Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2014 for Music Lovers and Geeks
Box Sets, Blu-rays, DVDs, Toys, Books, Comic Books, Mystery Sacks, and more
The holiday present buying season gets into full swing post-Thanksgiving and we've put together a guide of potential gifts to get for fellow geeks and/or music lovers. This is just a small sampling of all the potential cool gifts available this year, focusing mainly on music and DVD box sets and reissues, along with a few toys and items of clothing.
This Friday's Record Store Day Black Friday event of course also features a ton of cool vinyl rarities only available at your local indie record store that would make for great gifts for indie music fans. A not to be forgotten gift option not mentioned below is giving money to charity in the name of the gift-receiver. In this consumer-focused time of year, it is important to remember those whose entire yearly salary probably couldn't afford many of the items on this list.
But for those of us who work hard for our money and want to treat our friends and family right, here are some consumer-friendly ways to do that in 2014.
Under the Radar Subscriptions:
Under the Radar Subscriptions
SRP: $14.99 (one year, five issues, in U.S.), $26.99 (two years, ten issues, in U.S.)
One of the best gifts of all, in our humble opinion, is a subscription to our lovely print indie rock magazine. A two-year subscription even gets you a free CD (current choices include, among others, albums by Future Islands, The War on Drugs, Sharon Van Etten, Wye Oak, Temples, Woman's Hour, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Antlers, Slow Club, Angel Olsen, and Mac DeMarco). Anyone who subscribes in the next week will start with our forthcoming Best of 2014 Issue. And if you subscribe this Friday to Sunday you can get one-year subscriptions for $11.24 and two-year subscriptions for $20.24 as part of our Black Friday Sale. All the info on how to subscribe is found here.
Polyvinyl 4-Track Singles Series Volume 2
Polyvinyl's single series is back for a new volume. You subscribe and get sent a new 7-inch once a month. Each 7-inch includes two songs and are pressed onto colored vinyl with artwork by Jesse LeDoux. There are only 1000 subscriptions available, so we're talking limited edition. All the songs are previously unreleased and each 7-inch also has a download code to get the songs on your computer. And included is a 7-inch box to store them all.
Here is a list of the artists taking part this year:
Blikk Fang (MGMT, of Montreal)
Ducktails (Real Estate)
Jonathan Rado (Foxygen)
Keep In Touch (KIT) 7-inch Postcard Subscription Series
Like getting postcards from friends on vacation? Well, beginning in January, the Keep In Touch series will mail each of its subscribers a 7" x 7" postcard each month with a record pressed on it. Postcard art will be curated by each artist. And the lineup is stellar. Artists include Cloud Nothings, TOPS, Into It. Over It, Girlpool, and The So So Glos. A few surprises are in store too (subscribers are asked to give their birthday month). It's limited to 450 subscribers for 2015, so don't hesitate. By Frank Valish
Captain Beefheart: Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 (Rhino)
Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, was singular to the point of deserving a place on the period table of the elements, and Sun Zoom Spark provides evidence for such a case. The box set collects three early-'70s albums (1970's Lick My Decals Off, Baby; '72's The Spotlight Kid; '72's Clear Spot) and a disc of outtakes. By Hays Davis
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, and Houses of the Holy (Super Deluxe CD/LP Box Editions) (Atlantic/Swan Song/Rhino)
SRP: $139.98 (each)
Led Zeppelin represents everything about '70s hard rock supergroup excess, with epic songs that blow past the 10-minute mark, masturbatory guitar noodling, needless elongated drum solos, and squealing vocals usually singing nonsense lyrics about sex, hobbits, or occasionally both. Some of that criticism is deserved, but then again, Led Zeppelin were titans of rock music. Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy feature the band at their peak, and these still hold up after decades of heavy rotation. They are collected in new super deluxe editions along with Led Zeppelin I, II, and III. By Cody Ray Shafer
Genesis: R-Kive (Rhino)
A three-CD box set that takes in the iconic British band's entire career, from the Peter Gabriel-led '70s era to the Phil Collins-fronted pop hits of the '80s. It includes not only Genesis songs, but tracks from various member's solo and side projects. So Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" sit aside Genesis classics such as "Invisible Touch" and "That's All."
Bedhead: Bedhead: 1992-1998 (Numero Group)
SRP: $40.00 (CD), $80.00 (LP)
"Slowcore" might have been the easy tag to pin on the Dallas, Texas band Bedhead, but this comprehensive overview amply illustrates the beauty created in recordings that reveal considerably more than a mere inclination not to break a sweat. The four CDs (or five LPs) of 1992-1998 collect Bedhead's three albums and all their singles and EPs, all of which provide the perfect backing music for poring over the box's career-overview book. By Hays Davis
Simon & Garfunkel: Complete Albums Collection (Legacy)
Swedish duo First Aid Kit's recent cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" shows that the '60s duo's songs still remain timeless. This box set collects 11 studio, live and compilation albums, all newly remastered from first-generation analog sources.
