|« Sad Brad Smith @ The Paper Machete 12/4||Review: Emergency Room @ Subterranean 12/2 »|
Feature Fri Dec 03 2010
It's hard enough thinking of the best holiday gifts for your friends, but when they're music lovers, like our Transmission staff, it can be an even harder task, as we certainly like to share our opinion about just about everything. So we've compiled a list of our favorite picks for Chicago music lovers, and we hope you'll spread the love locally this year as well.
Etymotic high fidelity earplugs
Good earplugs for listening to live music are not neon foam peanuts. Elk Grove Village's Etymotic Research kills the competition with their ER20s keeping a wide range of frequencies simply decreased instead of disappeared. The earplugs are a necessity for the frequent showgoer in your life. (They can also be purchased at MusicDirect, 318 North Laflin, to go along with that AVID Acutus Reference SP Turntable.) The earplugs run $12.95 on the website.
Secret Santa Vinyl Swap
If you're looking to freshen up that special someone's record collection (or give yourself a gift!), but haven't got a lot of dough, consider a record swap. Locally run website Creamteam is holding a Secret Santa Vinyl Swap for those who run or contribute to music blogs, but even if you're not a music writer, you can organize your own record swap among your audiophile friends! Use it as an excuse to throw a holiday party, or make it a long distance exchange via mail. As Creamteam states in their swap rules: "If you end up receiving something you already own, arrange a swap with a friend. Keep the spirit of trading and suggesting new music alive." If that's not the best gift for a music lover, I don't know what is.
The it can't-be-found-anywhere else LP, EP, Vinyl, CD or digital download from Chicago's archival label Numero Group
For the nostalgic crate diver on your list check out archival label Numero Group's collection of the obscure, the lost and now found soul, pop, folk, gospel, funk collections with special attention paid to local Chicago soul musicians. You may also want to check out the autobiography of Catherine Howe, What A Beautiful Place. The album is described as the prodigious effort wrought from the melancholy ruminations of post-adolescence which unfold like a classic bildungsroman, beginning in the smoke-stained industrial county of Yorkshire, transformed by the electrified creative landscape of mid-century. Download albums digitally, or browse the catalog for CD and vinyl purchases.
Empty Bottle Show Posters
Before I had friends or a smartphone, my favorite thing to do between bands at the Empty Bottle was look at all of the posters for upcoming shows. (The Bottle's in-house advertising is top-notch.) Some were thrown together in six seconds, but others make great wall art. So why not get your poster-obsessed pal(s) a print from a great show that they saw, or from one that they rue missing because they only found out about [insert band whose popularity skyrocketed after playing the Bottle] a few weeks afterward?
Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
As a hardcore music nerd, I find the evolution of the industry absolutely fascinating. With the rise of the digital age, the music industry hasn't just evolved but completely been turned upside down and forced in many ways to change, or otherwise fail (which it has done both). Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune and Sound Opinions fame explores how the digital generation changed the music industry in his insightful book Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. If you have any wonder of how difficult and different the industry has become, pick up this book. I believe it should be a mandatory read for anyone wanting to work in this industry, and an insider look for any music fan.
Permanent Records Grim Reaper Tote Bag
Lance, Liz, and the rest of the Permanent gang always have something great tucked away on the shelves, whether it's super-rare vinyl, underground cassette releases, or the jewel of someone's hocked CD collection that you're ready to give a second life. Carry your finds in style with their Grim Reaper tote bag, a devilish bargain at $6.66, or the perfect delivery format for a Permanent Records gift certificate if you're buying for someone more special.
If the gift givee on your list loves all kinds of music, and loves the feel of newsprint in his or her hands, it's almost a lock that Roctober is a staple on the bedside table (or in the bathroom) already. If not, you get to be the hero for planting the seed! Roctober, founded by Chic-a-go-go creator Jake Austin, is an absurdly entertaining and wide-ranging rag, covering everything from Acid Mothers Temple to Redd Fox to Klaus Nomi, often in the same issue. Even if you don't get to be the person to put Roctober in their hands for the first time, you can always give a Gift Subscription. At $10 for three issues, you can even make this work within standard Secret Santa price-ranges. (Also, check out Dusty Groove to browse through an ample selection of Roctober back-issues.
Tour: Smart: And Break the Band by Martin Atkins
Martin Atkins' Tour Smart is a book every independent musician needs to own, period. This is the ultimate gift for your loved ones who are accustomed to sleeping in vans, eating off the dollar menu and traveling across the country all in the name of music. The book provides insight on everything from how to book shows to what to pack on the road, and serves as a one-stop resource for anyone aspiring to make a living in the music biz. Chicagoan Martin Atkins has been involved in the music industry for decades, between being a part of bands Pigface, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Killing Joke, and Public Image Limited, teaching youngsters about the music industry over at Columbia College, conducting Tour: Smart workshops year-round and running label Invisible Records. It's safe to say this guy knows his stuff.
