For the hip-hop head:Hip-hop artists are all about making that loot, so you know they'll have fresh product to push come holiday time. Several big name folks have albums that will be new or recent everyone from Nas to Jay Z, Ghostface Killah to Bow Wow. If you think someone might be interested in reading an entertaining history of the genre, get them critic Jeff Chang's "Can't Stop Won't Stop" from Picador books ($16). Gold bathrobes with dollar signs are a safe bet, too.
For the world music fan:
A couple of CDs recently dropped by the office make nice musical gifts: "Version Dread: 18 Dub Hits From Studio One" ($17.98) is a worthy collection of rare dub reggae B sides; also, "When the Soul Is Settled: Music of Iraq" ($16.98) with Rahim Alhaj on the oud is an interesting album not quite as fun as the "Borat" soundtrack, though. I also heartily recommend a recent ESP-Disk release of amazing four-octave singer Yma Sumac, live from Romania in 1961, titled "Recital" ($18.98).
For the alternative minded:Veteran crooner Tom Waits always delivers the goods. His latest, "Orphans" ($49.98), is a three-disc set of riches, rarities and unreleased material that would make a nice gift for anyone who appreciates creative and heartfelt music. A lot of indie rockers dig the Pixies. You could grab their latest DVD documentary, "loudQUIETloud" ($19.95); it's an in-depth, all-access account of how they don't get along offstage. If neither of those sound right, how about a subscription to either The Believer, with the great Wholphin DVD series included ($80), or the Internet service LimeWire ($50), which allows you to download songs to your heart's content.
For the punk rocker:If you want to drop about $80, which equates to roughly a month's worth of Pabst Blue Ribbon (perhaps the more knowing gift), try surprising your punk loved ones with the new Clash singles box set. If that's too expensive, buy a six-pack of Pabst unless they're underage. If they are, then get them the book "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn ($18.95). Another fun little stocking stuffer is the greatest-hits DVD of SNL's "TV Funhouse" animation ($19.98); the sketch with Osama and Saddam is a great success.
For the classic rocker:Neil Young's "Live From the Fillmore East," from a 1970 show at that venue, is pretty good ($18.98); and if you want to go big, try "There Is a Season," the recent Byrds box set ($54.98), a definitive retrospective of their career. For dirt-cheap alternatives, there's always a Skynyrd belt buckle or Ozzy Osbourne vanity mirror the kind you win at the fair.
If none of these ideas strikes your fancy, that's understandable. You can always make themed music mixes for people or, if you really want to set a good example, make a donation in their name to a worthy cause like the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund (www.nomhrf.org). A lot of people find a donation boring, but in the end, it's a gift that keeps on giving. CDs and DVDs just burn out and fade away. S