The 2022 Music Gift Guide: Finding interesting presents for loved ones can be tough, but because we’re nice over in the music section, we’re here to help with our annual guide to music-related gifts that might be a little outside of the norm. You’re welcome.
Deep Cuts Music Trivia
We’re gonna be awkward and open with a book, because this one is a great gift for the holidays. Get this for somebody you’ll be spending the New Year with, then spend the buildup to midnight quizzing each other. This gem is jam-packed with deep-cut music trivia (as the title suggests), and it’s a blast. NOT ONLY THAT, but author Robert von Goeben is offering a discount to LA Weekly readers purchasing the book at deepcutstrivia.com. Just enter the code MUSCON6 at checkout to get it for only $8.99. Not to be sniffed at.
Alice Cooper at 75
Alice Cooper at 75 is a new book by award-winning music journalist Gary Graff, who operates out of Alice’s old haunt of Detroit. Kudos to Graff and Motorbooks/The Quarto Group — the hardcover book is beautifully packaged with a couple of posters and a print, in a crushed velvet-effect box. A regular old bio doesn’t do a showman like Alice justice. This illustrated tome takes us from his youth relocating from Detroit to Phoenix, his connection to Zappa, his early bands the Earwigs and the Spiders, and his gradual metamorphosis into the Cooper we know today. It’s genuinely a must for all fans.
Acey Slade, who was a member of horror-punks the Murderdolls and is now a touring member of the Misfits, also has a coffee company called Catfight Coffee and he used the know-how from his time on the road to craft some delectable fuel for the mind and soul. The Misfits Crimson Roast, with the classic Fiend on the gorgeous packaging, is a blend of Arabica beans, flavored with red velvet. LIKE THE CAKE! It’s rich and dark, much like the band. There’s also an Alice Cooper Burundi AA – a medium roast single origin specialty coffee from the Republic of Burundi, Africa. This writer’s wife, the coffee drinker in the house, says that both are smooth and delicious, though the Misfits offer a stronger drink than Alice. And of course, there’s a Murderdolls coffee – blessed with raspberry, white chocolate and rum. It’s as good as it sounds. The packaging, featuring awesome art, on all three is magnificent, and the Catfight box it comes in is a nice touch, too. They also have shirts, mugs and more great merch. Go to catfightcoffee.com and fill your boots.
The legendary Creem is back. It might have a whole new crew, it probably won’t be exactly the same as long-time readers remember it in the ’70s and ’80s, but to have print copies of new Creem magazines available is a thrill. New issues and fan club packs are available at creem.com, and they make a great gift. Even better though — they have a ton of new Creem merch, much of which is decorated with the classic Boy Howdy logo. The range of shirts is mind blowing and, based on the couple that they sent us, the quality is superb. It’s great to be able to report that a print media outlet is back, rather than hearing news about another publication falling away. Welcome back, Creem. We’re better off with you around, in any form!
The Living Tombstone
TLT are next week’s LA Weekly print stars — two brilliant minds in Sam Haft and Yoav Landau who went viral on YouTube with fandom-based songs about the likes of Five Nights at Freddy’s and My Little Pony, then developed into creating their own worlds through comic books and video games. The merch they sent over is spectacular, including pins depicting their own character-creations, a washable face mask (which is handy given the new guidelines), a plushy keyring, and some gloriously vivid tees. There’s an orange vinyl record that serves as the soundtrack to their zero_one comic book, which is wildly infectious. Oh, and then there’s the hoodie, pictured, which zips all the way up (the skull face is see-thru). It’s simply bad-ass, and it’s all available here. Don’t delay — there’s a 25% discount during the holidays.
CoCo Vodka and deadmau5
Recent LA Weekly cover star deadmau5 has partnered with hard coconut water company CoCo Water. Says deadmau5, “There is something to be said about a drink in a can that tastes good. Plus they are an independent Canadian business so I like to support.” The drink is indeed refreshing and a good choice for the holidays, even if it gloriously tropical. This is California after all, so drink it chilled. Get it at enjoycoco.com.
The great people at Aggronautix can always be relied on for some amazing gifts in the form of bobbleheads, and this year is no exception. Carrying on the Misfits theme from Cathouse, there’s a Fiend throbblehead (as they call them), which is appropriately sinister. Poly Styrene of XRay Spex, local boy Mike Watt of the Minutemen/fireHose/Stooges, Toby Morse of H2O, Joey Shithead of DOA and Dennis Lyxzén of Refused are more recent recipients of the throbblehead honor, and all look magnificent bobbing along to their own tunes. Arguably best of all is the Killer Beer statue – the mascot for Murphy’s Law, which looks like an alcoholic Kool-Aid Man. Visit aggronautix.com for all that and more.
