Making a list? Checking it twice? Tearing it up in frustration? Give the gift of music with these in-tune suggestions for the fam.
Dads with everything, moms who refuse to make lists, and picky sisters create challenges when the gift-giving season rolls around. But never fear: Oklahoma Gazette is here to help you please everyone with something they’ve never heard.
TEENAGE BROTHER Whether in the throes of teenage rebellion or just hyperactive, it’s almost guaranteed that your bro will appreciate some loud, fast music. “The Monitor” by Titus Andronicus is easily the best punk album of the year, but he probably doesn’t own it because people mention things like “the Civil War” and “Bruce Springsteen” when they talk about it. “The Brutalist Bricks” by the criminally underrated Ted Leo and the Pharmacists is another winner that’s probably not in his iTunes.
TEENAGE SISTER Introspective? Emotional? Prone to bizarre outbursts? Still really cool because of and in spite of all those things? Your sister definitely needs “Live in London” by Regina Spektor, as the charming-yet-peculiar songwriter displays the best of her tunes in a 22-song, 73-minute release. “Beachcomber’s Windowsill” by Stornoway could make another gift, if she likes attractive British guys playing infectious pop tunes. And really, who doesn’t?
ECLECTIC OLDER BROTHER So he’s got weird taste? No prob. Surprise him with “I’m New Here” by Gil-Scott Heron (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”), which gives the ’70s spoken-word artist a Johnny Cash-style career revival. The album is a brilliant mix of folk music, spoken word and sampled sounds.
“Tango 3.0” by Gotan Project is another unique release, as it’s almost exactly what it claims to be. Tango rhythms aren’t what usually come to mind when a hipster says “dance music,” but the tracks flow together for a beautiful, haunting and absorbing listen.
HIP OLDER SISTER Does she listen to a steady diet of Sufjan Stevens and The National?
Even the hippest of the hip may not have heard the brilliant “Magic Chairs” by Efterklang. Falling between The Dirty Projectors’ moody experimentation and Arcade Fire’s epic aspirations, “Magic Chairs” is a complex, layered work featuring precise and powerful melodies that rewards multiple listens.
For a less epic take on things, Blonde Redhead’s “Penny Sparkle” puts out synth-heavy indie rock that’s long on mood and short on riffs.
FOLK-LOVING DAD If he was raised on Simon & Garfunkel, there’s no reason to pass on “Here’s the Tender Coming” by The Unthanks. The British folk group incorporates barrelfuls of vocal melodies, harmonies and a capella sections, making for a pristine, glorious folk record.
Back on this side of the pond, “Break in the Clouds” by the Colorado-via-Oklahoma outfit Elephant Revival will also thrill his folky soul. In addition to smileinducing folk strummers like “What Is Time?,” the disc includes Celtic vibes in its acoustic-heavy sound.
’80S-LOVING MOM “Contra” by Vampire Weekend is basically the second coming of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” and I have it on good authority that “Graceland” was pretty popular once upon a time. “Contra” is totally inoffensive musically and lyrically, and yet it’s still way fun. She’ll love it. “Write About Love” by Belle and Sebastian is a pleasant release that hearkens back to charming ’80s/early ’90s pop like The Smiths, R.E.M. and The Cranberries. Again, she’ll love it.
KID BROTHER/SISTER Because you don’t want your siblings growing up listening to terrible music, throw down some change for “Funky Fresh and Sugar Free” by Oklahoma’s own Sugar Free Allstars and “Jungle Gym” by Justin Roberts. “Funky Fresh” includes a Beatles cover and sounds — by the group’s own admission — like James Brown funk. “Jungle Gym” has such solid songs that it sounds like a lost Fountains of Wayne album.
Whether snagging the “Lust for Life” rhythm for “New Haircut,” appropriating Regina Spektor on “Sign My Cast” or aping The Apples in Stereo (everywhere on the album), this is a fantastic release that would be solid for adults with nothing more than subtle tweaks in the lyrics.
REALLY LITTLE SIBLINGS “Swimming in Noodles” by Jim Cosgrove is a silly and fun release that vaguely reminds of They Might Be Giants.
ANYONE IN YOUR LIFE WHO LIKES DANCE MUSIC Having run out of nuclear relationships, the two best overlooked dance releases of the year are “Black Noise” by Pantha Du Prince and “LP 4” by Ratatat. Both aren’t massive club-thumping albums, skewing more toward low-key, soundtrack-esque beats and melodies. “Black Noise” produces a more muted take, augmenting the beats with warm synths. “LP 4” enjoys rhythmic separation and a sense of drama, producing the more upbeat of the two. But neither will be confused for glow stick-waving rave music any time soon.