Giving the spirit-lifting, life-sustaining gift of music is always a good idea, and in addition to the boxed sets, music books, concert tickets, and Questlove sweatshirts highlighted below, allow me to make two additional suggestions.
For the music lover in your life who still consumes physical product to spin on a turntable or a CD player, spring for a gift certificate from a local independently owned record store: Main Street Music in Manayunk, Siren Records in Doylestown, Beautiful World Syndicate on South Philly and Long in the Tooth in Center City are all good choices.
Second, for digital novices, consider coughing up the $9.99 a month for a gift subscription to introduce a music lover you love to one of the streaming services, whether it be Apple Music, Spotify, or, if you're a Jay-Z loyalist, Tidal. With more than 40 million-plus free songs available on each, that's bang for the buck bargain that's hard to beat.
Every year from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles recorded utterly charming and frequently absurd Christmas messages that were sent out as flexi-disc thank-yous to fan club members around the world. As with their recorded output, the productions got trippier and more complex as the years went by. In 1963, they sing "Rudolph the Red Nose Ringo." In '68, Tiny Tim drops in to sing "Nowhere Man." The Fab Four fan who has everything doesn't have this: The seven records, which go on sale Dec. 15, have never been issued as a set to non-fan club members before.
Available for preorder at thebeatlesstore.com.
It's never too early for concert promoters to put tickets on sale months in advance and collect interest on your hard-earned money. So gift-giving season is also time to plan out live music schedules for the following summer. Among the biggest of names coming through in 2018: U2, who will play the Wells Fargo Center on June 13 and 14 behind their Songs of Experience, which is due out next week (to buy tix for the second show, you have to sign up to be a verified fan by 1 a.m. Wednesday at u2.tmverifiedfan.com); Taylor Swift, who brings her Reputation tour to Lincoln Financial Field on July 14 (register by 1 a.m. Wednesday at tickets.taylorswift.com); and Jeff Lynne's ELO, who will bring the 1970s back to life on Aug. 24 (tickets went on sale Friday).
This collection of 45 rpm vinyl records — also available on streaming services and for purchase on iTunes for $15.99 — includes contributions of previously unreleased songs by the Foo Fighters, Bjork, Common, Sleater-Kinney, and Mary J. Blige, all "people who believe that access to health care is a public good that should be fiercely protected. Philly-connected artists on the fund-raiser include Penn grad John Legend (who pairs with St. Vincent on a cover of Minnie Ripperton's "Lovin' You") and the duo of guitarist Meg Baird and harpist Marry Lattimore. Comedians Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, and Zach Galifianakis also contribute, as do graphic artist Shepard Fairey and A Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood.
A dishy, thoroughly reported and entertainingly told biography of a man and his magazine. Hagan's frequently unflattering book — Wenner has called it "deeply flawed and tawdry" — is full of colorful characters and gives credit where it's due to Wenner, whose brilliant 1960s idea was to take rock-and-roll culture seriously, and take it to the mainstream.
A capacious oral history that takes its cues from Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's classic Please Kill Me, which told the tale of 1970s New York punk. Meet Me in the Bathroom uses the same multiplicity-of-perspective approach in documenting the late '90s-early '00s scene that centered on Manhattan acts like the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol and then moved across the East River into Brooklyn as file-sharing remade the music industry and bands like Vampire Weekend and TV on the Radio. Juicy reading for the indie rock reader on your list.
Give the gift of Roots fandom while simultaneously spreading holly jolly holiday spirit. The Merry Questmas Holiday Sweatshirt displays a white-bearded Santa Claus likeness of drummer, DJ, and Tonight Show bandleader Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. It comes in red and green. A Kwanzaa crewneck sweatshirt is also available.
The two music photography coffee-table books of the year. The nifty approach of the Smithsonian book is that all the photos are crowdsourced, some by professional photogs and some by amateur fans. It spans the history of the music from the 1950s onward, including shots of B.B. King and Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Atlantic City Pop Festival and Amy Winehouse at World Cafe Live. Preston's hefty book is full of fabulous, consistently surprising shots, often in black and white, of major players galore, from Chuck Berry huddling with Keith Richards to k.d. lang riding a horse to Brian Wilson with Dr. Eugene Landy in his lap. Plus lots of Zeppelin, Springsteen. and Guns N' Roses.
This limited-edition box celebrates the Monk centenary by reissuing five 10-inch LPs the jazz piano great recorded early in his career in the 1950s when he was signed by the Prestige label and making his name as a leader. They include his debut for the label with 1952's Thelonious Monk Trio in which he's variously backed by drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach and two discs worth of dream sessions in which he's paired with saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins. Remastered from the original analog tape with original artwork and new notes by Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley.
On sale Dec. 15 at Craftrecordings.com
When the identically dressed ladies of Lucius were last seen in Philadelphia, the duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig were singing backups (and stepping out on their own for "Great Gig in the Sky") during Roger Waters' three-night stand at the Wells Fargo Center. The vocalizing duo known for their 2016 hit "Born Again Teen" and their two bandmates will be in strikingly more intimate surroundings when they return to town on March 20 to play the Sanctuary at the Frank Furness-designed First Unitarian Church in Center City.
The show is sold out, but not outrageously priced tickets are available at StubHub.com.
Cool reissue of the year. The Chicago Numero label has rediscovered Jackie Shane, the Nashville-born transgender soul singer who found a measure of fame in Toronto in the 1970s, where she transformed the William Bell-penned Chuck Jackson hit "Any Other Way" into an anthem of personal pride. Cool story, great music.