As the saying goes, “Tis better to give than receive”, and we here at the Arts & Entertainment desk generally agree. Of course what to give can be vexing and that’s why we enthusiastically endorse going the music route. In no particular order, here are 10 cool stocking stuffers or sonic goodies for under the tree.
Adele, 25. Pretty easy choice here for any age. Ballad heavy sung with a powerful voice.
Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free. The erstwhile Drive By Trucker has been quietly making quality albums for years. Arrived on a lot of peoples radar with this one. Imagine what Dylan or Springsteen would sound like if they grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Bob Dylan, Bootleg Series Vol.12: The Cutting Edge 1956-1966. In an all most non stop 14 month period, Dylan recorded many of his legendary songs that would wind up on Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde On Blonde. Among the highlights, enjoy (some very) different versions of Zimmy classics. There’s 3 configurations & prices that range from a modestly price 2 cd set to every note he recorded during that time for $600. We recommend the 2 cd set.
Tame Impala, Currents. One of the best rock albums this year. It’s modern psychedelic music with a dance groove.
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. Odd ball storytelling about taxidermied Kangaroos, Corporate greed and the shortness of one’s life set to grungy guitars.
Otis Redding, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul. Remains an essential record 50 years after it’s original release. If you don’t like Otis Redding, you might not like life itself.
Father John Misty, I Love You Honey Bear. The Harry Nilsson for a new generation? Maybe. 11 Songs that name check cobra and ostrich wine, sub prime loans, singing in the tub with girls and staying out all night.
Velvet Underground, The Complete Matrix Tapes. Recorded in San Francisco, late 1969. 42 tracks, finding the band navigating through 22 different songs from their career. Highlights include a 13 minute version of Waiting For My Man, with new lyrics and a whistling break, differently paced stabs at Sweet Jane, and Heroin with looping bass, then a version with organ. Audience quality sound that makes you feel like you’re there. For true fans only.
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly. Rap and free jazz mingle with George Clinton, radical politics and the ghosts of Curtis Mayfield and Gil Scott Heron
Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation and Fear Of A Black Planet. Reissued this year, 2 now classic rap albums that provided the foundation for all that followed.