Each year around this time, the AllMusic team pulls together some music-related books, records, and gadgets that we’ve stumbled across throughout the year. From super-deluxe boxed sets and music books to turntables, headphones, and musical instruments, we’ve selected a number of items that you should probably just buy for yourself.
Sonos Roam Bluetooth Speaker
Sonos Roam is the first in the Sonos lineup to offer Bluetooth connectivity for when you actually want to use it on the go. It also still supports Wi-Fi audio and works in within the larger Sonos ecosystem, so you’ll have all your bases covered no matter where you are. You are also able to connect Roam to your home system via Wi-Fi, set up multiple for surround sound for your media setup, or just easily stream music wherever you are.
$179.00 on Amazon
60 Songs That Explain the ’90s by Rob Harvilla
“The 1990s were a chaotic and gritty and utterly magical time for music, a confounding barrage of genres and lifestyles and superstars, from grunge to hip-hop, from sumptuous R&B to rambunctious ska-punk, from Axl to Kurt to Missy to Santana to Tupac to Britney. In 60 SONGS THAT EXPLAIN THE ’90s, Ringer music critic Rob Harvilla reimagines all the earwormy, iconic hits Gen Xers pine for with vivid historical storytelling, sharp critical analysis, rampant loopiness, and wryly personal ruminations on the most bizarre, joyous, and inescapable songs from a decade we both regret entirely and miss desperately.”
$27.00 hardcover on Amazon
Catch A Fire [50th Anniversary Edition] by Bob Marley
The 2023 reissue of the album contains the original album plus a well-recorded concert in London taped for the BBC during 1973. It also has a selection of alternate takes, rehearsals, and instrumentals recorded as the group were getting the album together, which presents a nice behind-the-scenes look that’s fun to listen to a few times. Topping it off are three songs from a legendary 1973 show in England that has appeared in bootleg form many times. It’s a nice bit of value-added packaging that would have been improved by the inclusion of the original Jamaican mix of the album that was on the 2001 reissue.
$79.70 on vinyl on Amazon
To Anyone Who Ever Asks: The Life, Music, and Mystery of Connie Converse by Howard Fishman
“The mysterious true story of Connie Converse—a mid-century New York City songwriter, singer, and composer whose haunting music never found broad recognition—and one writer’s quest to understand her life.” Partially a biography-from-afar, partially a detective story, Howard Fishman reveals the haunting story of a groundbreaking folk musician and singer/songwriter who predated Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, only to completely disappear from the radar in the early ’70s.
$19.99 hardcover on Amazon
We Are Rewind Portable Cassette Player
Maybe we’re over the vinyl resurgence but not yet at the CD comeback stage. A perfect time of the rise of the cassette tape. Lots of hip labels are issuing things on cassette and nothing looks sharper than this bespoke-looking analog-feeling vintage-smelling tape player (with aux out AND Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities). Bust out your old double-cassette copy of Depeche Mode’s 101 to listen to on the bus, or maybe make a mixtape for your crush and slip it in their stocking.
$159.00 on Amazon
World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music by Jeff Tweedy
“An exciting and heartening mix of memories, music, and inspiration from Wilco frontman and New York Times bestselling author Jeff Tweedy, sharing fifty songs that changed his life, the real-life experiences behind each one, as well as what he’s learned about how music and life intertwine and enhance each other.” Notorious hilarious grump and frontman of Wilco shares his thoughts on songs by the Replacements, Mavis Staples, the Velvet Underground, Joni Mitchell, Otis Redding, Dolly Parton, and Billie Eilish.
$22.80 hardcover on Amazon
BLCMNES Record Player Cabinet
This simple turntable cabinet has storage for up to 200 albums in a deceptively small space. The record shelf is made of strong wooden board, thicker iron, soft oxford fabric and adjustable feet. Adorably they say “We adopt the high-quality material, which is friendly feeling, durable, sturdy and secure.” The interesting difference in this storage method is that the racks on the left are situated for browsing in the same way that most indie record stores present their records. Flip through the racks in the comfort of your own home.
$69.99 on Amazon
The Woman in Me by Britney Spears
Britney Spears made headlines over the past few years from the long-awaited end to her conservatorship, to some pretty intense Instagram dancing with fake(?) knives and most recently a bombshell autobiography. She dishes dirt on JT, her relationship with alcohol and drugs, the #FreeBritney movement, and her complicated thoughts on returning to music. Any way you consume it, the book is a wild ride, but we at AllMusic recommend the audiobook version read by Oscar-winning actress Michelle Williams, complete with her impression of Justin Timberlake.