Bruce Springsteen: The Album Collection Vol. 1 1973-1984 (Legacy)
Seven of the Boss' classic albums, from 1973's Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. through to 1984's Born in the U.S.A. are collected in this eight CD box set. Most have been remastered on CD for the first time.
David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed (Sony/Legacy)
The David Bowie career-spanning comp Nothing Has Changed works backward from the present, allowing the listener to experience The Thin White Duke before Ziggy Stardust. Later Bowie is more adult, and the characters have been replaced with an arc of Bowie evolutions, each time a new façade falling away to reveal a more exposed man. In this arrangement, Bowie is adding layers of makeup and glam costumes to cover up his more personal work. It includes the brand new song "Sue (Or In the Season of Crime)." By Cody Ray Shafer
Bob Dylan: The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Columbia/Legacy)
This six-disc box set finally unearths the entirety of Dylan's mythical '67 home-recordings with The Band. Hearing it is perhaps like leafing through the personal notebooks of Faulkner or Steinbeck. Includes a separate hardcover book. By Michael Wojtas
The Go-Betweens: G Stands For Go-Betweens: Volume One (Domino)
This box set gathers the first three proper albums from Australia's The Go-Betweens, plus rarities and a fine disc of formative singles. It's music that wholly deserves to be spoken of in the same reverent tones reserved for canonized '80s guitar-pop legends, from R.E.M. and The Smiths to top-tier Kiwis, The Clean. By Michael Wojtas
Other 2014 box sets and reissues of note include:
The Afghan Whigs: Gentlemen at 21 (Rhino)
Black Sabbath: The Complete Albums 1970-1978 (Rhino)
Belle and Sebastian: It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career (Matador) - Vinyl reissues of all their albums.
Miles Davis: Miles At The Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Legacy)
Flake Music: When You Land Here, It's Time to Return (Sub Pop)
Herbie Hancock: The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972) (Rhino)
Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust - The Bridge to Russia (Legacy)
Henry Mancini: The Classic Soundtrack Collection (Legacy)
Oasis: Definitely Maybe: Chasing the Sun Edition and (What's the Story) Morning Glory?: Chasing the Sun Edition (Big Brother)
Alan Parsons Project: The Complete Albums Collection (Legacy)
Pink Floyd: The Division Bell 20th Anniversary Edition (Rhino)
Pixies: Doolittle 25 (4AD)
Elvis Presley: That's The Way It Is (Legacy)
Sleater-Kinney: Stay Together (Sub Pop)
Slint: Spiderland (Touch and Go)
The Smashing Pumpkins: Adore (Super Deluxe Edition) (Virgin/UME)
Songs: Ohia: Didn't It Rain (Deluxe Reissue) (Secretly Canadian)
Tegan and Sara: So Jealous X (Warner Bros.)
DVDs and Blu-rays:
Doctor Who: The Complete Matt Smith Years Limited Edition Blu-ray Gift Set Blu-ray (BBC)
Peter Capaldi may have just killed it in his first season as the Twelve Doctor on Doctor Who, squelching most doubters who worried that an older and grumpier Doctor wouldn't make for fun and compelling television. But let us not forget that it was Matt Smith's Twelve Doctor that really put the long running British sci-fi show on the map in America, landing Doctor Who on the covers of such national magazines as Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide. And while Smith has moved on to try and launch a full-fledged Hollywood career (such as being one of the stars of the next Terminator movie), you can revisit every Eleventh Doctor episode in this new Blu-ray set that collects them all (including the 50th anniversary special and last year's Christmas special, Smith's last full episode as The Doctor). The set also includes these special features: Doctor Who Proms 2013, The Day of the Doctor: From Script to Screen, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (the hilarious alternate 50th anniversary special featuring some of the classic series Doctors), Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide, and Sarah Jane Adventures: The Death of the Doctor (the two-part special of the spinoff series which featured a guest appearance from Matt Smith's Twelve Doctor). It's the perfect gift for those friends who are late to the Doctor Who party and are still playing catch up or those uber-Who fans who somehow don't already own these episodes.
