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Chicagoist's 2013 Holiday Music Gift Guide

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 18, 2013 5:00PM

Numero Group's "Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound" box set is one of our gift suggestions for the music aficionado in your life.

There's still time to order stuff for two-day delivery for whatever holiday celebration you have planned next week. We've shared local gift ideas, charitable gift ideas and now here are some music-related gift ideas for you, in case you're having a hard time finding just the right present for the record fiend in your life.

This skews toward "old people" music—it's still shocking to think that Nirvana formed over two decades ago, easily making them the new generation of "classic rock"—but let's be honest; the only people buying this stuff nowadays are older people. Amirite?

2013_12_in_utero.jpg Nirvana - In Utero: 20th Anniversary Edition
I was originally less than excited to hear of the latest Nirvana re-issue since previous "anniversary editions" haven't shone much new light on the band or truly included anything that was hard to find. However with In Utero the surviving members brought Steve Albini in to remix his own unreleased version of the album, and threw in their legendary MTV Live And Loud concert to boot. For me, even though I've heard the "Albini Mix" that's floated around for years, his take on the album in the box set blows the original mix away. And that's quite an accomplishment since I'll admit even the original mix has held up extraordinarily well. This is still an album that stands out of time, and this reissue only solidifies that fact. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound Box Set

Just in time for winter, Chicago reissue label Numero Group dug deep into the funk and soul of the Twin Cities to find their 50th release. Purple Snow explores the R&B scene of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that paved the way for Prince. Named a “best new reissue” by Pitchfork, the beautifully packaged Purple Snow also includes a hardcover companion book. — Jessica Mlinaric

2013_12_tommy.jpg The Who - Tommy: Super Deluxe Edition
If there's an album I thought could not find any new context for me it's The Who's Tommy. When I bought the original Decca tri-gatefold I remember playing it over and over and over again, squeezing out and identifying every sound of the recording I could. The '90s re-issue upped the sonic clarity, including the bottom end and brought Keith Moon's drums forward in the mix, and I fell in love with the album all over again.

This version includes all the original demos and it's striking how close they are to the finished album, at least structurally. Even "Pinball Wizard," a song Pete Townshend has claimed was "tossed together" at the last second to appease music critic Nic Cohn, sounds anything but "tossed together." I've found the best way to experience this collection is by listening to the demos, then the original album and then the included "bootleg" of some early Tommy live shows. It shows the progression from something that was singularly Townshend's vision to the final result; a live behemoth the full band tore apart and put back together to make their own.

The physical copy of this is super deluxe is expensive, but you can buy the MP3 version for a much more reasonable price. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Hoyle Brothers Print

Honky Tonk Happy Hour at the Empty Bottle is undoubtedly one of my favorite Friday night rituals. Whether you’re scuffing your boots on the dance floor or toe tapping at the bar, there’s no wrong way to welcome the weekend with the Hoyle Brothers. Gift the two-stepper in your life this vibrant print by John Vogl. — Jessica Mlinaric

2013_12_big_star.jpg Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Big Star is one of those bands that is destined to eternally be "re-discovered" by a new legion of fans every few years. The group's difficult and largely doomed history is investigated quite thoroughly in Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, and it's not afraid to pull punches even as it unwinds as the ultimate fan letter. Through interviews with surviving band members and collaborators, the bands tumultuous history and clear vision of two geniuses who should have been vaulted to superstardom but were instead dashed on the rocks of institutional failure emerges.

The most tragic figure is co-founder Chris Bell, who left the band after the first album tanked and died an early death; headlines from the time describe him as "local man" and "son of local businessman" with no mention of the band he once led. And Alex Chilton comes across as a true asshole, but the kind of asshole who only comes across as such because he truly is only guided by his own artistic pursuits. In the end the band is championed by a generation of indie rockers and eventually reunite, providing the closest thing to a happy ending Big Star could expect. Give this to someone who has never heard of the band and you will convert them immediately. I did and next thing I knew my friend was listening to the first two Big Star albums on repeat, utterly mystified that a) they had never heard this band's music and 2) how that was possible given the perfection that lay within. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

This is a must-have if the music fan you're buying for attends any festivals. The only thing more annoying than the extremely limited cellphone service on a crowded festival ground is watching how quickly that constant search for a signal drains your battery. Mophie sent me a unit to give a test run at both Lollapalooza and Riot Fest this year and I found that at 5 p.m., the point I would usually start sweating as the battery indicator dipped into the red, I instead felt calm and secure in having power until I got home (often after 2 or 3 a.m.). And the cases for phones other than mine that I've held and tossed around are slim enough that you don't feel like you're carrying around a circa-WWII battery pack slog with you to ensure your phone stays powered long after the music stops. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories Deluxe Box Set
O.K., this is on here only because it might be the most ridiculous box set of 2013. At $275 it includes no new music, only extravagant packaging and the kind of extras, including “two sets of Robot helmet design schematics with individual components separated onto 8 layers of unbounded transparencies,” that only Daft Punk could even conceive of. Yet—even though it is a totally pointless, overpriced and idiotic—there is a little part of the collector in me that wants it anyway, so I presume you might have someone in your life as equally insane driven that might appreciate this as well. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy