Now on to the music shops. The specialty records, box sets, and CDs in general that stuck out to me as great gifts this year — of course dependent on the listener — are Blackbird Blackbird's covers of Kate Bush on limited edition vinyl with origami, Castle Face Record's The Velvet Underground and Nico Tribute, and new box sets from the English Beat, and Death Cab for Cutie. That Castle Face Records full album tribute features covers by a who's-who of revered locals: Kelley Stoltz, Fresh and Onlys, Warm Soda, Ty Segall, the Mallard, and more (www.castlefacerecords.com).
There's also Record Store Day's Black Friday exclusives such as the Fat Boys pizza disc — the record looks like a saucy pie and it comes packaged in a cardboard box — Wanda Jackson's Capitol Rarities, the Asobi Seksu/Boris split seven-inch,"obscure giants of acoustic guitar" trading cards, and a limited deluxe edition of Joey Ramone's Ya Know?.
For all the Record Store Day Black Friday specials and to check participating Bay Area shops, visit recordstoreday.com/SpecialReleases.
For the Chanukah specific, I'd recommend 'Twas the Night Before Hannukah: The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. It's another release from the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, generally the best archivists of vintage Yiddish and Jewish-centric music from the past century or so. The 34-track double CD comp includes Chanukah songs by Woody Guthrie, the Klezmatics, and Mickey Katz, along with Christmas tunes performed by Jewish musicians like Lou Reed, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and the Ramones.
An added bonus, there will be a 'Twas the Night Before Hannukah show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall in December (Dec. 15, 9pm, $15–$18, 1710 Mission, SF. www.brickandmortarmusic.com), with live appearance by Luther Dickinson, Sway Machinery, Thao, Steve Berlin, Ethan Miller, and Ceci Bastida.
As for books, there's a new coffee table beast that I've been dying to talk about called The Art of Punk: The Illustrated History of Punk Rock Design (Voyageur Press, 224pp, $40), by Russ Bestley and Alex Ogg. It's a beautiful hardcover with splashy images showcasing the aesthetics of punk; graphic fliers, posters, album covers, patches, and other imagery from the proto-punk era through the present, including international punk art, hardcore designs, and fringe elements (though aren't they all?). Interesting, there's another great book on punk graphics released this fall: Jon Savage's Punk: An Aesthetic (Rizzoli, 352pp, $55).
As The Art of Punk puts it, "The value of such groundbreaking artwork, which continues to have an impact on music, fashion, design, and media to this day, is even now only becoming fully apparent. The visual legacy of punk is extensive and its graphic codes — symbols of struggle and resistance, but also a complex subcultural visual vocabulary, and more cynically, a means to tap into deeply held antiauthoritarian consumer sentiments by lifestyle branders — still have resonance. "
The books will appeal to anyone that ever spent hours carefully sewing garish back-patches to jackets to represent the music they believed in, or those who stared at album covers so long their eyes crossed, and the imagery has been burned in their brains ever since. Basically, the music nerds we've been shopping for here today.