We’re all in this together this year, so here’s a suggestion: if you’re looking to pick up any of the below items, try to do some additional homework by sourcing at a bricks-and-mortar Vancouver store, preferably of the mom-and-pop variety. And for God’s sake, wear a mask.
Fender Billie Eilish Signature Ukulele
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “If you want the groupies, you play the guitar, not the ukulele.” (Gentlemen—that goes for you too). That said, a fun music-biz fact is there are no shortage of folks who’ve embraced Hawaii’s favourite four-stringed instrument as a go-to songwriting tool, including Eddie Vedder, Taylor Swift, and Bruce Springsteen. It’s lightweight and, more importantly, compact, which means you don’t have an extended fight on your hands when it’s time to stuff it into the overhead bin on the Air Canada Rouge airplane or Greyhound bus. Now, thanks to a deal between Fender and mope-pop queen Billie Eilish, the ukulele has scored bonus cool points. Ms. Bad Guy’s signature offering channels her Blohsh art style in a colour best described as “none more black”. Being a Fender, it’s going to cost you more than, say, an immortal Hola! Music uke, but that will be offset by your giftee’s future royalty cheques. (From $388 at fender.com)
Beatles Lego Art
Remember the ’60s, when folks would set aside a day to drop two tabs of Orange Sunshine and then repeatedly play the Beatles’ Revolver backwards on warped vinyl? Frantically telling themselves to enjoy the ride because at some point everyone comes down and, no, an acid trip has never caused anyone’s eyeballs to melt like a Creamsicle at high noon in Bombay? Help a loved one relive that time in a much less terrifying way with Lego Art: The Beatles. Geared to the over-18 crowd, each kit features 2,993 Lego pieces and a suitable-for-hanging Lego board to place them on. Here’s the mind-blowing thing: depending on how they’re arranged, those Lego pieces can be used to create each of your favourite Fab Four members. There’s also a downloadable Beatles soundtrack to listen to while you work. Or you could just dump all the pieces into a pile, drop two tabs of Purple Jesus acid, and then sit there freaking the fuck out as the Lego pieces arrange themselves while calmly informing you the toaster is morphing into Rocky the Racoon. ($149.99 from lego.com).
Anker Life Q30 headphones
Enough already. There’s no shame in admitting—no matter how much you love your partner, kids, cat, or Siamese fighting fish—that you’d rather not be cooped up with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Give them the green light to tune you out with a pair of Anker Life Q30 hybrid active noise-cancelling headphones, which they can slap on and then crank up Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile”, the Subhumans’ “Fuck You”, or Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In the Name”. Offering 60 hours of playing time per charge, they’re designed to maximize low frequencies while making the highs clearer than Prague crystal. The real selling point (beyond, that is, the budget-friendly price tag)? That would the active noise cancellation with three modes to filter out things like airplane noise, traffic, wind, and the person you live with bitching about how you left the dirty dishes on the counter. Again. ($104 at anker.com).
Rock band face masks
Just as no true gentlemen left the house in 1910 without a custom-fitted bowler hat, this year will be remembered for face masks becoming an essential accessory. Why bother looking like every other person in Walmart by wearing a generic surgeon mask when you can pledge allegiance to your favourite band for charity? We’ve Got You Covered offers face masks emblazoned with the logos of artists ranging from Slipknot and Black Sabbath to 2Pac and Queen. For the TikTok generation, there are offerings featuring the likes of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Partial proceeds from We’ve Got You Covered purchases are funnelled to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, a nonprofit run by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The academy has earmarked the money for artists and other music-industry workers who have had their lives uprooted by the pandemic. ($19.50 at wegotyoucoverednow.com).
IK Multimedia iRig HD 2
When you think about it, the Dumpster fire that has been 2020 is ending on a hopeful note. COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon, and the four-year clown show south of the 49th parallel is drawing to a long-overdue close. This is all great, but the fact remains that we’ll all be in this state of semilockdown for the foreseeable future. Musicians find themselves with no venues to play and rehearsals cancelled (because it’s pretty hard to maintain the requisite physical distance when you have five people crammed into a 12-square-foot jam room). The only real recourse is to work on songs while isolating at home. IK Multimedia’s iRig HD 2 digital interface is a great tool for doing just that. Plug an instrument (like, say, an electric guitar) into the iRig, then plug the iRig into your iPhone, and you essentially have a pocket-sized recording studio. You can record tracks directly into GarageBand or your audio software of choice. It’s so easy that you never have to be in a room filled with sweaty humans and their music gear ever again. Although you’ll probably want to be, for the sake of your own sanity. ($111.99 at Long and McQuade).
Neil Young Homegrown Rolling Papers
Ol’ Shakey has never been the most famous weed consumer in pop culture—Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg continue in a two-way tie for first where that’s concerned. But there’s something about Neil Young that suggests he’d be far more interesting to roll a blunt with than those two. Forget getting mellow and playing dominoes—with Young, odds are better you’d get a megastoned tirade that flits from the war crimes of Donald Trump to the insanity of the NRA to the unending sonic superiority of the Pono. Young is billing his homegrown hemp papers as “Never Known to Fail”, which makes them a no-brainer for 2020. Everything else has gone fucking wrong in this train wreck of a year—the last thing you need is your joint canoeing when you’re doing your best to forget, well, everything. ($9 at neilyoung.warnerrecords.com).