Whether you like it or not, the holidays are here, and that means you've got to buy stuff. It's the American way. You could be cynical and put it off until the last minute and buy things that will get tossed in the garbage or regifted, or you can do the adult thing, put some thought into it and buy some good stuff that your friends and family will actually like. There is a third option: check out our gift guide to make shopping easy and thoughtful. Need even more gift inspiration? Check out our local gifts guide next week. You're welcome.—Stett Holbrook
'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes,' Thom Yorke
Radiohead's frontman throws down a sophomore solo album that continues to toe the proverbial line between genius and insanity that he's known for, delivering a layered and trippy yet approachable effort. There's some hype around Yorke's method of album release; his experiment in skipping the middleman of the record industry and making the whole bundle available online through BitTorrent at the affordable price of $6 has made it an accessible gift for the music lover in your life. For those who prefer to give a physical copy, a luxurious 180 gram white vinyl deluxe edition is also available for sale online for $50.
'I Forget Where We Were,' Ben Howard
Howard shows growth on his second album, a worthy follow-up to his wildly popular folksy first studio album Every Kingdom, complete with soulful ballads. Don't expect a complete reincarnation, however; instead, look forward to a darker sound, with more electric guitar on longer songs, behind Howard's familiar vocals. This, or a package of Howard's two albums, is great gift for $10–$20.
An independent bluegrass gem from the Bay Area, Steep Ravine have been enjoying steady success as a fresh addition to the scene, embarking on national tours and playing the festival circuit. Recent graduates from UC Santa Cruz, their technically proficient music displays a mastery of the genre beyond their years and is, above all, an ultimate feel-good album, even for those who don't necessarily consider themselves fans of the genre. Listen to their lyrics and compositions and immediately become a fan. Download for $10; CD for $15.
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Father John Misty
J. Tillman, aka Father John Misty, is releasing a highly anticipated second album in the vein of his first. Anticipate more satire, more good-hearted disdain of his generation and more lyrical artistry. The album comes out
Feb. 10, but the promise of this album as a gift will be well worth it to listeners of all ages, and preorders are available now from $12 to $40. And perhaps even more of a treat than the album itself is seeing the charismatic showman Father John do his thing onstage. Tickets for his Sonoma show at the Vets Hall Ballroom on Jan. 17 are $25, and that's more than worth it.
de Young / Legion of Honor Gift Membership
Give the gift of fine art appreciation with one-year membership good for two museums in San Francisco. The most basic level includes free access to special exhibitions, discounts at the museum store, and invitations to special member-only events—and, of course, unlimited admission with an accompanying guest to the permanent collections and most special exhibitions. (Maybe your giftee will take you as a thank-you!) Exhibiting his holiday season: "Keith Haring: The Political Line," "Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay" and "Lines on the Horizon: Native American Art from Weisel Family Collection." $99. deyoung.famsf.org.
'Yosemite in the Sixties' by Glen Denny
Not your average coffee-table book. This time capsule of climbers in the '60s reads like a love letter to the time, mentality and thrills of Denny's youth. It doubles as the perfect gift to a climber or outdoorsy person, but also to the photography lover who can't receive one more Diane Arbus print from a well-meaning friend. A throwback to the photos of Ansel Adams, but with a nostalgic personal touch, Yosemite in the Sixties is an aesthetically pleasing photo story about the golden years of climbing. $44 on Amazon.
Andy Goldsworthy's 'Rivers and Tides'
A documentary about artist Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides is a serene portrait of a man whose art is less about studio art and more about the impermanent nature of natural art. The film shows Goldworthy's process of creating art pieces out of ice, leaves, rock and clay in their environment, and the process of their natural disintegration, with a focus on water. If you know an art lover who hasn't seen this film, they need to, and it will be a gift in itself to watch this film together. Available on Amazon.com for purchase, or for free to view various places online.
Cranky Pressman Instant Business Card Stamp
A whimsical and simple way to promote your business, these self-inking, train-inspector-style stamps are only three-fourths of an inch in diameter, but they make a bold statement. That statement can be your name, number, website or logo—in fact, it can be anything you want, since you submit the design, then get the made-to-order stamp mailed back to you, all for $25. The stamp has an exterior metal casing and a key ring so you can take it everywhere and never have to pat all your pockets awkwardly before realizing you've run out of cards. It's a perfect gift for those who travel light and enjoy a clean, simple design for their business's image. www.crankypressman.com/printery_bindery.