$5.95 on audiobook on Amazon
Dookie [Deluxe 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] by Green Day
The 30th Anniversary edition of Dookie includes a remastered version of the original album plus two live shows recorded in 1994, one at Woodstock, and one in Spain. It also adds a disc of demos and outtakes, many of which have never been released before. Add in a handful of cool bits of ephemera like branded dog poop bags, a paper airplane, and magnets, and it’s a treasure trove for Green Day fans.
$39.36 on CD on Amazon
Lanegan by Greg Prato
Friend of AllMusic Greg Prato is a prolific author and frequent contributor to the site. One of the books he published in 2023 was this tribute to Screaming Trees vocalist and singer/songwriter Mark Lanegan featuring over 20 all-new interviews. Collaborators, friends, and admirers share their memories of this truly unique figure and vocalist. Read contributions from Screaming Trees’ Gary Lee Conner, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, author Charles R. Cross, TV/radio personality Matt Pinfield, and photographer Charles Peterson (plus producers and/or musicians who were involved in the creation of Mark’s best work).
$27.99 hardcover on Amazon
Kacey Musgraves + Boy Smells Candle
Because who doesn’t want to smell like Kacey Musgraves? Their description says “This rich and beautifully complex wood scent is the best-selling collab between Kacey Musgraves and Boy Smells. Glowing and dark — incense, black pepper and guaiac wood take center stage with whiffs of embers in the distance.” I don’t know what “embers in the distance” smell like, but I’m alright with a slow burn.
$52.00 on Amazon
Music Reaction Figures
We may never get a concert featuring Johnny Cash, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Dee Snyder, and the Grateful Dead Bear, but with these rad action figures from Reaction, you can stage your own weird Bonnaroo on your dining room table. Have Grandmaster Flash DJ a set for Ozone, Special K, Turbo from Breakin’ on the ottoman, reunite Run-DMC on your settee, or build your own supergroup with Jimi Hendrix, Cliff Burton, Animal from The Muppets, and Jem from Jem and the Holograms to have secret adventures in your armoire. The only limit is your imagination (and obviously whether or not the figure you want is in stock).
Around $20.00 on Amazon
The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop by Jonathan Abrams
“The essential oral history of hip-hop, from its origins on the playgrounds of the Bronx to its reign as the most powerful force in pop culture—from the award-winning journalist behind All the Pieces Matter, the New York Times bestselling oral history of The Wire.” Abrams goes deep with Grandmaster Caz, Edward “Duke Bootee” Fletcher, DMC, Ice Cube, Kool Moe Dee and countless more key players in the history of hip-hop.
$20.99 hardcover on Amazon
Fender 18.6′ George Harrison Rocky Instrument Cable
“George Harrison played a variety of iconic guitars throughout his career, but the most visually distinctive was his 1961 Sonic Blue Stratocaster hand-painted in psychedelic Day-Glo orange, red and yellow, affectionately called ‘Rocky.’ Featuring a psychedelic woven jacket, custom molded ends and George Harrison’s signature on the housing, this high-performance cable will maximize the purity of your tone in incomparable style.”
$32.00 on Amazon
The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
“From the legendary music producer, a master at helping people connect with the wellsprings of their creativity, comes a beautifully crafted book many years in the making that offers that same deep wisdom to all of us.” Beardy guru, Rubin offers sage advice on all aspects of the creative life. Even if you’ve never been asked to co-write the bass line to “Give It Away,” you’ll still be able to take away some key lessons from the book.
$17.49 on Amazon
Artliving Record Storage Crate
You can level with us. There’s nobody around and we’re not snitches. You stole that milk crate, didn’t you? Oh, ok maybe YOU didn’t steal it. Maybe your older brother did, or your cool aunt. There is a better way to store your records. This bamboo crate is actually designed to hold up to 80 LPs and will not get you thrown in jail by the dairy squad if they happen to be on patrol in your dorm room. Do better. BE better.
$39.99 on Amazon
Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 Drum Controller
“Meet MASCHINE MIKRO, your flexible, compact companion for making music with a laptop. Use it to tap out beats, play melodies, and build up tracks – fast, fun, and hands-on. Want to start creating right away? We’ve thrown in everything you need including instruments, sounds, effects, and powerful tools like sampling and drum synths.” This incredible device can perform a range of beats and sounds, as evidenced by the unparalleled Lealani whom we caught on tour with Kid Koala in multiple different cities this year.