Box sets / vinyl
Rhino have come up trumps with some incredible music box sets and packages, and they were kind enough to send us some highlights. Depeche Mode’s Playing the Angel: The 12” Singles is a set of 10, 12” vinyl singles (as the name suggests), collecting the singles plus assorted B sides, odds and sods from the 2005 Playing the Angel album. This one is strictly for serious fans of the band, but fortunately there are plenty of them and they’ll lap up these rare songs and deep cuts.
A four-LP edition of Stone Temple Pilot’s Plush includes, as well as the full album split over four sides, a bunch of demos and a live show from ‘93, all of which is on vinyl for the first time. So there are, like, three versions of “Sex Type Thing,” but it’s a treat to hear the band evolve.
Joni Mitchell’s The Asylum Albums collects the five albums from her 1972-1975 period, and it’s a lovingly assembled box. Mitchell’s own art is gorgeous on the sleeves and the box itself, the latter being a previously unseen painting. And there’s an essay by Neil Young about his friend, where he writes “Joni’s music is so deep and transporting. She comes right from the source. There is no mistaking it…For The Roses, Court And Spark, Miles Of Aisles, and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns…are all classics in my book. I listened to every album as it came out. The musicians she played with were always above my abilities. She had grown from folk to jazz and in between, creating a unique kind of sound that I loved to listen to over and over.”
Life After Death is the suitably big box that The Notorious B.I.G.’s legacy deserves. Eight pieces of vinyl including the original album, a bunch of 12” singles and other goodies. The book of rare photos is a nice touch, too.
Seal’s self-titled debut album from ‘91 has been given the deluxe box treatment with three sides of vinyl and four CDs. You get the album (remastered) on both CD and vinyl, plus a ton of rare tracks, remixes and a 1991 concert recorded in Ireland.
Kraftwerk is generally accepted as one of the originators of electronic music, or at least it was the guys that dragged it out of the underground and into the public consciousness. This glorious set of remixes by the likes of William Orbit, Orbital and Hot Chip shows just how far their influence has spread.
There’s not a lot of colored vinyl this year, but Madonna has come through with the Finally Enough Love set. The vinyl version is a mere 16 tracks compared to full 50 on the CD set, but the vinyl is pretty and clear. Anyway, the set is celebrating the fact that Madonna has now had 50 songs on the Dance Club Songs chart, so it’s all remixes and dance edits. Superb!
The 30th anniversary of the Cure’s Wish album has been celebrated with a deluxe three-CD edition. That means the album, remastered, plus two discs of previously unreleased demos and tracks. The Strangelove mix of “Friday I’m in Love” is particularly interesting.
Divine Symmetry is a celebration of David Bowie’s year building up to the release of the Hunky Dory masterpiece. So there are four CDs and a Blu-ray packed with demos and radio appearances, and alternative mixes and all sorts. And because it’s all from this particular departed genius, it’s all gold. We can probably expect countless Bowie releases for it, and that’s fine with us.
Away from Rhino and very much here in L.A., Bound for Hell on the Sunset Strip is a gorgeous box of Hollywood metal spread over two vinyl records. With a few notable exceptions (Black ‘N Blue, Lizzy Borden), the label (the Numero Group) has gone for the more obscure likes of LA Rocks, Max Havoc, VVSI and Lisa Baker. That’s what makes this set so fascinating – that, and the fact that the bands tend to veer towards the heavier/power metal end of the spectrum, rather than what we now know as hair metal. There’s a hardcover book detailing each band’s exploits by the great Katherine Turman (full disclosure – this writer helped with the copy in a couple of cases), and overall it’s a great time capsule for local music lovers.
Like the Cure, industrial band Front Line Assembly is celebrating a 30th anniversary with a reissue. In their case, it’s the Tactical Neural Implant album and it’s out on lovely blue vinyl through Wax Trax! This is its first vinyl release since ‘92, and it’s been remastered by original producer Greg Reely. Just as it did then, it sounds dark and gnarly, and wonderful. It looks great, too.
UMe, or Universal Music Enterprises, is the catalog division of the Universal Music Group, meaning that they handle things like glorious reissues of classic albums, and wonderful box sets. They haven’t let us down this year, starting with the Human League‘s The Virgin Years. The four albums and one EP that the Brit synth-pop band released between 1981 and ’90 are all here, each a different color vinyl. Dare might have the biggest hits, but it’s a joy to rediscover this important band — experiencing their evolution. It’s a magnificent collection.
On the subject of “magnificent,” Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On is a seminal slice of R&B with a message that resonates to this day. UMe have celebrated it’s 50th anniversary with a special 2 LP edition, with direct-to-analog mastering from the original tapes, and a whole bunch of bonus material. If you already own the album, this release makes it worth a re-buy. If not, get hip!
