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Studio One's 2023 gift guide for fans and music lovers

We've been keeping track of books and musical stocking stuffers all year from artists we play and have worked with in 2023.
We've been keeping track of books and musical stocking stuffers all year from artists we play and have worked with in 2023.

Looking for the perfect gift for a music lover in your life this holiday season? Me too! Here's a list of cool merch items and musical things I've seen released this year or have heard about from people who love to listen.

Also remember: some of the most thoughtful gifts cost nothing. Do not underestimate the power of making someone in your life a thoughtful playlist!

For guitar players

Kaki King's passarelle guitar bridge

The Passerelle is a bridge that turns any six-string guitar into a 12-note instrument that can produce sounds reminiscent of the Japanese koto or the Chinese guzheng. It can be used just for sound effects or as an entirely new instrument for composition. The Passerelle is a collaboration between Kaki King and Luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz, both innovators and free thinkers who push the boundaries of their crafts. Listen to Kaki’s songs “Nails” and “Bowen Island” to hear it in action. It is made and finished by hand in Rhode Island.

We had the absolute pleasure of watching this device in action during Des Moines Performing Arts' Live at the Temple series. Watch here.

Make your own guitar pick punch

Turn unwanted plastic, like expired credit cards and IDs, into custom guitar picks.

Musical jewelry

Dessa's Thinkpiece necklace

The "thinkpiece" in Dessa's handwriting was inspired by a lyric from 'Decoy,' a single off Dessa's new album Bury the Lede: "Not a sidepieceor a wifepiece/ I'm a thinkpiece." It was designed in collaboration with Larissa Loden.

For vinyl collectors

A subscription to Vinyl Moon

Vinyl Moon is a monthly vinyl subscription and music discovery series for people who love concept albums and original art. Brandon Bogajewicz searches the globe for the best new music from indie-rock, indie-pop, alt-dance, electronic, beat tape and more. He then creates mixes of his favorite songs and moods to press onto beautiful colored vinyl. Each release is a diverse mixtape guaranteed to introduce you to stellar new artists.

Vinyl records!

Here's a list of all the 2023 releases that became instant gold that most of us probably can't afford. (The most valued release from this calendar year is going for more than $1,000.)

What you probably can afford is a trip to your local record store to crate dig. There are several indie record shops in Iowa. Find them all on our Iowa Music map.

For self care

Loop earplugs

Have a music lover in your life who attends a lot of live shows or works at a music venue? That's a hazardous environment for your hearing, and we've tested a lot of different kinds of earplugs. We can't say enough positive things about the Loop designs.

Mama Bear Botanicals Face Oil

If you're familiar with Abbie Sawyer's music, you might be interested to know that she also has a skin care line.

"I’ve been making this face oil for myself, family and friends for a few years," she told us. "The more bottles I handed out, the more I was asked for refills. So after much encouragement, I decided to share this with a wider audience. My hope is that Mama Bare Botanicals brings joy, comfort and inner glow to everyone who uses it."

Mama Bear face oil is a hand-crafted oil to nourish face, hair, nails and soul. For all genders and all skin types.

Call Me Daddy Beard Oil

A special collaboration between Prarieland Herbs and Madison Ray, Call Me Daddy Beard oil is a premium hair and beard oil custom crafted by PLH and scent blended by Madison. Smooth a small amount on your beard (or hair) and you’re (almost) guaranteed to turn heads. Sandalwood, Vanilla and Ylang-ylang scent will render you nearly irresistible!

For card players

Game That Song card game (think Apples to Apples, but for music)

Have you ever spent time sharing music with your friends? This timeless tradition connects us like no other activity can. But with "Game That Song," the competition is on! Who can pick the best song for the topic on the card?

University of Dope hip-hop university card game

All the rhymes, rivalries and reps are up for debate in this hip-hop game where there are no wrong answers. Make no mistake, dropping knowledge will most definitely help you rise to the top, but this boozy card-based competition relies on making difficult decisions and expressing unpopular opinions to spark friendly, heated discussions.

You and up to five opposing players must answer questions like "Which artist would you remove from hip hop history?" and "What's the best hip-hop soundtrack?" or show off on-the-spot abilities like rapping the lyrics to "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" or doing a 15-second impression of DJ Khaled. Majority rules will determine the loser of each round, so align with the crew's vibe, or find yourself lost in gin and juice. Can't keep up? You best refill that cup because school is officially in session.

For readers

Don't Tell Anybody The Secrets I Told You by Lucinda Williams

This New York Times bestseller is from the unique perspective of Grammy award winner and songwriter Lucinda Williams. In the book, she writes about being raised in a working-class family in the Deep South, moving from town to town each time her father — a poet, a textbook salesman, a professor, a lover of parties — got a new job, totaling 12 different places by the time she was 18 years old. Her mother suffered from severe mental illness and was in and out of hospitals. And when Williams was about a year old, she had to have an emergency tracheotomy — an inauspicious start for a singing career. But she was also born a fighter, and she would develop a voice that has captivated millions.

In Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You, Williams takes readers through the events that shaped her music — from performing for family friends in her living room to singing at local high schools and colleges in Mexico City, to recording her first album with Folkway Records and headlining a sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall. She reveals the inspirations for her unforgettable lyrics, including the doomed love affairs with “poets on motorcycles” and the gothic southern landscapes of the many different towns of her youth, including Macon, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge and New Orleans

Music Is History by Questlove

Focusing on the years 1971 to the present, Questlove finds the hidden connections in the American tapestry, whether investigating how the blaxploitation era reshaped Black identity or considering the way disco took an assembly line approach to Black genius. And these critical inquiries are complemented by his own memories as a music fan, and the way his appetite for pop culture taught him about America.

A history of the last half-century and an intimate conversation with one of music’s most influential and original voices, Music Is History is a singular look at contemporary America.

Mud Ride: A Messy Trip Through the Grunge Explosion by Steve Turner with Adem Tepedelen

Mud Ride is a title that caught our attention for grunge fans. From his days as a guitarist in the seminal Seattle alt rock band Green River, to his tenure in long-running Sub Pop Records act Mudhoney (who just released their 11th album, Plastic Eternity), Steve Turner managed to ride the grunge wave all the way from obscurity to international acclaim and come out the other end still standing.

And what’s most interesting about Turner’s memoir is that it comes from the perspective of someone who was close to the center of the storm, but didn’t have to navigate the pitfalls of fame that befell higher profile acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Turner also carefully unwinds the many intertwining threads of Seattle’s late ’80s-early ’90s music scene, when musical chairs among bands was the norm, to make this a thorough first-hand account of the period.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly Stone

The book in the same name as the song, written by a recently sober Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone with the New Yorker’s Ben Greenman (and the first release from Questlove’s AUWA Books), might be the unlikeliest memoir we got in 2023. Stone is 80 these days. The book moves from Sly’s early career as a radio DJ and record producer through the dizzying heights of the San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s and into the darker, denser life (and music) of 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles.

Lunacy: The Curious Phenomenon of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, 50 Years On by John Kruth

Released in March of 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon quickly topped the U.S. Billboard charts and took up residence there for over 700 weeks, selling over4 5 million copies to date. In Lunacy, award-winning music biographer John Kruth ("A fantastic writer" — Jim Jarmusch) delves into the making of this iconic record and considers why it continues to speak to generation after generation of music lovers around the world.

Tupac Shakur: The Authorized Biography by Staci Robinson

Tupac Shakur is one of the greatest and most controversial artists of all time. More than a quarter of a century after his tragic death in 1996 at the age of just 25, he continues to be one of the most misunderstood, complicated and influential figures in modern history. Drawing on exclusive access to Tupac's private notebooks, letters and uncensored conversations with those who loved and knew him best, this estate-authorized biography paints the fullest and most intimate picture to date of the young man who became a legend for generations to come.

In Tupac Shakur, author and screenwriter Staci Robinson — who knew Tupac from their shared circle of high school friends in Marin City, California, and who was entrusted by his mother, Afeni Shakur, to share his story — unravels the myths and unpacks the complexities that have shadowed Tupac's existence.

Madonna: A Rebel Life by Mary Gabriel

With her arrival on the music scene in the early 1980s, Madonna generated nothing short of an explosion — as great as that of Elvis or the Beatles — taking the nation by storm with her liberated politics and breathtaking talent. Within two years of her 1983 debut album, a flagship Macy's store in Manhattan held a Madonna lookalike contest featuring Andy Warhol as a judge, and opened a department called "Madonna-land."

But Madonna was more than just a pop star. Everywhere, fans gravitated to her as an emblem of a new age, one in which feminism could shed the buttoned-down demeanor of the 1970s and feel relevant to a new generation. Amid the scourge of AIDS, she brought queer identities into the mainstream, fiercely defending a person's right to love whomever — and be whoever — they wanted.

Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones by Dolly Parton

In Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones, global superstar Dolly Parton shares, for the first time, the full story behind her lifelong passion for fashion, including how she developed her own, distinctly Dolly style, which has defied convention and endeared her to fans around the world.

Featuring behind-the-scenes stories from Dolly Parton's life and career, and the largest reveal of her private costume archive, this gorgeously photographed book spotlights her most unforgettable looks from the 1960s to now.

For young readers

The Story of the Saxophone

The Story of the Saxophone is a children's book inspired by a mutual love of jazz and the 2001 PBS documentary Jazz. Learn how saxophonists like Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young were instrumental in helping the saxophone gain popularity in the jazz world.

Fest Friends

Ramona Muse Lambert, a Des Moines-based musician and artist, is well-known in Iowa for her musical illustrations and her devotion to the joy of the chaos. She's best known as the illustrator behind the popular Hinterland Hinterkids activity books. This summer, she has something new for musical kiddos and their families: an illustrated children's book. The new project is called Fest Friends, and the storyline happens at Hinterland. Her husband Derek wrote the story, and she illustrated the book.

For public radio fans

A gift membership supporting IPR Studio One!

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer