I always give local music for Christmas. It's like giving twice: Once to the gift receiver, and once to the band — who get a little revenue for the holidays. Sis used to be an underground hip-hop kid, so she generally gets something recent from the Milled Pavement catalog. The three musically inclined brothers-in-law get a hand-made CD-R out of Strange Maine, the latest Sidecar EP, and whatever Chris Moulton's latest project is, respectively.
Hmmm, might have to get creative this year for those last two.
If you're feeling like you need to get creative this year, I've pulled out a bunch of stocking stuffers that I didn't get around to reviewing this past year, but which will likely be a great fit for your special someone:
FOR ANYONE WHO HIT THE AVETT BROTHERS, OLD CROW, AND MUMFORD SHOWS IN THE PAST YEAR You'll definitely want to grab them North, the debut EP from the Ghost of Paul Revere. A talented group of acoustic pickers with old souls and a nice feel for multi-part harmony, this is a band that can get touchy-feely ("Kodiak") right before they blast right through a barn-burner ("Wolves"); the closing "Spirit" has a real thump to it before an a capella finish that will keep you guessing.
FOR YOUR UNCLE, WHO RECENTLY SHOWED UP WEARING A LEATHER JACKET AND A SARONG Make sure to pick up Philip Carlo Paratore's Bronx to Bali, a record for adventurers. Tracked over six years, it's got big rock elements, Latin swing, Caribbean rhythm, Pacific Rim melodies, and a vocal delivery that's somewhere between Zappa and Transylvania 6-5000. There can be a simple seductiveness to instrumentals like "Kembali," and the waterfalls of chiming digital bells might be just right for the holidays.
FOR THE COUSIN TO WHOM YOU GAVE A WILLIAM GADDIS ALBUM LAST YEAR For dense, smart, lyrical songs that you can consume for days, give Post Provost's Ancient Open Allegory Oratorio, an album that uses 14 musicians to create 11 tracks. One of the best albums released locally this year, it's full of beautiful surprises, like "The Walking Cadaver," a jazzy tune full of brushed snare, a walking bass from Johnny Venom and a close-out that includes a dire piano from Michael McInnis. "Tall and Strong" has a "Girl from Ipanema" thing going on that's hard not to like a lot and "Ping Pong Dash" is a delicious gypsy polka.
FOR YOUR LITTLE SISTER, WHO JUST STARTED AT UVM Sure you could get her that Bob Marley box set, but think how cool she'll seem to the kids in the dorm when they get a load of Maine reggae, thanks to Royal Hammer's My Bubble. Fronted by Michael Taylor and with local lions all over the place — David Noyes, Jerusha Robinson, Gary Gemmiti, Tyler Quist, Lucas Desmond, Ryan Zoidis, Stu Mahan — these guys have been at it long enough now that they're super-tight and locked in on the easy vibe that makes for great reggae. Add in the closing track, where they put a reggae cover on Micah Blue Smaldone's "Mule," and this is probably the best-ever locally released album of this ilk.