For the music-minded out there, a few suggestions for possible gifts for the season, regardless of what you’re celebrating.

For the charitable…

Rhythm and Blues Foundation

All material objects aside, helping support musicians is a gift that gives back. Also see this.

For the musical adventurer…

Mulatu Astatke: New York Addis London — The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965 to 1975

There’s been other Mulatu comps in the past but this is as definitive as I’ve seen and a wonderful primer to the master of Ethio-jazz. Once you take a taste of this, you’re not going to easily let it go. (Also see this).

For the mixologists…

Edan: Echo Party

Bugged and brilliant; pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Edan but as his first major project in four years, Echo Party is a dizzying, 30 minute sonic slip n’ slide. Once you start, you can’t jump off until the end but you’ll be glad you took the ride.

For the MJ fan…

Michael Jackson: Hello World (Motown Solo Collection)

There’s a gazillion MJ-related gifts one could cop but this boxset – eerily timed to come out this summer, before his death – is a definitive look at Jackson’s solo catalog on Motown. You couldn’t call it obscure but it’s part of his career that easily goes overlooked in favor of his massive Epic releases or the hit Jackson 5 years. Don’t sleep on these songs/albums though; no appreciation of MJ is possible without soaking in some of the sublimeness he put out in this teen years.

For the South Sider in all of us…

V/A: Light On the South Side

Even for Numero Group, they’ve outdone themselves this time with their 33rd release, combining an incredible 12 x 12 photo book of shots taken around South Side Chicago in the mid 1970s plus 2xLPs filled with some of the best funky blues to ever have emerged from the Midwest.

For those in need of a soul primer…

Peter Guralnick: Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom

There’s many histories of soul and you should never limit yourself to just one but if you need a starting point, I don’t think you can do better than Guralnick’s history of Southern soul in all its musical and social splendor.

For record nerds needing new threads…

T-shirts from

Your favorite record label logos + t-shirts = 88 Strong. Where else can you rock your love for De-Lite or Lizard (Paul Humphrey fans, holla)? Or, for that matter, this t-shirt, whose cartoon I may have start linking to every time someone post a superfluous “hey, this has been sampled!” comment.

For the amateur audiophile…

Grado SR-80i Headphones

For $100, this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck headphones you can buy. Yes, it’s more expensive than those cheap-ass white ear buds you currently own. And no, you probably don’t want to DJ with them (I recommend these instead). But for at-home listening, you’re going to put these on and wonder what you’ve missed hearing all this time before.

For the budding producer…

Stylophone synthesizer.

A pocket-sized synthesizer that performs pretty damn good for what looks like a kid’s toy. Don’t front, just flow. They make a beatbox version too.

For the 7″ addict…

Aluminum 45 adapters from 45central

Because you can’t keep using these and because few things look cooler than spinning 45s with a dome adapter (though I find that the cone design is actually more practical). They’re about $30 a pair to ship to the U.S. but c’mon, how often do you need to replace them?

For kids (and adults who act like kids) who like to bang on drums…

Mix Stix.

So genius you wonder why no one thought of this before (or maybe they did, I don’t know): Wooden spoons that end in drum sticks.



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