Another anniversary is being celebrated in for form of the Spice Girls‘ Spiceworld. That album is 25 years old now (where the fuck have those years gone?), and it’s been released in wonderful picture vinyl, with all of the Spicys on there. The people who mocked it first time round will likely still hate it, but for fans of nostalgia pop it’s dated rather well. Especially the glorious sass of “Saturday Night Divas” and “The Lady is a Vamp.” Fun stuff.
From “fun” to absolute “joy,” in the form of a 10-disc box set featuring all of ABBA‘s nine studio albums, plus another disc of songs previously only available as singles. That means everything from the 1973 debut Ring Ring right up to 2021’s long-awaited Voyager. There’s so much amazing music here, and it’s a reminder that there was a lot more to ABBA than what everyone knows from the massively selling Gold “best of” album. Love them deep cuts!
We also received a couple of Christmas albums, and the first is a peach. A Nelson Family Christmas (UMe) sees the boys of Nelson running through holiday faves such as “Joy to the World,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Silent Night.” The guests are superb though — late, great dad Ricky Nelson is on here twice with “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “Jingle Bells.” Ozzie and Harriet Nelson also show up with another “Jingle Bells,” while Carnie and Wendy Wilson of Wilson Phillips guest on “This Christmas.”
Dark House Records has released a quite gorgeous box of Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros material called Joe Strummer 002: The Mescaleros Years. A quote from the Clash man of that period reads, “I learned that fame is an illusion and everything about it is just a joke. I’m far more dangerous now, because I don’t care at all.” If he truly didn’t care, it’s not clear when listening to the Mescaleros’ three albums and ton of demos spread out over the seven pieces of vinyl in this set. In fact, it’s fare to say that this is a timely reminder that the Clash isn’t the only thing of worth that Strummer put his name to. It’s a glorious collection, lovingly remastered and collated.
Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly‘s Christmas Train (Cooking Vinyl/Gawd Aggie) is another collection of standards, with a traditional lean but a few twists. “Silent Night” and “Little Drummer Boy” are all present and correct, while “Shalom Aleichem” and “Sarah Maryam” takes the album in interesting directions. Perhaps best of all is Kelly’s own “How to Make Gravy,” referred to in the press release as the “greatest Australian Christmas song of them all.”
Art-punk provocateur Sizzy Rocket has just released her new album Live Laugh Love, although it’s 2020’s third studio effort Anarchy that she sent us on lovely red vinyl. The record is a journey for the listener, as it apparently was for the artist. Rocket is a rising star on the punk scene — she certainly has a sound all of her own and she’s not afraid to ruffle few feathers. Check her out at sizzyrocket.com, and dig into the great merch.
A new Kinks box from BMG commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Muswell Hillbillies and Everybody’s in Show-biz – Everybody’s a Star albums, and yet again during a stellar year for these boxes, the label has done a superb job with the presentation, the packaging and the goodies inside. Besides “Lola,” these albums may not feature the band’s best known songs but fans have long known how great this period was and this set does it justice. A map of the band’s haunts (mostly London), a metal pin, some photos and a hardcover book are super sweet. Both albums on colored vinyl and CD, remastered, is even better. The demo tracks keep the good times rollin’, and a 1971 Ray Davies home movie on blu-ray is cheer-inducing.
The Guns N’ Roses box for the Use Your Illusion I and II albums is stunning. Seven CDs and a blu-ray that include the two albums, remastered, plus a bunch of live stuff from that era when the band was arguably the biggest in the world. Some vinyl would have been nice, but we’re not complaining. The fun continues with the amazing art inside, fan club newsletter replicas, backstage pass and ticket replicas (again from that era), a poster, and a membership card, and it all comes in a gorgeous box the switches from Use Your Illusion I orange to Use Your Illusion II blue when you move it from side to side. Incredible job!
Finally, and also via UMe, is the 40th anniversary “super deluxe” release of Kiss‘ Creatures of the Night. The Kiss Army is generally divided when it comes to this 1982 album, partly because of the turmoil that surrounded it. The previous album, (Music From) The Elder, was not well received, drummer Peter Criss was two years gone, and confusion reigned regarding the actual amount of guitar played by Ace Frehley and an uncredited Vinnie Vincent. This would be the last time the band wore their character makeup until the 1996 reunion, such was the shift in the momentum of their career. And yet the songs generally stand up respectably today. “I Love it Loud,” for example, is a proper Kiss classic. This box has that album, obviously, on both CD and blu-ray audio. Plus, four other discs of live shit and demos. There’s a wonderful hardcover book will all manner of snippets and photos from that period, plus other goodies such as pins, picks, and a reproduction of a tour program. The real joy is found in the fact that every single picture of Vinnie Vincent is fucking hilarious.
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