If most holiday music induces sleep or great annoyance, this record—the first Christmas-Hanukkah album by the Brooklyn soul outfit—may be soundtrack you’ve been looking for as winter draws near. The collection mixes new tunes such as “8 Days (of Hanukkah),” previously released originals (”Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”) and classics (“Silent Night”). The disc comes out in October, which means there's plenty of time to get acquainted with its smoky Motown-inspired sound before your family gets together.
$19.98 at Target
Know someone who wants to “science” the shit out of his or her music? Pop Chart Labs can help with that. The outfit makes incredibly intricate—and accurate—graphs, pie charts and scientific-like tables that link up the galaxies of various hip-hop monikers, charting the connections between various rock bands. It also offers three separate volumes of color-coded Beatles song flowcharts.
$29 at Pop Chart Lab
Everyone could use a Bluetooth speaker to take his or her tunes on the go. But making the right gift selection amid the ever-expanding market and continuous glut of new products is difficult. Though perhaps an unfamiliar name, Anker makes that choice a little easier this year. While the popular options like the Jawbone or Bose SoundLink each run a couple hundred bucks or more, the new Anker MP141 is a measly $35. And with its quality driver, a well-tuned port and 20-hour battery life, a user won’t have to sacrifice sound quality or durability.
$34.99 at Amazon.com
Dana Veraldi does sweet, Howard Finster–esque illustrations of celebrities and slaps ’em on beach towels, T-shirts, tote bags, lighters, temp tattoos or the above ridiculously awesome ashtray with Ricky Rozay’s likeness. For her line Deer Dana, she has tackled musician subjects as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Lil Wayne, Marilyn Manson, Sade and Grace Jones as well as a handful of actors, artists and animals.
$35 at Deer Dana
Swedish electronics company Teenage Engineering is most known for its critically acclaimed debut product, the OP-1. While the all-in-one synth-sampler-controller is a standout product that has made its way onto many a wish list, it costs a whopping $999. Luckily the company came out with something at the opposite end of the financial spectrum. The Pocket Operator is a portable synth the size of a standard Casio calculator, complete with animated graphics, dynamic effects and a built-in speaker. The product line features three distinct models (PO-12 Rhythm, PO-14 Sub Pocket and PO-16 Factory), each catering to a different audience segment. Additionally, all operators can be synced to work simultaneously.
$59 at Guitar Center
Piano man Vince Guaraldi is inextricably linked to the holidays, thanks to his iconic Charlie Brown score. So this vinyl collection, which wrangles those tunes and more, is an ideal gift and something to pull out every year to craft a personal soundtrack for upcoming festivities. As it’s a collectible set, the set also includes weird ephemera like a poster, photo book and replica of a promotional paper Guaraldi mustache, which the owner can don during holiday meals to annoy his or her family.
$119.99 at Amazon.com
Is someone’s DJ and production rig in need of inspiration? We recommend the classic fat tone of good old analog wiring. These three units in the Korg Volca series—a drum machine, lead synth, and bass—pack a ton of authentic analog sound and intuitive controls into a tiny package, with step sequencer capabilities, parameter controls and tons of fun flashing lights to boot. Generate club-ready beats, thick bass lines and killer melodies from these compact battery-powered devices.
$159.99 at Guitar Center
For the audiophile among your friends, the TMA-2 is a gift a you can personalize. The new headphones from AIAIAI offer an update to the company’s original sleek, aesthetically minimal TMA-1 pair: With multiple options of headbands, cables, speaker drivers and ear pads to mix and match, the TMA-2 allows for building the ideal set of cans to a recipient’s comfort and sound-quality specifications. And if someone needs help assembling the perfect setup, check out the website for a configuration tool with sound profiles and descriptions of each of the many parts.
$199 at B&H Photo Video