upstaged by a teenager taking a selfie, a 40-foot flapping sheet with Prince’s face on it, and some kind of bizarro camo-print suit with a buck-hunting shirt and a Woody-from-Toy-Story bandanna. Then there was the release of Timberlake’s new album, Man of the Woods. A baffling mix of country music and overproduced pop, the record variously describes his penis as a faucet, discusses his desire to collect iodine tablets, and tries really, really hard to position Timberlake as a wholesome, cabin-dwelling lumbersexual who absolutely doesn’t care about his net worth of $230 million. Unsurprisingly, critics panned it. All of which is to say that Justin Timberlake’s 2018 has been, well, ugly. Which, in our book, makes him the perfect icon to emblazon on your ugly Christmas sweater this year. This version features a charming shot of a pre-Walden JT (he’s got a suit on, folks), with a lovely Christmas-knit effect around the outside. It’s just a shame it doesn’t come in flannel. ($43.95 on Etsy)
Vinyl Me, Please
There are plenty of music-themed Christmas gifts out there that, frankly, suck. Who actually wants a thumb piano? Why does every electronics company have a range of shitty Bluetooth speakers? Real music fans don’t want weird gimmicks, and they don’t have any space left in their drawer of crap to hide useless Christmas selections. But what to get them? Vinyl Me, Please is a subscription service that sends the recipient a new album on wax every month. Each record is carefully selected for its musical merit, and individuals can choose one of three categories—essentials, classics, and rap and hip-hop—to make sure their listening experience will be suitably pleasant. Arriving by post on their doorstep, the package also includes mystery extras like collectible art prints, listening notes, and custom cocktail recipes inspired by the album. Past selections include Mavis Staples’s self-titled record, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, Muddy Waters’s Fathers and Sons, and Rico Nasty’s Nasty—so you can be sure that there’s enough variety to keep your loved ones both on-trend and wistfully nostalgic. (For subscription packages, go to vinylmeplease.com/.)
Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs
Few things in this world are more electrifying than live music, and the closer you get to the stage, the more powerful a show ends up being. Ask anyone who was lucky enough to be standing in the front row for Grinderman at the Commodore, Motörhead at Kerrisdale Arena, or the Refused at the Vogue. The only downside? That would be the fact that human beings weren’t meant to subject themselves to 130 decibels of noise, when the safe threshold is 85. Cue Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs, which first popped up on Shark Tank, and have since been hailed as a brilliant alternative to what concertgoers have been sticking in their ears for years (foam plugs from Home Depot, spit-soaked napkins, Dubble Bubble gum). Vibes lower both treble and bass frequencies, meaning you still hear the concert the way the soundman intended, instead of as a muffled mess. The real selling point? Unlike custom-moulded ear protectors, which can run a couple of hundred bucks, Vibes clock in at under $40. Just because the music lover in your life adores Deafheaven, there’s no reason for them to leave the show half deaf. ($37.95 at amazon.ca/)