If you’ve ever experienced the cruel disappointment of raking furiously through your CD collection searching for, say, Einstürzende Neubauten’s Strategies Against Architecture Vol. 4, only to discover that in some strange and ironic mix up the case is in fact occupied by your mum’s copy of Daniel O’Donnell’s Moon Over Ireland, then you like me may agree that the digital music revolution gets an unfairly bad rap sometimes. But something you certainly can’t do with an MP3 is stick it in a stocking come Christmas – one reason among many to celebrate the modest resurgence of the vinyl record. You’d really struggle to fit a vinyl record in a stocking too, but you get my point.
One thing you certainly can’t do with an MP3 is stick it in a stocking come Christmas
Besides sounding and looking awesome, vinyl records also hopefully ensure that somewhere down the line the recording artist sees a bit of cash from your purchase (which is more than can be said for streaming a song anything less than a bazillion times on Spotify). Also, in instances where the artist’s face is splashed on the cover in almost life-sized proportions, you can use vinyl records to take hilarious photos where you pretend to be Johnny Cash or Madonna or David Bowie or Daniel O’Donnell.
Which is why this Christmas we’re bringing you a round-up of top 2017 albums-as-present suggestions, each of which is available and indeed best enjoyed on handsome vinyl record, for different sorts of friends and family members. Don’t worry about whether the giftee actually owns a record player – most of these albums come with digital download codes enclosed. So I suppose you technically can put an MP3 in a stocking, but that’s not the point.
To… The friend who you sort of fancy a bit and would like them to know
Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex
If you enjoy the thought of listening to sexy music about as much as you enjoyed watching sex scenes in films with your parents when you were a teenager, basically don’t be listening to Cigarettes After Sex. This New York dream-pop band’s music is riddled with lyrical content of a sexual nature, which makes it a potentially tactful way to drop a less-than-subtle hint to that friend of yours whom you wish was more than just a friend. Unless they don’t fancy you back, in which case, um… awkward.
To… Your folk-loving uncle whose music taste needs gently coaxed into the 21st century
Seamus Fogarty – The Curious Hand
Irish singer-songwriter Seamus Fogarty’s debut album for Domino Records exhibits a good understanding of the rudiments of traditional music styles like folk and blues and country. But he twists and turns them around irreverently, all mashed together with electronic beats and burps and gurgles and weird samples. The Curious Hand comes on delicious looking yellow vinyl, and may prove both an eye and ear opening gift for that old uncle of yours who thought folk music ended with Christy Moore.
To… That older brother who’s always grumbling about how they don’t make music like they used to any more
The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
A hazy cosmic amalgam of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Dire Straits, War on Drugs are like manna from heaven for anyone whose taste in music is permanently frozen sometime around 1978. The Philadelphians’ second album is a worthy successor to the epic Lost in the Dream. Vinyl-wise it comes double-disc for added hi-fi clarity – they’re that kind of band – and there’s a limited-edition clear vinyl version out there somewhere in the ether if you really want to treat your bro, despite his tiresome mumping.
To… Someone you love
Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness
American alt-folk singer-songwriter Julie Byrne’s second album Not Even Happiness is, not to put too fine a point on it, the damn loveliest album of 2017, and thus one of the damn loveliest things you can give someone as a gift this Christmas. So save its lush synths, delicately finger-picked guitars and Byrne’s breathy vocals – singing about love, loss, nature and growing up like she was whispering beside you in your ear on a long journey – for someone particularly special. Even if it’s just your mum. Might help wean her off Daniel O’Donnell.
To… Your politically fired-up younger cousin
Kendrick Lamar – Damn
Goodness knows there’s been plenty to have a good rage about politically speaking in 2017, from the myriad nefarious doings of Trump to the assorted racial intolerances that motivate the Black Lives Matter movement. If you’ve got a family member or friend who might appreciate a record that feels like it’s plugged right into the hot political current of our age, look no further than American rapper Kendrick Lamar’s exceptional Damn, which fires off a satisfying broadside at Fox News among other targets. Warning, may contain traces of U2.