Ideas for Christmas

Another year draws to a close, almost certainly to the deafening sound of cheers and snide remarks about what an absolutely bloody-awful year it’s been, all things considered, so good riddance to it. With a few shopping days left before Christmas, I couldn’t think of anyone better to call on than you lot, to help your fellow bloggers with last-minute gift ideas of a musical variety (or other), so please do share what you’ve bought your loved ones and indeed what you’re hoping for yourself on Christmas morning.

As unforgiving as 2016 has been for music-lovers everywhere, there were new albums from many of our long-time favourites released to considerable critical acclaim: Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool, in May), Paul Simon (Stranger to Stranger, in June), Metallica (Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, in November).

This Path Tonight by Graham Nash, released in April, and David Crosby’s Lighthouse, which came out in October, have been discussed favourably in the chatroom (it’s open today, from 3pm UK-time, so drop in for a pretend mince pie and festive tipple if you have the time; we’d love to see you).

David Bowie’s Blackstar came out in January, just a matter of days before the music world was rocked by the news of his unexpected death. Things just seemed to go downhill from there. Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker was released in late-October shortly before his passing the following month. No doubt many will be giving and receiving these two poignant swansongs as gifts this Christmas.

After since rediscovering Leonard Cohen once more, I bought the very reasonably priced (Almost But Not Quite) Complete Studio Albums Collection box set as a gift in the hope that his life’s work will bring the same enjoyment it has brought me down the years. There you go. Although it wasn’t released in 2016, don’t say I don’t give you great ideas for gifts that leave you change from a twenty.

I expect many will unwrap Before the Dawn, the live album from Kate Bush, and feel extremely pleased about that. How we now wish for a DVD and/or Blu-ray to accompany it in the not-too-distant future.

Moving swiftly on before anyone asks about any other longed-for DVD and Blu-ray…

One of my choice records this year, released in March, has been Thoughts That Float on a Different Blood by Dustin Kensrue, a wonderfully raw live album of acoustic covers which includes Cohen’s ‘Dance Me To the End of Love’, Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, and one of my favourites: Counting Crows’ ‘Round Here’.

My Woman by Angel Olsen (sounding very much like Stevie Nicks – on ‘Sister’, have a listen – then like Debbie Harry on others) is a highlight. The way the emotion spills from her is quite remarkable.

Schmilco by Wilco was released in September. Here’s ‘Normal American Kids’ to give you a taster.

Schmilco has to claim the award for Best Title; West Coast-based rapper Anderson Paak for Best Cover Art (for Malibu), an album that caught my eye if never likely to catch my ear, with The Colour in Anything by James Blake coming a close second. What do you reckon?

If you like your psych-rock loud and infused with theremin and flute, and who doesn’t?, you might have enjoyed Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, released in April, where each track runs seamlessly into the next and even the last song takes you right back to the first, forming a continuous loop. The prolific Australian group have released eight albums in the last four years and are aiming to release no fewer than five – yes, five – studio albums in 2017 (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: can the psych band release five albums in one year?). Kids today, eh?

If you’re intrigued and have an hour to spare, here’s a recent live performance from Brussels. (The songs from Nonagon Infinity, by the way, are ‘Robot Stop’, ‘Gamma Knife’, ‘People-Vultures’ and ‘Evil Death Roll’.)

Whilst we’re on the topic of the flute in prog, and what a wonderful thing it is, maybe the four-disc Deluxe Reissue Aqualung, the Jethro Tull classic, another of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson’s sublime remixes, is nestled beneath your tree right now, looking pretty, with a tag with your name on it. I do hope so.

And what of Pink Floyd? The Christmas holidays aren’t nearly long enough to savour all that comes with the mammoth Early Years: 1965-72 box set, but no doubt it will be on many people’s lists. If you couldn’t wait and splurged already, don’t keep it to yourself; tell us what you think of it.

Time Stand Still, the somewhat contentious Rush rockumentary, on DVD and Blu-ray, sounds rather interesting. I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve seen it already.

Finally, Pete Townshend’s Deep End: Face the Face had its first official CD and DVD release in September. Filmed for German television back in January 1986, Pete is joined by our very own David on lead guitar throughout the performance, which includes all a few of your favourite Who classics as well as plenty of solo material, even ‘Blue Light’ from David’s second album About Face. Highly recommended.

These are just a few ideas if you’re stuck for something to buy.

Merry Christmas, everyone.