If you're still in the market for music gifts after Bitch in a Box: Music Lover's Edition, Part I, here's Part II with even more albums from 2011 that'll make great gifts!
You can find sunny beats, candy-coated melodies, and catchy lyrics even when you're not tuned to Top 40 radio. Here are some independent releases to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Idle Warship – Habits of the Heart
A collaboration between emcee Talib Kweli and singer Res, Idle Warship's November release isn't getting the attention it should. Res's vocals and hooks dominate most of these radio-ready tunes. Plus, the songs get a bit more complex than your average Katy Perry jam when it comes to relationships, as seen on songs like "Beautiful Bad," and "Enemy." (Idle Warship)
Thao & Mirah – Thao & Mirah
Two amazing singer-songwriters collaborating and touring together? This release from Kill Rock Stars is a blast from start to finish, and a must-have for fans of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and Mirah's solo work. (Thao & Mirah)
Ximena Sariñana – Ximena Sariñana
Sariñana's first English album is fun, positive pop à la Sara Bareilles that'd be perfect for your 12-year-old cousin (but you should probably get another copy for hairbrush-mic purposes of your own). And definitely check out her first album, Mediocre. (Ximena Sariñana)
Hunx and His Punx – Too Young to Be in Love
This Hardly Art album is a throwback to the '50s with Hunx (Seth Bogart, who wrote one of our best B-Sides posts ever) and his Punx (an all-girl band including Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams fame) taking on teenage heartache, longing, and lust with a distinctively campy and queer twist. (Hunx and His Punx)
Also consider: Seapony – Seapony, Mary J. Blige – My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act I), Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
For more folk and country fare, here are some warblers recommended for truck-driving, coffee-brewing, and barn-raising—music that, in general, makes a gal feel less like she's drinking alone.
Lydia Loveless – Indestructible Machine
Repping Columbus, Ohio, this guitar slinger doesn't just use "Loveless" as a last name, but wields the urgency of loving too hard and losing too much in every song. Rollicking and well-written, this was one of my best discoveries of the year. (Lydia Loveless)
Gillian Welch – The Harrow & the Harvest
Americana musician Gillian Welch is back with ten minor-keyed folk songs of quietly plucked strings and fragile harmonies with collaborator David Rawings. As far as gift-giving, you might consider including a hankie and shotglass when you wrap it up. (Gillian Welch)
Rachel Brooke – Down in the Barnyard
For some acoustic goodness it's fun to learn the words to, check out Michigan-based Brooke's February release is full of sweet songs with lonesome sentiments over banjo strums. (Rachel Brooke)
Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
Out of Murfreesboro, Tennesse, Those Darlins make twangy, dirty, unapologetic rock about good times and, as the album name suggests, loose screws. I think "Be Your Bro" is the perfect song about platonic politics. (Those Darlins)
Also consider: Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain't Over, Emmylou Harris – Hard Bargain, Little Lisa Dixie – Self Titled
The Dance Party DJ
For pals in need of more remix-worthy records, or who host impromptu weekday-night dance parties, these albums will be a welcome addition to their collections.
Amalia – Art Slave
Armed with Swedish producer Opolopo, Amalia channels Grace Jones, Chaka Khan, and a bunch more '80s goodness while managing a digital dancefloor flavor. Even though you can get the record for free, your turn-tabling friend will probably want a hard copy. (Amalia)
Little Jackie – Made4tv
Sophomore slump this isn't: soulful, poppy, duo Imani Coppola and Adam Pallin take on their second record with Motown-inspired, beautifully mastered pop songs that have cheeky but heartfelt lyrics. (Little Jackie)
Escort – Escort
It's not easy to take your 17-piece "disco orchestra" on the road, so you better snatch up this debut LP from Brooklyn's ambitious and excellent Escort for your own personal dancefloor. (Escort)
Here are some stocking stuffers for that friend who needs the latest Japanese B-Side, unreleased acoustic addition, limited re-release, or ultimate iTunes collection.
Daphne Oram – The Oram Tapes: Volume One
It's a goddamn shame more people don't know about Daphne Oram. A pioneer in electronic music (when electronic music meant using MASSIVE MACHINES instead of Pro Tools), she founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and invented the Oramics machine (look it up). This 46-track, 4-LP, 2.5 hours of unrelased Oram materials compiled from over 400 reel-to-reel tapes will satisfy the most hipster of collections. (The Oram Tapes)
Amy Winehouse – Lioness
This compilation of unreleased material from the late Winehouse is hard to say no to. If "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" doesn't leave you in tears…I might think you're a monster. (Lioness)
Sade – The Ultimate Collection
Sade. Ultimate Collection. What else do you need to know? (Sade)
The Smiths Project Boxset
Mother/musician Janice Whaley took it upon herself to cover the entire Smiths catalogue using only her voice and editing software. Technically this came out in 2010, but now you can get a box set of 71 tracks of the Smiths you've never heard before! And you're supporting the most independent of independent artists! (The Smiths Project)
Also consider: Tindersticks – Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009, Kate Bush – Director's Cut, Gil Scott Heron and Jamie XX – We're New Here
And in case you missed it: Bitch in a Box: Music Lover's Edition, Part I