Buying holiday gifts is hard enough already. Buying gifts for a music fan, however, always seems to up the stakes—not just in gift choice, but in price. Somewhere between discounted instruments, professional music lessons, and stadium concert tickets, your wallet starts frowning at you pretty fast.
To make that process easier, we’ve gathered some of the best gifts to give to someone in your life who loves music without breaking your bank. Best of all, every single item in this list was made by Boston locals, so you can help our little city’s ecosystem stay alive while giving the capitalistic tendencies of major corporations a middle finger. It’s gonna be a merry Christmas after all.
MOUTHGUARD BY SADIE DUPUIS
Indie rock act Speedy Ortiz are a fan favorite around here because of how sick their riffs are and how they’re bettering the DIY scene in every way. In her spare time, self-described frontdemon Sadie Dupuis has been writing a book of poems dubbed Mouthguard. Most of the poems delve into magical escapism while remaining grounded in manic love, loss, and coming to terms with who you are. They run the gamut in terms of insightful scope and emotional prowess, so it’s best to flip through a copy to understand why it stopped us from grinding our teeth at night.
ED BALLOON’S HI SERIES CONCERT TICKETS
To see Ed Balloon live is to understand just how much creativity can fit inside a single human being. The 27-year-old musician has been secretly rejuvenating Boston’s music scene with his unique blend of electropop, R&B, and indie rock. So far, he’s only released a string of EPs and singles, but he’s been working on new material that may see the light of day in 2019. That may explain why he earned a short residency at Great Scott this upcoming January. Dubbed Ed Balloon’s Hi Series, the string of dates will see him take the stage on Jan 2 with Winona and the Riders and Maeko, Jan 9 with Cliff Notez and Garth., Jan 16 with VQNC and Niu Raza, and Jan 23 with Oompa and Billy Dean Thomas. Pick any night and be ready to dance, because Balloon will get you grooving along from the very first song he plays.
DISPOSABLE AMERICA PENCILS
Of all the record labels in Boston, it’s Disposable America that always makes us feel loved. Not just us as in DigBoston staffers, either. The indie rock-favoring label packages its purchases with a smattering of goodies, from tiny pins to trivia cards. Which means you will get a tiny pack of fun when you order its new blue pencils. Unsharpened graphite pencils with “DISPOSABLE AMERICA 🙂 🙂 🙂 FOR TRUE BELIEVERS ONLY” engraved in comic sans? Sounds like the perfect gift for the person in your life who’s constantly writing lyrics or jotting down notes for a concert review. Help keep your pals sharp this season.
ASTRAL WEEKS: A SECRET HISTORY OF 1968 BY RYAN H. WALSH
Music history nerds will never run out of books to read, and yet Ryan H. Walsh’s book reveals details they will have never heard before. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks has been covered endlessly since it debuted, yet nobody has delved into its untold secrets and its Boston roots from 1968 like this. Walsh, best known as the genius behind indie rock staple Hallelujah the Hills, pens his first book as if he’s been churning them out for years, tracking down Tufts English professors and WBCN radio owners for a story that will keep you turning pages so quickly that you’ll miss your stop on the T.
EMO-TION: A CARLY RAE JEPSEN TRIBUTE ALBUM
Did you just meet someone? Is it crazy? Did you give them your number? Did they ghost you? Sounds like you are the target demographic for EMO-TION, a compilation album of 15 mostly emo artists covering Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2015 album EMOTION. Nearly everyone is a Massachusetts act, including artists like Future Teens, Lilith, oldsoul, the Aux, Photocomfort, and Tuft. Best of all, it’s pay-what-you-want with all of the proceeds going to Immigration Equality. So while you could technically nab this beauty for free, any money you chip in will go to the group that’s been advocating for and representing LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants seeking safety, fair treatment, and freedom ever since it formed in 1994. Spread the cheer beyond your bubble, won’t you?
BLACK BEACH T-SHIRTS
Show off your taste in garage rock and punk with Black Beach T-shirts. Hand-drawn by Sami Martasian of anti-folk group Puppy Problems, these shirts come in three different colors: forest green, off-white, and yolk yellow. It’s the merging of two of Allston’s greatest musical minds for the sake of some genuinely good apparel. On the plus side, sporting the shirts will get a few random passersby or coworkers to Google the band and, likely, get what all of the heart-eyed hype is about. Did we mention they made ones for Bedbug, too?
FREE STUDIO TIME VIA 617 SESSIONS
Old ’heads will remember Fort Apache Studios, the legendary Boston recording studio that the Pixies, Buffalo Tom, and the Lemonheads all cut their teeth working on material. In 2009, Janos Fulop and Owen Curtin remodeled it into the Bridge, a similarly high-end recording studio that’s working with some of the best of today. The Bridge partnered with the Boston Music Awards to create the 617 Sessions, a music series that gives an entire day of studio time, including engineers and studio assistants, to local musicians. It’s a bit far off to apply for the 2019 edition of the 617 Sessions, but it would be quite the meaningful gift to pledge to nominate your musician pals for the series in a handwritten card, eh?
Loyal DigBoston readers are already familiar with Fiddlehead and you should be, too. The artsy punk and post-hardcore band sees Have Heart frontman Patrick Flynn on lead vocals, Basement member Alex Henery on guitar, Casey Nealon on bass, Have Heart member Shawn Costa on drums, and Alex Dow on guitar to form a whirring, intricate, and above all else passionate burst of music that will move you more than music of that genre usually would. After giving them a listen and falling in love (Trust us; you will), nab this TV T-shirt repping their name. Fiddlehead’s self-designed apparel sells out within hours on their website, in part because they create the cuts in under-100 quantities. Thankfully local record label Run For Cover, who pressed their 2018 LP Springtime and Blind, stepped up by creating limited edition shirts for sale, only this time there are more than 100 available for purchase. Which means those of you holding out for a dope last-minute gift will luck out with this one.
Give the metalhead in your life exactly what they want: another Converge deep-cut collectable to add to their display case. Frontman Jacob Bannon spent one week residing in the C-Scape Dune Shack in Provincetown’s Peaked Hill Bars National Register Historic District working on abstract mixed media, photography, and music. Last year, he released a book of his artwork from that period, dubbed Dunedevil. It sold out almost immediately. For those who missed the initial run, his record label, Deathwish Inc., announced a special second edition press of the book, this time limited to 500 copies. The hardcover, Verona linen cloth-bound, foil-embossed book is 300 pages of bright beauty, contrasting the dark imagery of Converge. It’s a gorgeous collection of work, and given the detail that went into it, the $50 price tag isn’t too shabby.
THE BEST LOCAL ALBUMS OF 2018
$5 – $30
We don’t pour our hearts into our coverage of the local music scene for nothing. At the end of each year, DigBoston prints a list of the 30 Best Local Albums of the Year. We also release a Best Local EPs of the Year list. That list comes out shortly, and we can’t recommend actually buying the music enough. In the meantime, look at our midyear picks for an idea of who will make the year-end list. Pick up Edge Petal Burn’s heavy emo debut Glass Cannon from Bandcamp for $8. Buy Vundabar’s latest reckless indie pop romp Smell Smoke on vinyl for $15. Grab Nature Shots’ hushed ambient record Foreclosure off Bandcamp for $5. Grab the metalcore revival record errorzone by Vein on an electric blue splatter vinyl for $18. There’s so much good music out there, and any music nerd in your life would be thrilled to hear, nevermind own, these.