Give It Away: Music We're Gifting to Friends for Christmas

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We're a generous bunch at Rocks Off. We just give and give and give until it hurts, and then we give some more. That's just how we roll. And when we give, well, it may seem obvious, but we tend to give the gift of music. Our friends and family are appreciative, though we do think grandma is just being nice when she unwraps her present to find we gave her a mixtape of our favorite really obscure indie bands who only released one song and then broke up. Maybe you should try to be cooler, GRANDMA!

Anyway, several of us got together and discussed what was going under the trees and into the stockings of our loved ones this year and we got some pretty interesting answers. Tell us what you are giving folks in the comment section. If you say "iTunes gift cards," we'll have to kill you, so comment wisely.

Last week, mom called and asked "What's a moon and Antarctica? It's on your brother's Christmas list." Having nothing under the tree for him yet, I happily told her she could scratch that one. Last year, Modest Mouse released a two LP 10th anniversary edition that would be perfect. It's the best when you can give something you love to someone you know will appreciate it just as much.

I first heard The Moon & Antarctica when I was 19 and a sophomore at Texas State University Southwest Texas State. I was learning to balance school, a job, river-floating and beer-drinking. Life was weird and dramatic. To me, the songs on it sounded lonely, moody, spacey, dark and kind of spastic... I guess I could relate.

Eleven years later, this record is still at the top of my list. It's a palate cleanser when my brain and ears become cluttered with all the new shit. From the disco beat and heavy bass line of "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" to sinister, hypnotic "The Cold Part" to the heavy and climactic "What People Are Made Of", it's still everything a good record should be- complicated and undulating with hooks that get stuck way deep in your auditory cortex.

Since my brother started building his record collection a few years ago, it's been an absolute pleasure to go into Cactus or Sound Exchange to rifle through bins, hunting for the perfect contribution. This year for Christmas, he gets one from my formative years and I'll most likely be swiping it every now and then for a listen. -- Ginny Braud

I, personally, am not giving any albums to anyone for Christmas but that won't stop me from shoving my two cents in your face if you're choosing to. These are all 2011 releases and are mostly available for free from the bands, so there's that for you, you cheap jerk.

First Nations - Black Beach - For your cousin who's a freshman in college and bought a four-track in hopes that it would help him touch a boob by Spring Break. I'd pair this with a pack of Djarum's so he can bum them to cute Lit majors.

Black Gum - s/t - For your little sister who just started going to shows since her curfew got moved to midnight, if you're gonna live vicariously through her when she's in her 20s you need to lay the foundations now. Since you're family you'll want to make this one of many tapes you give her with her new (pre-owned) cassette player.

Wavepool Abortion - s/t - For your single brother-in-law so maybe he'd stop boring the women he brings home with The Stone Roses Box Set you bought him two Christmases ago. Couple this with a case of Nutro Natural Choice Senior Canned Cat Food, Juliana Catfield is like 16-years-old and premium brands are costly for paralegals.

New Animal - s/t - For the platonic girl friend you've been crushing hard on since that time at Summerfest when the two of you waited 45 minutes for pheasant dogs at the Moon Tower tent together while the rest of your friends just got nachos. Combine this with a growler of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale to ease the transition from clothed friends to nude friends.

Diarrhea Planet - Loose Jewels - For your best bud because not only is it a collection of fun party jams, but because about 67% of your inside jokes are based in scatological humor. And since you smashed his while trying to teach Dogtor Dre, his lab-pit mix, to dance you should probably buy him a new, um..."water pipe."-- April Brem Patrick

I made a compilation tape of the 25 best rap songs from Houston artists this year. It's not mixed together or blended or anything; it is just a straight up song-after-song collection, like how everyone used to make in middle school. What's more, rather than sending people shitty zip files or CDs, I bought a tape deck and am putting it on cassette. A simple description ("Houston Rap - 2011") is written on the front. I'm sending them to some people that I don't hate. -- Shea Serrano

For the past five or six years, I've made it a point to give my step brother, who is in his early twenties now, some music I thought he would like, but also something that would further his education as a musician as pretentious as that may sound. Whether it was a Jimi Hendrix boxed set or Antonio Carlos Jobim CDs, I've tried to help him learn about all different kinds of music through those gifts and broaden his scope from what began as a full blown addiction to death metal.

This year -- hopefully, he won't read this before Christmas -- I decided to go with something that is part of that ongoing musical education and a nod to the rich history of the Houston music scene: Lightnin' Hopkins. Not only does it give him an entrance into the world of blues, but it reminds him that Houston has produced some damn fine musicians over a very long period of time. As an accompaniment, I threw in a copy of Houston's Best Dive Bars by the Houston Press' own John Nova Lomax. The kid is old enough to drink, so he may as well learn the history of blues and drinking in Houston at the same time. They go hand in hand. -- Jeff Balke

This year I bought music for my parents, something I don't usually do because it gets harder and harder to judge what they're going to like. My songwriting partner Bill Curtner loaned me a copy of Iggy pop's last album Preliminaries, and I knew it would be the perfect thing for my mom. Pop's toned it down a great deal on the record, pulling in a soft, French jazz and cabaret feel on many of the tracks. It reminded me of the brilliance of Richard O'Brien's solo album, which was the last musical gift I gave her that really hit home. Plus, there is a spoken word piece about the love of dogs that I know she will appreciate.

For my dad, I went hardcore. Divided recently by politics, we've found common ground in audio fidelity. The vinyl re-emergence has helped him once again take interest in music, so I got myself Blitzen Trapper's Furr on vinyl for him. There is no way he's not going to fall in love with "Black River Killer" and the title track. Not an old Dylan fan like him.

I also picked up Lambchop's Is a Woman, though the collector's price for the vinyl was a bit out of my budget and I settled for the CD. A cut from the bonus disc, a stripped down cover of the Sisters of Mercy's "This Corrosion" has become one of my favorite tracks ever, and though my dad is no Andrew Eldrtich fan, Lambchop's emprty, haunting acoustic style on this album is sure to tug on his Gordon Lightfoot-loving heart. -- Jef with One F

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