Giving the gift of music can be tricky. What to get for Maddie? How ’bout Daddy? And what’s right for older brother or sister? We’re here to help, with suggestions for music lovers of all ages and styles. When in doubt, there are always earplugs — a must for all concertgoers.
Billie Eilish: No one is hotter — and cooler — than this 17-year-old, who makes deeply introspective electro-pop in her bedroom with her brother. Eilish fans will welcome a long-sleeve tee (store.billieeilish.com, $35). You’ll really impress them if you score her new live acoustic album, available only in-person at Third Man Records shops in Nashville and Detroit.
Lizzo: After launching her career in Minneapolis, she’s finally receiving much-deserved national recognition. If you haven’t seen her perform on TV, you’ve probably heard her on commercials for Walmart, Macy’s, etc. You know her mantra: “100% that bitch.” Get it on a T-shirt (store.warnermusic.com, $30).
Tegan & Sara: These alt-rock twins from Canada have written “High School” (Simon & Schuster, $27), a remarkably candid coming-of-age — and coming-out — memoir of their school years. With each sister writing alternating chapters, the vividly detailed, dialogue-heavy book ends with the Quin twins signing the major-label record deal that made them cult heroines. Their prose is as emotionally impactful as their songs.
Prince himself: If you desire his handwritten words and private photos, select “The Beautiful Ones” (Spiegel & Grau, $30), a revealing mini-memoir/scrapbook. If you crave audio evidence of his prolific early-’80s work, then “1999 Super Deluxe” (Warner Bros., $70 CD, $250 vinyl) is a 65-track must, with 35 previously unreleased recordings as well as a remastered version of his breakthrough album “1999” plus outtakes and a live album and DVD from 1982.
His associates: If you want to experience his various visual changes from 1991 to 2016, pick up “My Name Is Prince” (HarperCollins, $90) by his trusted photographer/video director Randee St. Nicholas. If you seek insight into what it was like to work with Prince, then Morris Day’s hilarious and trenchant memoir “On Time: A Princely Life in Funk” (Da Capo, $27) is a winning choice, with the Time singer and “Purple Rain” co-star having an imaginary running dialogue with Prince throughout.
Debbie Harry: The Blondie star’s ambition, fearlessness and looks fueled her career. The best stuff in her memoir “Face It” (Dey Street, $32.50) is about her early struggling years in the grunge of Greenwich Village, working as a waitress (serving an untalkative Miles Davis), dipping into heroin and her DIY artistic life. Although she knows she’s a pretty face, she shows the depth behind the beauty.
The Replacements: Was Minneapolis’ beloved local rock quartet’s 1988 album “Don’t Tell a Soul” an overproduced sellout? The boxed set “Dead Man’s Pop” (Rhino, $80) is not exactly a makeover but a make-good, with a rawer version of the album plus a concert disc and such rarities as six songs recorded with Tom Waits, a ’Mats admirer. A must for Replacements aficionados.
The Clash: The limited edition “London Calling Scrapbook” (Columbia, $70) lets fans revisit the landmark 1979 album of “the only band that matters,” as this British punk quartet was known. Along with a single CD version of the double LP, there are all kinds of photos, handwritten lyrics, tour diaries, backstage passes and newspaper clippings, including my review of the Clash’s 1979 performance at the old St. Paul Civic Center.
David Bowie: In the coffee-table book “Bowie by O’Neill” (Cassell, $50), famed British photographer Terry O’Neill (who died last month) gets intimate with the rock icon’s many guises, from Ziggy Stardust and “Diamond Dogs” to “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” There are plenty of performing and posed shots as well as a curious 1975 session with Elizabeth Taylor and one with William Burroughs for a 1974 Rolling Stone feature.
Elton John: It’s been a big year for Sir Elton with his never-ending farewell tour, the biopic “Rocketman” and his memoir “Me” (Henry Holt, $30). It’s chatty (with plenty on George Michael, Gianni Versace and Freddie Mercury), personally revealing (drugs, depression, suicide, sex) but surprisingly short on commentary about the music. If you’d prefer the visual feast that was EJ in his heyday, there’s Terry O’Neill’s smashing “Elton John” (Cassell, $35), featuring hundreds of outrageously flamboyant photos mostly from the 1970s, when he was at his peak musically and sartorially.
Jimi Hendrix: With nearly five hours of music, “Songs for Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts” (Legacy, $60 CD, $125 vinyl) captures the guitarist extraordinaire and the live debut of his Band of Gypsys on Dec. 31, 1969, and Jan. 1, 1970. Backed by the heavy bottom sound of his new sidemen, his old Army buddy Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, Hendrix is at his funkiest, with such new songs as “Burning Desire” and “Ezy Rider” and reworked old ones including “Wild Thing” and “Foxey Lady.”
Bob Dylan: “Travelin’ Thru: The Bootleg Series Volume 15” (Legacy, $30 CD, $52 vinyl) focuses on his Nashville sessions from 1967 to ’69, notably outtakes from the “John Wesley Harding” and “Nashville Skyline” albums and, most importantly, sessions with his pal Johnny Cash. You hear studio chatter as the two revolutionary music makers work out arrangements of each other’s songs along with such classics as “You Are My Sunshine” and “That’s All Right, Mama.”
A Tribe Called Quest: In the provocative commentary “Go Ahead in the Rain” (University of Texas Press, $17), cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib uses his fandom of this influential and jazzy 1990s-launched hip-hop group to come to grips with his own life, thoughtfully reflecting on everything from African drums and American slavery to the deaths of Leonard Cohen and Minnesota’s own Philando Castile to provide context and perspective.
An illustrated history: For those who didn’t make it through all 16 hours of Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “Country Music” (available on DVD for $100), you can give them the book version — “Country Music: An Illustrated History” (Knopf, $55) is like a transcript of the doc — or the deluxe soundtrack ($75) featuring 103 essential country classics — no Garth or Shania here — from the Carter Family’s “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” to Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town.”
Live music must
Good Vibes: With too many musicians, from Neil Young to Minneapolis’ own Brian Setzer, suffering from tinnitus, quality earplugs should be mandatory for performers and concertgoers alike. Made by a Twin Cities company that declined an offer on TV’s “Shark Tank,” Vibes are comfortable and afford nuanced listening. They don’t block the sound the way foam plugs do, but eliminate those high frequencies that ring in your ears for hours after the greatest rock show you’ve ever seen (discovervibes.com, $24).