Sherlock: The Complete Seasons 1-3 Limited Edition Gift Set Blu-ray/DVD (BBC)
Sherlock Holmes is everywhere these days. There's the movie series starring Robert Downey Jr. as the famous detective and set in Victorian times. Johnny Lee Miller plays a contemporary Englishman-in-New-York version over on CBS TV's Elementary (complete with Lucy Liu as a female Watson). Wildstorm/DC did a comic book series a couple of years back called Victorian Undead in which Holmes faced up against zombies and Dracula (I'm surprised the Sherlock vs. zombies concept hasn't been adapted into a film yet). A new upcoming movie entitled Mr. Holmes is due to feature Sir. Ian McKellen as an aging Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s. There's even a current Japanese children's TV show featuring puppet versions of Sherlock and Watson solving crimes as teenagers in a boarding school. But perhaps the most acclaimed and beloved current version of the super sleuth is BBC's Sherlock.
Featuring a star-making turn by Benedict Cumberbatch as the super-sleuth and Martin Freeman as Watson and produced and written by Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat along with Mark Gatiss, Sherlock debuted in 2010 as a very stylish and modern update on Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle's character. Sherlock is set in current day London and Cumberbatch's version displays slight Asperger's like characteristics and also wrestles with the character's inevitable celebrity status in our 24-hour news cycle world. Alas only three feature-length episodes of the show are produced each season, making each episode an event.
This new box set collects on DVD and Blu-ray all nine episodes from all three seasons thus far. As the press release states, "The set also includes the original bonus features released with each season, plus all new commentaries, never-before-seen outtakes, a deleted scene, and a prequel scene from Season Three, as well as exclusive collectibles including limited edition art cards and busts of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson." It'll be a long wait until Sherlock returns with a 2015 Christmas special (followed by a fourth season in 2016), so this set will have to keep fans going until then.
The Wonder Years: Complete Series DVD (Starvista Entertainment/Time Life)
The Wonder Years works as double nostalgia. The beloved TV series was created in the 1980s, so it appeals to children of that decade, but it was set in the 1960s and thus also brings back memories for the generation before. The show hasn't been available on DVD previously due to pesky issues with the music rights (getting permission to re-use all those great '60s songs must have been a real pain). But now the whole series is available in one set, with most of the original music and housed in cool high school locker packaging. So re-watch as Kevin Arnold woos Winnie Cooper with the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the British Invasion, the Cold War, and the Space Race.
REMTV DVD (Rhino)
This six-disc box chronicles the trajectory of one of America's finest bands via a treasure trove of footage unearthed from the MTV archives. Live shows, interviews, and copious extras abound, but the crown jewel is the documentary on the band, directed by Alexander Young. It gives short shrift to the band's later years (post Up), but paradoxically, this is perhaps the most powerful footage on the disc, a once blazing sun gorgeously setting into the horizon. By John Everhart
Herzog-The Collection Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
Shout! Factory provides an astounding overview of Werner Herzog's seminal career. 13 discs of Herzog's finest films, deified by both Milos Forman and François Truffaut as "the greatest filmmaker alive today." Spend a few weeks with these films and you may just agree. By John Everhart
Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu-ray (Paramount)
Just in time for the announcement of a new Twin Peaks TV series, coming in 2016, is the release of this, the holy grail of Twin Peak to date. The Blu-ray transfer is astounding, and the extras, including the interviews with David Lynch and the Palmer family, are endlessly fascinating. But it's the Fire Walk With Me film that most deserves a reappraisal, as its miasmatic fever-dream sequences foreshadowed Lynch's later films Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire. By John Everhart
True Blood: The Complete Series Blu-ray/DVD (HBO)
SRP: $299.98 (Blu-ray), $249.98 (DVD)
True Blood was more than its critics gave it credit for-seemingly tawdry vampire TV that was actually social commentary, equating the oppression of vampires with endless modern fear mongering. The set's represented here in 33 episodes in glorious HD, or DVD if that's your preferred format. By John Everhart
True Detective Season One Blu-ray/DVD (HBO)
SRP: $79.98 (Blu-ray), $59.99 (DVD)
Proving that the second golden age of TV rages unabated, True Detective was undoubtedly one of the finest shows to premiere in 2014. Bonus features include a "Making Of" featurette, and conversations with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. But the true benefit of owning this set is reliving the way the season veers from the mundane to incorporeal in a manner rarely seen since Twin Peaks. By John Everhart
