The NPR Music Holiday Gift Wish List

What do you want for the holidays? i i

hide captionWhat do you want for the holidays?

Walter Blum/National Archief via Flickr
What do you want for the holidays?

What do you want for the holidays?

Walter Blum/National Archief via Flickr

We at NPR Music spend most of our days listening to music, thinking about music, writing about it, arguing with each other over it, calling the people who made it to ask them about their work, enthusing over songs, griping about albums. Our thirst for the new and the intriguing and the great is insatiable. And every year at about this time try to we sum up a fruitful year of listening in our best-of-the-year bonanza.

But it is also at this time that we begin to realize we didn't get everything we wanted this year. Albums were delayed, bands broke up. We are inexplicably hanging on to headphones that are not getting the job done. We didn't treat ourselves enough.

So we thought, as the gift-giving season commences, that we'd shoot for the moon. We asked ourselves: What is the one music-related wish that could make 2012 even better? For some people that wish would be practical. For others, fantastical. And some of us would prefer to torture ourselves. There's a chance, though, that our wants will help with your needs — a thoughtful gift for the would be record label owner in your family, the Verdi-obsessive at the dinner table or the marathon runner in your family. And tell us, what are you asking for this year?

What We Really Want: Gifts For Music Lovers

  • The Beatles' 45s

    "She Loves You" cover.
    Wikimedia Commons

    The big box set of The Beatles' albums on vinyl has just come out, and if you don't have it, you should at least want it: 14 albums (the 12 original U.K. records, plus two discs of EPs and B-sides) with stunningly rendered cover art, discs pressed on 180-gram vinyl and an informative coffee-table book. They're lovingly mastered, too, which means that smart humans with good ears determined how to make them sound the best they possibly could. So that's it, just what I wanted — and then it showed up on my desk as if in a dream. Now, not to get greedy, but seeing as how the holidays have come early for me, how about a box set of all the U.S. 45s with picture sleeves? I know it doesn't exist yet, so I'm putting in my request now. Listening to those little discs with the big holes is how I spent much of my youth. For just a bit, I'd love to have that back. --Bob Boilen

  • 'Wired Up!'

    Wired Up!

    Who needs another Bowie best-of compilation when you can acquire 384 pages of record covers, interviews and photographs documenting early-1970s glam? Jeremy Thompson and Mary Blount assembled Wired Up! Glam, Proto Punk and Bubblegum European Picture Sleeves 1970-1976, a glorious photo book celebrating a time when rock dudes chased success by teetering on a pair of platforms and pretending to be bisexual. The book overflows with delightful fashion choices (chastity belts?), questionable band names (Captain Skid Marks?) and rare interviews for much-needed context. But if you think I've been extra-nice this year: can we please get some elves to turn Beyonce's wonderfully inspirational Tumblr into a glossy book for my coffee table? I have a spot all picked out. --Amy Schriefer

  • Swing Lessons

    Baseball-booted students jitterbugging at the Carrere night club in Paris. i i
    Keystone Features/Getty Images
    Baseball-booted students jitterbugging at the Carrere night club in Paris.
    Keystone Features/Getty Images

    I'd always thought swing-dance lessons were a corny gift — the kind of thing one partner gets another to spice up a sleepy marriage. That was before I spent the early summer in New Orleans. In bars like the Spotted Cat and DBA, groovy people of all ages stomp the floor with verve and sexiness that neutralizes all hints of mustiness from old styles like the Charleston and the foxtrot. I'd like to be one of them, so I'm asking for a spot in the Introduction to Swing Class at NOLA Jitterbugs' Dance School. It's not too pricey, until you factor in relocating me to the Crescent City and keeping me in gumbo and Sazeracs for a couple months. --Ann Powers

  • 24-Karat Gold-Dipped MiniMoog Voyager

    MiniMoog Voyager. i i
    Moog
    MiniMoog Voyager.
    Moog

    I've been told that I tend to veer toward the, ahem, extravagant. So let's say a loved one had an extra $15K just sitting around; I wouldn't be mad if a 24-karat-gold-dipped MiniMoog Voyager ended up gift-wrapped under my tree. Created to celebrate 10 years of the iconic synthesizer, this handcrafted beast takes sonic opulence to the next level. That said, a more bank-account-friendly gift idea would be The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982, a newish box set from the influential British band Roxy Music — led, of course, by the ultimate icon of sullen luxury, Bryan Ferry. Featuring remasters of all eight of the band's ultra-glam LPs (as well as two discs of bonus tracks), this box set is a treat for fans of decadent, synth-enhanced pop-rock. --Saidah Blount