Help the Kids with Rock
If you can't bid on items in the Rock for Kids annual fundraiser event on December 3rd, you can still have your holiday purchase benefit needy children in Chicago. Rock for Kids provides music education for at-risk youth across the city, and your purchase of an amazing compilation of live recordings at the Metro over the years will benefit them directly. The album, The Official Bootleg Series, Vol. 1, costs $20 and is available at the Metro store online via paypal, or in person at 3730 N. Clark St. It features tracks from The Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Indigo Girls, Alejandro Escovedo, The Sea and Cake, Tortoise, Alkaline Trio, Billy Corgan and more.
Tomorrow Never Knows 2011 Five Day Pass
For the Chicago music fan who does not care for the season of hot, crowded downtown park festivals, a five day pass for Tomorrow Never Knows will provide a similar 'palooza experience on a chilled, smaller scale: indie bands at your favorite venues (Schubas, Lincoln Hall, Metro), a special shuttle bus to transport you from show to show, and you will have a chance to test the level of your stamina while enjoying time out of the house. The 5-day pass costs $100.
Dusty Groove tote bag
Everyone likes LPs. Right? At the very least, everyone likes putting things in bags. If the things you like to put in bags happen to be roughly 12" by 12" in dimension, it's all the better that you might choose to put them in a Dusty Groove record bag ($6.99, available in chrome grey or neon green). They hold 35 records, or roughly fours copies of the Keith Jarrett Sun Bear Concerts boxset, if you go that way. Available at www.dustygroove.com online or in-store at 1120 N. Ashland Ave.
Old Punch Card by Sam Prekop
Thrill Jockey artist Sam Prekop (of The Sea & Cake fame) has not only put out a new album this year, but he also personally drew the cover art for a select number of vinyl and CD covers. This simple monochromatic piece would match just about anything in your recipient's house, so why not pair a copy of the album (check with TJ for availability of the special hand-drawn versions, but Prekop designed the cover himself either way) with a record album frame and give music as art this year? The vinyl version comes with a free mp3 download, so they don't have to give up listening to the album in order to admire it on their wall. Vinyl or CD copies of Old Punch Card will run you $15. Record album frames range from $10-$30.
Kanye West or Freddie Gibbs album, or taxonomy of rap names poster
It's been a good year for hip-hop in general, but a pretty exceptional year for Chicagoland acts. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Chicago's own Kanye West recently put out one of the best albums of the year. Another favorite, Gary Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs, released a slew of successful mixtapes, played the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival, and continued to charm his way across the music blogosphere. Needless to say, our area knows good hip-hop. So make sure you spread the love this season and educate your extended family. Reckless has Kanye's new album (with a DVD including the full Runaway movie) for $22.99. Are Mom and Dad not familiar with the roots of hip-hop? Give them this sweet poster from Pop Chart Lab. It's not only pretty to look at, but it will give them a crash course of who's who of hip-hop. So Mom will no longer mix up Snoop Dogg with Nate Dogg during holiday dinner. Crisis averted.
Lincoln Hall & Schubas Gift Cards
These gift cards must be very popular right now as they are currently unavailable but do not worry, more will arrive in "early December" which is kind of right now. The cards come in amounts of $25, $50, and $100 and can be used on tickets, food, and drinks. With the friendly prices at these two venues, a $25 gift card could cover an evening of live music in an intimate space (~$14) and a meal (~$6 mac 'n' cheese at half price) and a drink (~$5) — if you stretch it. In conclusion: a nice flexible gift.
The Gentleman's Boombox
For the antiquarian music lover on your list (and if you have a generous holiday budget) a vintage trunk or suitcase turned stately speaker system by ArtPentry. Each individual speaker system can be used with any music device with a headphone jack or fitted to use as an amplifier and makes an sophisticated addition to any functional art lover's stereo system. Speakers begin at $350. Shop online, call 312-NAG-TOTS, or email Floyd@Artpentry.com.
Venus Zine subscription
What do Janelle Monae, Missy Elliott, Neko Case, Cibo Matto, Cat Power and Le Tigre all have in common? Besides being amazing female musicians, each have graced the cover of Venus Zine. Magazine subscriptions always make fantastic holiday presents because they are a gift that gives all year round. As if a magazine highlighting women artists isn't cool enough, Venus Zine is based in Chicago, giving it extra cool points. Say goodbye to the mainstream music mags that ignore girls who play guitar and hello to a hipper, forward-thinking publication.
Bill Callahan's Letters to Emma Bowlcut
For those who don't know him as Joanna Newsom's once-beau, Bill Callahan wrote some of the most adored songs ever to be heard on headphones alone in a dorm room in the last few decades. While his ancient-sounding baritone has always added much to the experience, Callahan has branched out into fiction, and now you can own the result. Letters To Emma Bowlcut is an epistolary story of long distance love with a little bit of sci-fi and boxing thrown in for the hell of it. The beautifully-covered tale is available from Drag City for 12 dollars — pick it up for the rock bottom riser in your life.
Protect Brain From Freezing
yourself, er, a friend a new hat for those brisk Chicago winters! Since Thrill Jockey's popular knit hats are often out of stock, get yourself one from Bloodshot this year for just $5. While you're there, get a gift for a friend, and a bonus for yourself with Bloodshot Records' annual holiday sale. Spend as little as $10 to get a sweet 2011 wall calendar, or other bonus gifts.