The Jeffersons - The Complete Series DVD (Shout! Factory)
Yes, it took place from 1975-1985, but the banter between George (Sherman Hemsley) and his wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) still somehow elicits laughter today. This terrific restoration courtesy of Shout! Factory is replete with bonus features that will entice both the ardent fans of the show and the neophytes. By John Everhart
Eastbound and Down - The Fourth Season Blu-ray/DVD (HBO)
SRP: $39.98 (Blu-ray), $29.98 (DVD)
Following the hilarious, politically-incorrect exploits of former star baseball player Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) in this fourth and final season of Eastbound and Down, the show does what so few dare to-goes out on a peak. By John Everhart
Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
If you know what to do when anybody says the secret word, then this deluxe collection of the classic children's TV series is for you. Pee-wee Herman's award-winning show still holds up today, even to adults who haven't watched it since a Saturday morning a long time ago. (Pee-wee's Playhouse was a show for kids, made by overgrown kids.) All 45 episodes are here in a brand-new, hi-def restoration, plus more than four hours of new, ridiculously in-depth documentaries about the show's origins. Read our full write-up here. By Austin Trunick
Mystery Science Theater 3000, Volume XXXI: The Turkey Day Collection DVD (Shout! Factory)
The 31st (!!!) DVD collection of the classic movie-riffing series Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a tribute to the show's annual Turkey Day (Thanksgiving) marathons from the early 1990s, making it a festive (and fitting) gift for the MSTie in your life. The set includes two Joel and two Mike episodes: The Screaming Skull, The Painted Hills, Squirm, and Jungle Goddess, with well-produced bonus features on each disc. Check out our in-depth review of this new set here. By Austin Trunick
The Essential Jacques Demy Blu-ray (Criterion)
If there was a filmmaker within Criterion's wheelhouse most deserving on a high-definition makeover, it would have been pretty easy to make the argument for Jacques Demy. The French director-best known for his candy-colored musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg-had an eye for color like no other, and Criterion's lavish box set presents six of his films in restorations that absolutely pop off the screen. (Even the two black and white features included.) This set includes Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin, and Une Chambre Un Ville, along with more extras than someone could digest in an entire weekend. (You can read our take on all six films and their extras here.) By Austin Trunick
Superman and Wonder Woman Holiday Kiss Statue
Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple
Lois Lane is great and all. She's a fearless and award-winning reporter who will do whatever it takes to get the story. Depending on which version of the character we're talking about, she's either bad at spelling and/or has surprising trouble for an investigative reporter working out that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person (although Amy Adams' Lois in Man of Steel worked that one out right away). Still, for a mere mortal she's as good a romantic match for Superman as any. But maybe the Man of Steel should be dating someone more on his level. In the bedroom alone Supes must be holding back for fear of hurting or even killing Lois.
Well, when DC rebooted their comic book universe a few years ago with the New 52, Lois and Clark were no longer married and eventually he ends up dating Wonder Woman. Now this makes sense, the most powerful man and woman in the world should hook up. Both understand the whole great power/great responsibility thing and both are outsiders (he an alien from the planet Krypton, her descended from Greek gods and a hidden island populated solely by women). This statue from DC Direct is a recreation straight from the comics of their first kiss. Except this version has a holiday theme to it-mistletoe hangs above the super couple. Of course how did mistletoe end of being suspended way up in the clouds like that... oh, just go with it. So a gift for your romantically inclined DC Comics fan with an appreciation for Christmas.
Also available is Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple, a hardcover book collecting the initial issues of the couple's new joint comic book series (written by Charles Soule, with art by Tony S. Daniel).
DC Comics Bombshells Zatanna Statue
DC Direct has had a great series of statues the last few years called Bombshells, which re-imagines some of their female heroes in new 1940s/1950s costumes. Previous Bombshells have included Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and others, and the mistress of magic, Zatanna, is the latest to get the treatment. Apparently the rabbit featured in the statue is a newly transformed John Constantine!
Deadman and Crow Plush
Deadman is a deceased circus performer who has the ability possess the living. Sounds like the perfect character to make a stuffed toy of, right? Well it may not be wholly appropriate for kids, but this cuddly gift is based on the version of the character that appeared during the DC Nation shorts on the Cartoon Network.
