When you’re out Christmas shopping for the musician in your life, you’ll likely come across loads of kitschy sheet music-patterned ties, guitar-shaped pancake flippers, tissues with guitars all over them and music note earrings. Unless you’re playing Santa at a holiday party (or a joke on someone), save your money and find out what gifts musicians really want to see under the tree this year.
Chances are, musicians already have a stellar instrument they like, so don’t bother buying someone a new trombone or guitar (unless you know specifically what they’re hunting for). However, instruments require upkeep, and accessories can make playing pieces infinitely easier. Ask them about their gear wish list, then head to an online retailer of music equipment, like West Music to find that Manhasset music stand or specialized mouthpiece for his or her trumpet.
If your budget allows it, consider buying your musician-friends some related electronics. Chances are that, if they play music and dream of performing for others, they’d love to build a nice assemblage of speakers, recording gear and microphones.
Affordable accessories can make for great stocking stuffers, and are often quite practical. Guitarists can always use strings and cables, clarinetists go through reedslike crazy and string players are always running low on rosin. Just keep in mind that the person you’re buying for may have a brand or style preference. Find out what that is beforehand to avoid any gift-returning hassle, and so you’ll both be guaranteed the perfect gift exchange.
With all of that gear, you musician will need something to cart it around in. A messenger bag is the perfect gift for music teachers, music therapists, vocalists, instrumentalists, DJs and basically any performer who needs to haul around a moderate amount of gear. Look for features like large pockets to hold wires and cables, zippers that lock and thick padding to protect a laptop, small instruments or microphones. For instance, check out this bag from Namba Gear.
Personalization always lends a thoughtful note to gift giving, so maybe you’ll consider buying a beautiful baton storage case with an engraving of your conductor’s very own initials. Or think about monogramming a tote or messenger bag for a truly unforgettable gift.
Original recordings, CD box sets, concert ticketsand season tickets to the symphony, jazz series, opera or arts center are all spectacular gifts that any music lover would thoroughly enjoy.
A framed copy of an original manuscript or song is always a sweet token that can be displayed in a home studio or bedroom, and enjoyed for years. If you’re feeling sentimental, you can take it one step further and purchase a mechanical music box set to record a special tune.
iTunes gift cards make everybody happy: buy a card that fits your budget, and your music maker will be able to download those apps they’ve been eyeing all year long.
When in doubt, always go with green – it matches everything. Artists who bring home the big bucks are few and far between, but ask any number of them and they’ll gladly tell you that money is always an appropriate and welcome gift.
There’s no doubt about it, shopping for the active musician – especially if you’re not a musician yourself – can be a difficult undertaking. But hopefully these suggestions will help you find the perfect holiday gift for the musician you love.
“Worst Behaviour”, one of the standout tracks from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same gets a remake from Regan Farquhar aka Busdriver an indie-rap luminary from LA and it’s called “Worse”. He keeps many of the same hooks and producer Kenny Segal does a good job keeping the main groove while adding some new ambiences. Busdriver’s vocal acrobatics teeter on the edge of satire and utter seriousness as he transforms drake’s original line “hold my phone” to include his kindle, ipad, and laptop. He adds an articulate edge to Drake’s casual griminess which may take a second getting used to especially if you’re worn out “Worst Behaviour” but you warm up to it.
“Spiral” is the latest track from Norwegian super producer Todd Terje, and it couldn’t be titled more perfectly. Spinning and twisting through four-and-a-half minutes of light, airy grooves, the sunny single is a dizzying, nu-disco achievement. This year, Terje lent his expertise to Franz Ferdinand’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions. Now, his own full-length is set to be released this March. “Spiral” is an auspicious start, overflowing with warmth even on a cold winter’s night.
Science Fiction is often defined as stories about how people and societies are affected by imaginary scientific developments in the future, but with Science Fiction the latest release from RUWA, the defintion of Science Fiction takes on a whole new meaning. RUWA is named after a place in Zimbabwe, Africa where the largest mass citing of UFO took place and where RUWA finds its inspiration.
RUWA, is a one man show fronted by singer and scientist Adam Rokhsar. Rokhsar considers himself first a visual artist and psycholologist and creating his music is more of a means to an end in expressing that. Rokshar creates his signature sound by blending a combination of homemade software, tape machines and stories he experienced about the complexity of human emotions and how they are depicted and expressed through different phases of life. The sound that ulimately illuminates and is a continuing theme throughout the album is a mix of experimental techno and dance music that is highlighted by jagged edges of electronica meets 90′s house music but Rokshar seems to be trying to cover all his bases by interjecting spurts of R&B and Pop for overall mainstream appeal. Rokhsar’s creative freedom enables him not to approach his work from one perspective or another and it seems like the same applies to his listeners.
