Happy Holidays from Blast Magazine. As we close out our sixth year, we’re putting together a series of holiday gift guides to get you into the holiday money-spending season!
We start with… The 2013 Music Gift Guide
With new music discoveries always on the horizon via resources like Youtube, Pandora, Spotify, and more, it can be a little tricky to find something special for that music lover in your life. Along with memorable music finds, many of the music enthusiasts on your holiday gift list are likely to also be audiophiles. Being that I fall into these categories myself, I’m a little picky with all of the offerings out there that have been prepped for the holiday season. This is not your typical audio/music gift guide.
Paul Simon Box Set, “The Complete Albums Collection” ($139.98)
Paul Simon’s “The Complete Albums Collection” was released in mid October, and there is no fooling around with the title of ‘complete’ here. The amount of albums and breadth of songs available in this boxset alone make it a bargain. Then again, it is quite literally his complete collection of albums–a fifteen disc collection. ‘I Am A Rock’, ‘Graceland’, ‘Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean’, The Boxer’. Get on it!
Rush Clockwork Angels Tour DVD ($13.99)
Three drum solos, new string arrangements, Limelight in soundcheck…can you just see the Tom Sawyer laser beams, and hear the awesome Geddy Lee bass now? The rendition of YYZ was enough to make you jump up with your hands in the air. For anyone who has ever been to a Rush concert, this DVD (released in September) captures the energy and awesome dorkiness that comes with it, straight from their Clockwork Angels Tour. For any classic rock lover, this DVD is gold. Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation…they have assumed control.
TLC 20 ($11.99)
Sales of this release have already been skyrocketing, and sales surged by 200% in just a few weeks. Also released in mid October, the album marks the group’s 20 years in the music industry, and correlated with the VH-1 release of CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. I know for a fact that these songs were imprinted with the preteen years of many girls in my generation. RIP, Left Eye.
Sara Bareilles Brave Enough CD and DVD ($19.98)
The DVD includes some banter to the audience from Bareilles, some of behind the scenes footage, and the singer’s personality seeps through her impeccable live performances. Of course there is a rendition of ‘Love Song’, Bareilles’s quirky ode to her music label, with an enthusiastic audience sing along. Overall the songs are beautifully done. The DVD, filmed at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA, is crisp in its presence and portrayal of the tour that was said to have sold out in three minutes. Needless to say, if you missed it, here is your chance. Reviews on Amazon describe it as nothing less than breathtaking.
Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones ($299.95)
It’s worth noting that these are a serious investment but, for starters, these headphones are tremendously more comfortable than standard earbuds and the sound quality is far superior. I listened to an assortment of music–funk, A Perfect Circle, Mars Volta…I wanted to see how these headphones would do with instrumentation, interesting mixing and panning, you get the idea. I was able to hear everything great, given the mp3 quality. As for the acoustic noise cancelling setting…there is a reason these have a 4.6 out of 5 rating on the Bose website. Impressive technology.
Panasonic Portable Speaker System SC-NT10 ($99.99)
This gift is great for those of us who just can’t stop listening to music, but don’t want to be hooking their device up to something wherever they go. The bluetooth worked well even at the farthest distances in my apartment, and I was able to listen to my music in the kitchen, without worrying about having anything wired or unwieldy. The design is made to be a bit tougher, too, for those who want to bring it outside and such. The sound quality is to be expected of the technology, and does the job. It’s also pretty stable (I may or may not have danced around with it for a bit).
Paul McCartney, ‘New’ ($13.99)
Another one for the love of classic rock and all things Beatles. You may recall that McCartney released another album, “Kisses on the Bottom” just last year, but he’s never been one to slow down. McCartney works with a range of producers on this record, and improvises a bit as well. ‘New’ shows a flexible and exploratory side to his music, and demonstrates his love for the songwriting process. However, for the Beatles fan, one can still hear the signature McCartney sound in here. Is that ever a bad thing, though?
Mad Men Christmas ($9.60)
Following that, though, are the holiday classics that are bound to make you feel cozy and wistful. They just don’t make them like that anymore, do they? I’ll take Otis Redding and Rosemary Clooney over modern renditions of holiday music anyday. And Tony Bennett! And Darlene Love! This music is priceless.
iZotope RX 3 (RX 3 $349, RX 3 Advanced $1,199, Upgrade pricing available)
It’s no wonder that iZotope won an engineering Emmy this year for RX Audio Repair Technology. Tried and tested, this is one of the best audio repair tools I have ever used. RX 3 was released in September, and sports a redesigned user interface, as well as many new features for post production, music, and mastering. Taking this tool to the test, I set out to record vocals in an area with stubbornly noisy ambiance, hoping to clean it up enough to hear vocals clearly. Simply beautiful. The Dialogue Denoiser allows users to clean up in realtime. The interface is intuitive. Audio editors rejoice! This tool just keeps getting better.
Kinivo BTH240 Bluetooth Headphones ($29.99)
We found the BTH240 headphones to be a great way to take advantage of Bluetooth audio and Kinivo’s sharp design elements without spending a ton of money. The headphones stay on your ear, sync up immediately, and sound great. They are a great travel companion, and they work with ALL new Apple products, including the iPhone 5C and 5S. These are also a great gift for kids, since they are easy to use and may provide parents with some respite from the kids movies and games going on in the back seat during holiday travels!
John M. Guilfoil of the Blast Staff contributed to this Gift Guide