This hardcover book collects DC's 2014 event miniseries in which the Justice League is dead and the villains take over the world. Who's left to save the day? Lex Luthor apparently.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 (2K Games)
The third game in Gearbox Software's tongue-in-cheek, loot-driven, RPG-turned-shooter series, Borderlands, may be gaming's first "pre-sequel." Taking place chronologically between Borderlands and Borderlands 2, it chronicles the rise of Handsome Jack and his henchmen, who were the memorable villains from the series' second entry. It's a little confusing, but it's a lot of fun. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel introduces four all-new vault hunters and is set on a moon, which means a lot of really fun, low-gravity shootouts. By Austin Trunick
Far Cry 4 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) (Ubisoft)
2012's Far Cry 3 set a benchmark for sandbox gaming with its cinematic storytelling and balanced gameplay which allowed players to approach enemies and obstacles in whatever ways suited their play styles. This big-budget sequel moves the action from a third-world, tropical island to the Himalayas, replacing jungles with mountains and bears with elephants and honey badgers. The gameplay is similar, sure-but Far Cry 4 improves on its predecessor in practically every aspect. The game not only lives up to the standards of movie-quality storytelling set by the previous entry in the franchise, but it comes with a robust co-op experience: exploring the game's massive, open terrains (not to mention taking out enemy outposts) is all the more fun with a friend. By Austin Trunick
Gremlins and Fargo Sweaters
SRP: $85.00 (each)
The folks at Mondo (with designs by Middle of Beyond) have put together these two great knit sweaters for Fargo and Gremlins. Fargo is hot again (or should we say cold again, based on the movie's setting) thanks to the fantastic new FX TV series. It's the perfect sweater to wear while operating your wood chipper. As for the Gremlins sweater, just be careful when getting it wet (perhaps have it dry cleaned) and don't spill food on it after midnight, otherwise who knows what kind of monstrous garment you'll end up with.
Red Doctor Christmas Sweater
The BBC have this awesome Doctor Who-themed Christmas sweater (well, it's a sweatshirt apparently, but looks like a sweater). It's got the TARDIS on it and a couple of sonic screwdrivers and some snowflakes. The perfect holiday clothing gift for the Whovian.
Peaking Lights x Mowgli Surf Cosmic Logic T-shirt
Band T-shirts are a dime a dozen, but this Peaking Lights one made by Mowgli Surf is custom made and airbrushed by hand. It features the cover of their recent album Cosmic Logic. More info can be found here.
Books and Graphic Novels:
The Complete Zap Comix (Fantagraphics)
Calling Zap Comix the Lenny Bruce and Ramones of comic books wouldn't be inaccurate, though that still doesn't go far enough in describing its incalculable impact. Considering how the Zap artists dedicated this set to those who were "harassed, jailed, fined, or prosecuted" for selling Zap at least offers a glimmer of its historical weight. Complete collects every issue of Zap, going back to its 1968 debut, in a limited, five-volume hardcover boxed set. By Hays Davis
Hip Hop Family Tree Vol. 1-2: 1975-1983 (Fantagraphics)
This gift set edition collects both volumes of Ed Piskor's acclaimed history of hip-hop. Includes a brand new 24-page comic book.
The Complete Peanuts 1950-1954 (Vols. 1 - 2) (Fantagraphics)
In anticipation of next year's big screen Peanuts movie you can relive the original adventures of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and co. in this gift box set that collects the comic strips from the 1950s. Walter Cronkite and Garrison Keillor provide introductions to the volumes.
Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics (IDW)
Wonder Woman-golden lasso, bullet deflecting bracelets, and all that-briefly had her own newspaper comic strip from 1944 to 1945. William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peters, the former being Wonder Woman's creator, were responsible for the strip and were also the same creative team behind the comic book at the time. IDW has collected all the strips in book form for the first time.
Ian Curtis: So This is Permanence (Chronicle)
Much of Joy Division's intrigue comes from curiosity about its mysterious frontman, Ian Curtis. The British artist spent hours upon hours crafting lyrics, dark ruminations inspired by Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and Aldous Huxley. Now his widow, Deborah Curtis, has compiled lyrics from his various journals-sharing both the original writings, full of crossed-out portions, and typed versions of his entire collection. This gigantic book is part textbook, part coffee table book; a collection worth glancing at in intervals, and, for serious fans, a thorough look at Curtis' thought process. By Danielle Sills
Guinness World Records 2015 (Guinness World Records)
With the Internet, these sorts of books are somewhat obsolete, but the design is lovely, and it makes for a great coffee table book or a gift for a grade school, or really anyone of any age who enjoys thumbing through books for short spans of time, and returning again to take in a new section. By John Everhart
Flotsam General Store:
Flotsam General Store
SRP: $40.00 (small), $50.00 (medium), $70.00 (large)
And finally a weird and potentially funny mystery/joke gift. Comedians H Jon Benjamin (Bob's Burgers, Archer, etc.) and Eugene Mirman (Bob's Burgers, Flight of the Conchords, etc.) have an online store called Flotsam General Store. They only sell three things: "artfully curated mystery sacks" in three different sizes. Who knows what's in the sacks, they aren't revealing much. But we did get Benjamin to tell us that in each sack "there will be 4 to 5 items and at least one can be used for kindling." Check them out here.
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