$199.99 on Amazon
This Must Be the Place: Music, Community and Vanished Spaces in New York City by Jesse Rifkin
“Drawing from over a hundred exclusive interviews with a wide range of musicians, deejays, and scenesters (including members of Peter, Paul and Mary; White Zombie; Moldy Peaches; Sonic Youth; Treacherous Three; Cro-Mags; Sun Ra Arkestra; and Suicide), writer, historian and tour guide Jesse Rifkin painstakingly reconstructs the physical history of numerous classic New York music scenes. This Must Be the Place examines how these scenes came together and fell apart—and shows how these communal artistic experiences are not just for rarefied geniuses but available to us all.”
$25.51 hardcover on Amazon
Now Playing Vinyl Record Stand
You just got back from a great day at the local record show, finding a near-mint copy of Buckingham Nicks as well as an import of Triumph’s Allied Forces, and you can’t wait to dig into them. Instead of piling one LP jacket on top of another haphazardly on the floor, organize the area around your turntable with this simple wooden holder. This baby not only keeps your record room tidy, it also lets the other hipsters know what’s playing. I will now sell five copies of “The Three EPs” by The Beta Band.
$13.95 on Amazon
Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Studio Recordings by Charles Mingus
This handsome box set offers an essential reassessment of the final seven albums the bassist, composer, and bandleader recorded between 1973 and 1979. Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Studio Recordings is packaged with an illustrated booklet containing rare photos and an extensive liner essay by Andrew Homzy. This box presents the opportunity for a major reappraisal of this important yet under-recognized era of Mingus’ work.
$155.31 on Amazon
Old Town Road by Chris Molanphy
“In Old Town Road, Chris Molanphy considers Lil Nas X’s debut single as a pop artifact, chart phenomenon, and cultural watershed. “Old Town Road” was more than a massive hit, with the most weeks at No. 1 in Billboard Hot 100 history. It is also a prism through which to track the evolution of popular music consumption and the ways race influences how the music industry categorizes songs and artists.”
$19.95 on paperback on Amazon
Now and Then by The Beatles
One of the most talked-about songs of the year, this AI-assisted “final” song from the Beatles comes packaged as a double-a-side single with “Love Me Do” (the Fab Four’s first UK single, of course). “‘Now And Then’ is the last Beatles song, written and demoed by John Lennon in the mid/late 1970s. With John’s voice now pristine in the mix, ‘Now And Then’ features elements from the 1995 sessions including George Harrison’s guitar parts, and vocal and instrumental parts recorded by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in 2022, along with a new arrangement for strings. Produced by Paul and Giles Martin, ‘Now And Then’ is the last song recorded by all four Beatles, a powerful and fitting finale for the band’s timeless recordings.”
$53.99 on vinyl on Amazon
Fluance RT82 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
As far as mid-budget record players go, the Fluance series of turntables are surprisingly good value for the price. This version in walnut has exciting things to say out loud like Ortofon OM10 Cartridge, Speed Control Motor, High Mass MDF Wood Plinth, and Vibration Isolation Feet. Whether upgrading from the Crosley suitcase model you got at Target, or looking for a second record player in case your Goldmund Reference II gives out, the Fluance models get the job done amiably.
$299.99 on Amazon
Rap Tees by DJ Ross One
“One of the world’s foremost collectors of all things hip-hop, DJ Ross One presents–for the first time ever–a much sought-after collection of T-shirts in this lushly produced and detailed catalog showcasing over 500 of the genre’s best. Rap Tees outshines all other rap tee collections and will be the definitive reference for generations to come. Providing not only a valuable reference and style guide to these ultra-rare shirts, Rap Tees is also a unique chronology of the history of hip-hop.”
$29.27 hardcover on Amazon
50 Years of De-Evolution 1973–2023 by Devo
A golden anniversary anthology celebrating the music of one of the visionary bands of the American new wave. No one interested in the bleeding edge of New Wave should be without 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and 1980’s Freedom of Choice, but if you’re looking for a concise yet thorough summation of one of the smartest and most inventive bands of their time, 50 Years of De-Evolution 1973-2023 will fill the void nicely.
$39.89 on vinyl on Amazon
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$12.00 on AllMusic