“When You Cry”, has a somber, haunting and ethereal beginning, then suddenly without warning seems to morph into something out of the 80′s with the sexy swagger of artists like Prince and Robin Thicke and sprinkles of electronica and synthesization it would be great in the club. On the other hand, ”Please Come Over” gives another take on 80′s classics with pop rock.
“Please Come Over” is a mixture of R&B and soul with a fast, sexy beat. Rokshar’s voice has a haunting,raspy feel to it. It is here and with the rest of the album that Rokshar begins with long solos and instrumentals, at times there seems to be more music than vocals and he relies more on the beat and pulse of the music to carry the song through. However, the song is catchy and there are remnants of Peter Gabriel’s early works.
In the end, it seems like Rokshar achieves his goal with RUWA and Science Fiction, he makes the invisible, visible. He lets his listeners create their own images of the music; what it is, how they see it, feel it and hear it and create stories of their own which is what music is all about.
Los Angeles trio Warpaint will release their self-titled sophomore LP next month. “Biggy” is an ethereal cut from the upcoming album; light, woozy, and vaguely psychedelic, the track is a far cry from the airy post-punk of the previously released “Love Is To Die.” If these two songs are any indication, Warpaint, out January 21 on Rough Trade Records, should be a diverse mix of hazy, elegant sounds.
Maryland-born, Boston-bred quartet Grass is Green make scuzzy, yet carefully crafted basement punk that’s full of trashy goodness; think screeching, angular guitars, heavy rhythms, and dense riffs that lurch and lunge forward with unstoppable momentum. “Vacation 2.0,” which checks each one of these boxes, is the epic closer of upcoming fourth LP Vacation Vinny. The full record is out in all its glory on January 14 via Exploding in Sound.
Remember Test Icicles? Back in 2005, the English dance-punk outfit– formed by a trio of teenage boys, as clearly evidenced by their name– released what would ultimately be their first and last LP, For Screening Purposes Only. Just a teenager myself, I really loved that record; playful, bold, and unpretentious, the band’s youth-driven, in-your-face approach managed to capitalize on the explosive (yet short-lived) new rave trend, but also sound completely unlike any other music made that fateful year. But by the time glow sticks and lasers started drifting out of indie rock fashion, Test Icicles had already kicked the bucket. Clearly, the band’s fresh-faced leader, Devonte Hynes, was destined for bigger (and ballsier) things.
Which brings us to Blood Orange, and what is without a doubt one of the year’s very best records, Cupid Deluxe. Working under the name Lightspeed Champion in the late ‘aughts, Dev Hynes pioneered his own brand of folk-inspired indie pop; later, he became the in-demand producer for artists such as Solange and Florence Welch. Now, he’s shifted gears once more, working with vocalists Samantha Urbani and Caroline Polachek throughout his latest effort as the R&B pop project Blood Orange. Smooth, sultry, and effervescent from start-to-finish, Cupid Deluxe is a careful blend of all the things Dev Hynes does so well; which is to say, pretty much everything.
At just twenty-seven, Hynes has already proven himself a master mixer of genres. He can churn out hits for The Chemical Brothers just as easily as he can craft a breakthrough single for a new artist like Sky Ferreira (which he did, with “Everything is Embarrassing”). Most recently, Hynes collaborated with Britney Spears for her not-so-received new studio album, Britney Jean. He’s since confirmed that none of his work made the final album cut. Oh well. That’s Britney’s loss.
Good thing that everything on Cupid Deluxe is our gain. The album drifts from track-to-track like an elegant, well-choreographed dance; songs glide across a slick dance floor of sounds with total, effortless ease. “Uncle Ace” offers toe-tapping funk grooves and classic, soulful vocals, while “You’re Not Good Enough” is full-on groovy, blanketed completely in 80s-style gloss. Tracks like “It Is What It Is” and lush opener “Chamakay” sound exotic yet somehow feel familiar, courtesy of snappy beats and island-inspired instrumentals. Later, London rapper Skepta delivers a solid verse on “Hight Street,” but no matter who or what pops up on Cupid Deluxe, Hynes’ production never fails.
Based in New York City since 2007, Dev Hynes has now created his first near-perfect pop record; like its vaguely seedy album art suggest, Cupid Deluxe is a romantic night out on the town, filled with weird and wonderful surprises along the way.
As all the blogs continue to roll out their Best-Of lists for 2013, it’s clear that Haim’s Days Are Gone is still one of the top records released this year. Electronic music icon Giorgio Moroder seems to agree. Moroder has remixed the band’s breakthrough hit, “Forever,” transforming the sweet pop tune into a sleek dance number that still retains (and improves upon) the track’s initial zest. Check out the epic mix below.