  • Blue Note Records iPad App

    The Blue Note app for iPad.
    Blue Note

    I'm about to move into a tiny studio apartment, which means I won't have room for any of the CDs or LPs I already own — let alone any big, beautiful box sets or perfectly calibrated, lusted-after pieces of stereo equipment. Sigh. But, hey, it's the future, so of course there's a way I can get instant, customizable access to hundreds of the best jazz records ever for $2 a month. The new iPad app from Blue Note also includes original liner notes, album art and archived reviews, essays and newspaper clippings — none of which will take up any shelf space, either. --Jacob Ganz

  • A New OutKast Album

    OutKast. i i
    OutKast.

    All I want for Christmas is for OutKast to get it together and put out another album. I feel like I've been a pretty good girl this year. If I owe any apologies, they're to my neighbors, who can attest to my undiminished love for "Shine Blockas" and "A.D.I.D.A.S.," as well as the remixes for "Walk It Out," "You" and "Throw Some D's." Sorry, I'm not sorry. Andre 3000, sir, I don't deserve your verses in "Party" or "Sixteen" or "I Do." Big Boi, I can't thank you enough for your work these past couple years, and I know I'm spoiled asking for anything else after Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors comes out. But if I could wake up to anything in the world on Dec. 25, it would be a new OutKast album. (Goodie Mob, you're next.) --Frannie Kelley

  • Jaybird Earbuds For Running

    Jaybird headphones
    Jaybird

    Running and music are inextricably linked in my world: Something about the changing sights and constant motion allows me to listen with more patience. I can enjoy easily-absorbed pop or slowly develop a taste for more layered compositions. Runners with headphones are generally both a content and captive audience, so any music-related gift I request is intended to enhance this experience. I've managed to destroy last year's gift of nice earbuds by constantly wrapping them around my armband and folding them through shoulder straps. (I can't stand flapping wires, and they can't take my abuse.) If The best-reviewed wireless earbuds I've seen are from Jaybird. --Denise DeBelius

  • A Low/Earth Collaboration

    Low and Earth. i i
    Photo Illustration: Lars Gotrich/Photos: Pieter van Hattem, Sarah Barrick
    Low and Earth.
    Photo Illustration: Lars Gotrich/Photos: Pieter van Hattem, Sarah Barrick

    It would just make my life if Low and Earth recorded a collaborative EP, a la Konkurrent's In the Fishtank series. But this is just for me, so let's call it In Lars' Basement Apartment. I can hear it already: Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's humbly powerful harmonies towering over the wide-open spaces of Earth's slow-moving Americana. So, what would this take? Let's break it down: It'd cost about $1,700 for two days of studio time at a place like Avast! in Earth's hometown of Seattle. Low would need plane tickets to and from Minnesota, so that's about $500 if we get a good deal, $750 if we hire a babysitter for their young children. This needs a warm sound, so Aleph Studios' Randall Dunn should produce and mix this beauty ($4,000, maybe?), and then it needs a master ($1,000). And, since this is only for me, a single vinyl record can get plated and pressed for around $100 at the right plant. Give or take a few hundred dollars, it'll cost you, oh, $9,000 for my dream collaboration. Merry Christmas to me! --Lars Gotrich

  • Laser Light Generator

    American DJ Galaxian 3D Effect Light.
    American DJ

    I'm asking Santa to leave a cool laser light generator by the tree on Christmas Eve. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by lasers and colored beams of light, and I still put colored party bulbs in my lights at home whenever I can. You might think this request is impractical, but it's not: My band could use it when we play shows to enhance the live experience for our audiences. A laser generator would spruce up my house parties, too, and I'm the type to use it when I'm all alone listening to music at home. --Suraya Mohamed

  • Verdi In Milan

    A general view of the Teatro alla Scala on March 19, 2011 in Milan, Italy. i i
    Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
    A general view of the Teatro alla Scala on March 19, 2011 in Milan, Italy.
    Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

    Next year is the "Verdi Year" — the 200th anniversary of the birth of my favorite opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. So it's only fitting that Santa should organize for me an all-expenses-paid trip to Milan's Teatro alla Scala to see a May 5 production of Verdi's rarely performed Obero conte di San Bonifacio. Since I couldn't possibly be made to brave the chill spring nights in Milan out on the street, a suite (the Verdi Suite, specifically) at the Grand Hotel et de Milan would be most appropriate — especially considering that Verdi spent his last 30 years at this hotel, conveniently located three blocks from La Scala. --Tom Huizenga

  • Los Jaivas On Vinyl

    Los Jaivas.
    Courtesy of the artist

    My parents met at a concert in D.C., which is fitting, given that that's where my All Songs Considered internship is based. The show featured Los Jaivas, an influential and prolific Chilean progressive rock group from the '60s. Because I recently started buying old records, I'd love one of the group's albums on vinyl; a rare find, but a sentimental one. After all, if it weren't for Los Jaivas, I wouldn't be alive to experience this wonderful internship — or anything else, for that matter. --Maya Munoz

  • Mosaic Records Box Sets

    Chu Berry.
    Mosaic Records

    For this non-denominational holiday season, I'd like some records. Not just any records, mind you — as NPR's jazz blogger, I get a lot as it is — but some choice pickups from Mosaic Records, the best jazz reissue label out there. Pretty much anything they put out is golden: extensively researched liner notes, unreleased unearthings and out-of-print salvages; detailed discographies for the left brain. Seven CDs of the early master saxophonist Chu Berry? The '69 and '70s John Carter/Bobby Bradford sessions for Revelation on three discs? Nine CDs' worth of Ahmad Jamal's spare, pivotal early trio dates? It's all good. Or, if you can't decide, then feel free to leave me an amount to blow as I please — Mosaic enables that, too. --Patrick Jarenwattananon

  • Bluetooth Bicycle Speakers

    Bike helmet.
    Bike Hugger

    I've spent the last year biking everywhere I go in D.C., and I'm not kidding when I say it has changed the way I feel about this city. I wasn't always terribly fond of living in Washington, but cycling has made the city feel more accessible and fun, and I've been able to discover its many nooks and crannies. I even have a name for my bike: Chucho Garsd. I named him after Cuban jazz musician Chucho Valdés, because Chucho's breaks are very rusty and the pedals are clanky, so when I ride it sounds like a jazz concert.

    You know what would make me particularly happy? Speakers for my bike. The only thing I'd enjoy more than riding Chucho through the city is doing so while actually listening to some Chucho Valdés through these pretty cool speakers mounted on my helmet. --Jasmine Garsd

  • Igor Stravinsky Autograph

    Stravinsky autograph. i i
    Schubertiade Music
    Stravinsky autograph.
    Schubertiade Music

    I'm not much of a collector of musical memorabilia, but this autographed musical quotation stops me short. It's that famous, curvaceous and strangely seductive opening bassoon solo from The Rite of Spring, jotted down for an admirer by Igor Stravinsky in 1943 — that one phrase a lodestar to the 20th (and 21st) century if there ever was one. Can you put a price on the cosmic value of that clutch of notes inked out in the composer's own hand? Well, yes: $4,500. Never mind. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

  • Grateful Dead's 1972 Tour In A Trunk

    Grateful Dead trunk.
    Amazon

    Who knew the long, strange trip could be so wonderfully packaged? Last year, every note from The Grateful Dead's legendary 1972 European tour was assembled in a replica steamer trunk with the buyer's name on the top, an illustrated hardcover book and tons of bonus goodies. Europe '72: The Complete Recordings contains 73 CDs and the limited-edition run — 7,200 copies — sold out in four days. The rest of us have to settle for just those 73 CDs' worth of music, with no trunk and no extras. But that music is something else: The '72 tour found the band transitioning from a blues-based dance group to an outfit that explored every corner of traditional American music. I can't think of a way to justify spending more than $450 when I've got my kids' camps and braces to pay for. But if Santa would reconsider my lifetime ban after that unfortunate incident back in '87 (don't ask), then this would top my list this year. --Felix Contreras

  • Get The New Pornographers To Cover "Escape"

    The New Pornographers' cover of Fleetwood Mac's 1980 song "Think About Me" is a highlight of Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, out August 14. i i
    Courtesy of the artist
    The New Pornographers' cover of Fleetwood Mac's 1980 song "Think About Me" is a highlight of Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, out August 14.
    Courtesy of the artist

    If I were an obscenely wealthy plutocrat, I'd be sure to do a bit of creative commissioning — devising my dream cover songs and then paying my favorite bands enormous amounts of money to perform them. (First, I would purchase the home of The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman and give it back to him on the condition that his band perform a cover of Enrique Iglesias' hit song "Escape," with Neko Case singing the hook in the chorus.) Just think of the great works of art that exist solely because wealthy and egotistical benefactors paid for them to exist! Rather than requesting the talent to create great art, my humble holiday wish is to be granted enough cash to help me will it into existence. --Stephen Thompson

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