For the lo-fi fan: Mondo Birthmark by the Tubes
Though a lot of them probably don’t even know it, a line can be drawn from the Tubes to many of the current lo-fi faves, particularly from the collection of early demos presented on Mondo Birthmark. Gritty, rockabilly tinged, and theatrical, there’s a lot your current lo-fi fan will find to love here. After all, the hazy thrill of the demos found here is exactly the sound bands like Waaves and Times New Viking are after themselves.
For the experimental fan: Faust IV by Faust
No oddball music collection is complete without a good dose of Krautrock. For that, there’s really no better place to start than Faust IV. This album was the last from the original version of the band, and also its most accessible. Make no mistake, though: we’re using the word “accessible” in a highly relative way. Much like its predecessors, Faust IV contains long passages of rhythm-less drone, tape loops, atonal blips, and random shouting. The difference here is that Faust tempered their wilder side with enough song structure to keep the listener from feeling totally lost on the first few listens. Animal Collective fans will be especially rewarded with this one.
For the post-punk fan: Mind Your Own Business by Delta 5
Delta 5 emerged from the same Leeds music scene that spawned both Gang of Four and the Mekons. Despite being connected to both groups, their sound most directly parallels the Gang’s own militant punk funk. Mind Your Own Business has all the hallmarks of great post-punk: militant disco drumming, funky bass work (supplied here by two bassists), treble rich guitars, and detached vocals. Even with all this, however, the real diamond is the lyrics themselves: “Can I interfere in your crisis? NO! Mind your own business!”
For the old-guard fan: Bleach: Deluxe Edition by Nirvana
You know the band, you know the album, and you’ve almost certainly got a friend pining for the old days. This one is perfect for both vinyl aficionados looking for the best fidelity of a long-time favorite and general collectors. The set comes complete with a previously unreleased live recording all the way back from 1990; on top of this, there’s a booklet of of previously unreleased candid photos to round out the release.
For the synth-pop fan just beginning to flirt with goth: This Is For When Live… 1981 by Bauhaus
There’s a line where adjectives like “atmospheric” and “spooky” turn into “goth,” and acts like the Knife and Pictureplane are getting mighty close. You, yourself, may have a friend starting to flirt with that line, in which case they may just enjoy hearing the original goth act. Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash’s textured anti-melodies actually have a lot in common with some of today’s moodier electronic acts, and, of course, there’s frontman Peter Murphy. His wildly theatrical and often campy performances will serve as either a welcome introduction or a scared-straight service to that friend on the border.
For the Grizzly Bear fan: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized
This one is particularly specific, as well as timely. Grizzly Bear’s downtempo, swelling, and reverb-drenched tunes are direct descendants of the music of Spirtualized. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jason Pierce and co’s finest moment to date, is also a perfect example of this heritage, and any Grizzly Bear fan will likely embrace Spiritualized for all the same reasons they embrace their current fave.
For the tragically ironic: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! by Devo
Watching an old Devo video, it’s shocking how current their look and sound still feels. The plastic sunglasses, the ironic costumes, the nasal vocals, the synths somewhere between obnoxious and catchy — there’s almost nothing in Brooklyn today that is completely free from Devo’s pasty-pale influence. The recent reissue of Are We Not Men? contains everything that made them great, along with a live set as an added bonus.
For the fan of sweaters and beards: the Robert Wyatt Box Set
Like Devo’s, the work of Robert Wyatt has been mainlined into the contemporary music scene, often without many practitioners realizing it. Wyatt’s importance, beginning with his role in Soft Machine, and extending until well after his shift to solo work, cannot be understated. In everyone from Bon Iver to LCD Soundsystem, you can hear traces of Wyatt’s mournful vocals and eclectic keyboard arrangements, and your friend will too; understated genius never goes out of style.
For the fan of nerdy hip-hop: Hello Nasty by the Beastie Boys
Chances are your nerdy hip-hop-loving friends have already snatched up the lovingly assembled reissue of Paul’s Boutique released back in February. With any luck, they sprung for the $129.99 Commemorative Package, leaving them impoverished enough to put off getting to the much-more-recently released Hello Nasty reissue. As with all the expanded editions, this one features a wealth of extras: 21 extra tracks of songs and skits, 10 of which are previously unreleased.
For the Decemberist fan still mad about Pitchfork’s review of The Hazards of Love: Relayer by Yes
Relayer is by no means the best album from high-water prog rockers Yes, but then, neither was latest work, The Hazards of Love. A concept album and rock opera about a shape-shifting fairy queen — or something like that — Hazards is directly descended from 1970s prog rock. Your Decemberists-loving friends might not appreciate the reminder, but if they are going to listen to ridiculously overwritten prog, complete with all the unnecessary solos and pretensions, they might as well get it from the source, and stop trying to moon Pitchfork.