A Gift Guide for Your Friend Who Still Consumes Physical Media

A Gift Guide for Your Friend Who Still Consumes Physical Media

Vinyl, Blu-ray, and book enthusiasts need love—and presents—too.

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Image: Sony Pictures/Welbeck/One Little Independent/Parkwood/Columbia/Asylum/Random House

Streaming made life easier for pop culture consumers, but it made gift-buying a lot more difficult. For a while, a piece of media was a way to buy a specific but affordable gift that an entertainment-obsessed friend would almost certainly enjoy (or at least appreciate). And then streaming happened and no one wanted stuff or had the means to play it. But with vinyl’s comeback, I’ve noticed that it’s once again easy to come up with a thoughtful yet easy-enough gift for my turntable-having friends. It makes them happy, and making them happy makes me happy. This is a season of joy.

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This gift guide collects some of the most notable and satisfying physical media releases of 2022: vinyl records, 4K Blu-ray discs, books, and a little something sweet to wash it all down with.

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2 / 12

Beyoncé, Renaissance

Beyoncé, Renaissance

Vinyl isn’t exactly the way a digitally recorded album is meant to be heard, but so much of the source material Beyoncé references on Renaissance lived its best life on vinyl—so vinyl is sort of the way this album is meant to be heard. The blockbuster release sold a huge amount of vinyl its first week, spawned two hit singles (“Break My Soul” and “Cuff It”), and has been named the No. 1 album of the year by the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. The music fan in your life may already have it, but if not, a “collector’s edition” package, featuring a photo booklet, a poster, and more, can be obtained through Beyoncé’s official site for the pulse-pounding price of $63.

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Malcolm X (Criterion Collection UHD 4K)

Malcolm X (Criterion Collection UHD 4K)

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Image: Criterion

When he released his Denzel Washington-starring biopic Malcolm X in 1992, writer-director Spike Lee famously suggested that kids skip school to see the movie and ingest “the American history [children are] not getting in school.” When you think about conservatives’ recent efforts to stop schools from teaching the truth about this country’s racist history, Lee’s message feels just as apt 30 years later. But Lee fans will need more than a day to make it through everything in Criterion’s just-released deluxe edition of the handsome film, now presented in gleaming 4K. There’s a commentary, a full-length documentary about Malcolm X from 1972, a new interview with Lee, an essay, and more. Cop it at the Criterion website for $34.96 or by (virtually) any other means necessary.

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Patti Smith, A Book of Days

Patti Smith, A Book of Days

Random House’s official description of this book of pictures by musician Patti Smith calls it “brilliantly idiosyncratic,” which is like calling a tabby cat “extremely hairy.” Of course it’s idiosyncratic—it’s Patti Smith. Inspired by Smith’s Instagram and featuring more than 365 images, some exclusive to this book, it’s like scrolling through a feed the old fashioned way. Watch out for paper cuts. Get it at the Penguin Random House website for $28.99.

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George Michael, Older (Deluxe Box Set)

George Michael, Older (Deluxe Box Set)

To give you a sense of just how out of their minds vinyl collectors are, before George Michael’s third solo album, Older, was reissued this year, copies of the 1996 original pressings were going for hundreds of dollars on the online vinyl marketplace Discogs (sometimes over $1,000). To be fair to the deep-pocketed enthusiasts, Older is a fascinating portrait of life in a glass closet, an album dedicated in part to Michael’s first love, Anselmo Feleppa, but released before he officially came out. But now it can be had for the far more reasonable price of $39.98, thanks to a new, remastered pressing. For the Michael maniac in your life, though, there is the deluxe edition box set available at the U.K. George Michael store for the heftier price of £140. The package features the album on vinyl and disc with tons of extras (including a vinyl version of the Upper EP, which contains some remixes that helped propel the album’s incredible success in his homeland), a book, and lithographs.

