If being cooped up at home for the past two years has taught you anything, it’s hopefully to love yourself as your own best friend. You’ve got to the point where you no longer start drinking at noon, eating cold corned beef hash from a can for dinner, and then stand in front of the mirror yelling at the failure staring back for an hour before bed. For that, you need some sort of reward.
Normally, gift guides help you pick out gifts for that person who has everything, including a lifetime’s supply of shoes, socks, and reasonably priced but-not-too-shitty cookware. Things get a little trickier where music is involved. Nothing says “You blew it” like watching an Adele fan gamely proclaim “Oh, I love this.....” after opening the life-size KISS casket you thought would be perfect.
So you know what? Forget giving the gift of music to someone who probably won’t appreciate it. Instead, give yourself something this year, starting with offerings from the following fine local bands and music-oriented businesses. Go ahead—you’ve earned it.
Joe Keithley Throbblehead
Here’s how you know you’re more famous than the next Dennis Lyxzén, Toby Morse, or Jim “Pennywise” Lindberg: AGGRONAUTIX decides that one punk rock Throbblehead in your likeness is not enough. D.O.A. obsessives will recall Joe “Shithead” Keithley first being honoured with an AGGRONAUTIX figurine eight years ago, the 7-inch collector’s item capturing him in his circa-2010s glory with blonde hair and his signature jacket. The American Throbblehead makers are following that up with a new limited-edition figure paying tribute to the ’80s era version of the punk forefather. You know what that means: darker and spikier hair, grungier jeans, and Keithley’s famous Gibson SG. Like Christmas, the new Throbblehead is something you’ll have to wait for, as it won’t technically be on shelves until early 2022. But pre-orders for the limited-edition figurine are now open, which means you’ll have a purchase-confirmation slip from AGGRONAUTIX to slip into your stocking. ($US39.95 from aggronautix.com)
Rare Americans Playing Cards
Some bands are a little more skilled at the merch game than others. Why limit things to a basic T-shirt in white, bone white, and off-white when there’s a whole world of products to stamp your band’s name upon: tea towels, water bottles, mechanical pencils, and electric chainsaws. Vancouver breakout kings Rare Americans have become full-blown internet sensations since forming five years, three albums, a shit-ton of singles, and a cavalcade of animated videos, ago. For proof of that, hop on YouTube where 2019’s clip for “Brittle Bones Nicky” has a seemingly impossible 58 million views, “Ryan & Dave” has 7.9 million views, and the new “Walkin’ n Talkin’” has clocked 3.5 million in just a month. If you’re a fan of the genre-bending band you’ve got no shortage of ways to treat yourself this holiday season, with the Rare Americans site chock full of everything from hoodies, T-shirts, and coloured vinyl to playing cards, beach towels, and lunch boxes. Unfortunately, electric chainsaws aren’t on offer yet, but dare to dream. In the meantime, go with the playing cards, for no other reason than they’ll make your nightly solitaire games a little more colourful this holiday season. ($4.99 at rareamericans.com)
Rickshaw Theatre Hoodie
Ever been hiking in Banff, a neon-emerald-green lake to the left, and signs warning of grizzly bear sightings dotting the majestic forest to your right. And despite such an abundance of natural beauty, you find yourself approached on three different occasions by folks who want to know what the Rickshaw Theatre is, and where they can buy the Rickshaw hoodie you happened to be wearing. No? That’s okay because trust us, it happened. Not only is the Rickshaw one of Vancouver’s most-loved venues, it also has some of the greatest merch in the city—the venue’s virtual-store trucker hats and toques, bandannas, jean-jacket patches, and scarfs. The Rickshaw-branded facemask is every bit as sensible a gift as socks in these most weird of times, and the sweatpants are no-brainer for the hours following Christmas dinner when you beach yourself on the couch. But back to that hoodie, where Rickshaw Theatre is emblazoned on the front, and a punky-looking skeleton pulls an amp, guitar, and snare in an old-school rickshaw on the back. Who needs Banff’s Emerald Lake when they’ve got you and your hoodie to look at. ($35 at rickshawtheatre.com)
30 Years of Mint Records T-Shirt
Stop and think about all the homegrown gold Mint Records has given Vancouver since first arriving on the scene in 1991. Legitimate icons Neko Case and the New Pornographers released their first records on the plucky indie founded by CiTR vets Randy Iwata and Bill Baker. Mint’s been home to Nardwuar the Human Serviette’s Evaporators, garage legends the Smugglers, postpunk heros the Organ, and hardcore-noize agitators lié. Need a few more names? Start with the Buttless Chaps, Carolyn Mark, cub, Tankhog, Tennessee Twin, the Pack a.d., Riff Randells, Kellarissa, Supermoon, and the wildly underrated the Gay. For those reasons and more, Mint is pretty much cooler than you’ll ever be—and that’s saying something. Celebrate one of the Vancouver indie scene’s most enduring labels with a 30 Years of Mint Records T-shirt, featuring a design by Nada Hayek. ($14.99 at mintrecs.com)
Light Organ T-Shirt
Lets stick with record labels for a second, because whether you’re talking Mint, SubPop, Epitaph, or SST, labels are sometimes every bit as rad as the bands that record for them. Vancouver’s Light Organ has no shortage of critical darlings, including, but not limited to, Fake Shark, Hotel Mira, the Zolas, Twin River, Mauvey, and Alex Little and the Suspicious Minds. Chances are you already own merch (hoodies, bucket hats, thongs) from each of the above, but, if you don’t, what are you waiting for: load up! And while you’re on the label’s site pick up a crazy cool Light Organ T-shirt, which you can put in your wardrobe rotation between the vintage Matador Records and 4AD Ts you heisted from your parents’ attic the last time you were home for Christmas. ($25 at 604shop.com)