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Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Collection

Sony Pictures Classics 30th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Collection

The sheer scope within this cube of cinema is astounding. The 11 movies included are: Orlando; The Celluloid Closet; The City of Lost Children; SLC Punk; Run Lola Run; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Devil’s Backbone; Volver; Synecdoche, New York; Still Alice; and Call Me By Your Name. The seemingly random assortment speaks to the breadth of Sony Pictures Classics’ roster and may appeal to a cinephile of a certain age (think Gen X) who has been following independent film for decades. Because of the (general) emphasis on presenting as close to a theatrical experience as possible with UHD discs (grain is good; sharpening and noise reduction is not), there’s a real potential for sense memory here when rewatching something as it appeared on screen years ago. (I felt this in particular with Run Lola Run.) The transfers here are almost uniformly top rate; there are hours and hours of bonuses to get lost in; and it’s potentially a great way to pass time during that often empty week between Christmas and New Year’s. A lot of movies means a lot of money, but Amazon currently has it reduced by 33 percent at $202.48.

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Björk, Fossora

Björk, Fossora

“Difficult” albums—like Björk’s psilocybin melange of bass clarinet noodling and rapid gabber techno beats, Fossora—benefit from the vinyl format, which encourages full-length listening. Analog shuffling, you see, requires you to get out of your seat and move the needle, and who wants to do that? Move past that which is mystifying or even initially off-putting, and you may like it. The Fossora vinyl has the added feature of alternate takes of some of its songs (apparently, Björk did some revising between the pressing of the first batch of vinyl and the final version of the album that made it to digital platforms). In many ways, though, Fossora is an exhilarating return to form, and particularly rewarding for those who enjoy a challenge. Rough Trade has an exclusive clear vinyl for $44.99 and various other colors cheaper.

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Little Guides to Style: Volume II

Little Guides to Style: Volume II

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Image: Welbeck

There’s something about putting a bunch of little books together that makes them very...gift-worthy. Welbeck follows last year’s Little Guides to Style—which included heavily visual profiles written by fashion journalist Emma Baxter-Wright of fashion houses Chanel, Dior, Prada, and Gucci—with this year’s edition: Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Schiaparelli, and Yves Saint Laurent. Next year will see a third edition featuring Balenciaga, Hermès, Valentino, and Chanel by Lagerfeld. Volume II is $43.99 at Amazon.

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9 / 12

Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3

Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3

Another 4K grab bag features a decade-hopping lineup: 1934's It Happened One Night; 1953's From Here to Eternity; 1966's To Sir with Love; 1971's The Last Picture Show; 1981's Annie; and 1997's As Good As It Gets. Most of the 12 selections from the previous Columbia Classics set have not been made available individually, so if you want one, you may need to buy them all. This is a particularly strong lineup, though—The Last Picture Show is stunning and stark thanks to the white whites and black blacks that 4K allows, and Annie is resplendent in its widescreen glory. Take it from me, it’s really nice to be able to sing “We Got Annie” and have it be true. This is currently on sale at Amazon for $71.49, or more than half off.

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Joni Mitchell, The Asylum Albums (1972-1975)

Joni Mitchell, The Asylum Albums (1972-1975)

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Image: Asylum

The three studio (and one live) albums following Joni Mitchell’s beloved Blue were an incredible fertile time for the singer-songwriter’s creativity. On 1972's For the Roses, the melodies were more subtle, the arrangements knottier. She predicted her career’s death on the title track bemoaning the industry part of the music industry (“Just when you’re getting a taste for worship/They start bringing out the hammers/And the boards/And the nails”). And then the worship kicked into high gear two years later with her biggest selling album, Court and Spark, featuring her highest peaking pop hit, “Help Me.” The double live album Miles of Aisles came later that year, itself spawning a huge hit with the live version of “Big Yellow Taxi.” And then Mitchell pushed further into the jazz hybrids that would define her mid career with The Hissing of Summer Lawns, a cinematic critique of American bourgeoisie life that was Prince’s favorite Joni album. (Mine too.) This remastered set sounds great—all the better to blow the mind of your friend who thinks Ladies of the Canyon is the be all end all. You can grab it for $124.98 at Joni Mitchell’s store.

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Hereditary Gingerbread Treehouse Kit

Hereditary Gingerbread Treehouse Kit

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Image: A24

OK, so this isn’t technically media, but it’s media adjacent and it’s so sick that we couldn’t not include it. The holiday tradition of the gingerbread house gets a radical revision in this model of the treehouse from the horror movie about grief, Hereditary. This is where the magic, via Paimon, happens. Try not to set yourself on fire while building. It’s at A24's website for $62.

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