8 alternative albums to buy any music lover this Christmas
GIMP Loki album cover

If you asked the WOW247 team to predict the top selling album this Christmas, our money would be on something by Taylor Swift, Sam Smith or the cast of Frozen. In other words, mainstream artists have the monopoly on the charts – but how many genuine music obsessives will appreciate unwrapping a copy of 1989 on Christmas morning?

To really surprise your vinyl-worshipping loved ones this year, put some thought into their Christmas present and try to gift an album they’ll love by an artist even they may never have heard of before.

Realistically, you might not have time to spend hours raking through the racks in your local record shop, so we’ve enlisted the help of music lover, journalist and blogger Lis (of Last Year’s Girl) to write a definitive album-themed Christmas gift guide. Over to Lis to tell you all about the best records that 2014 has to offer…

Lis Last Year's Girl music blogger
[Picture: @lastyearsgirl_]

If you believe everything you read, nobody’s buying albums any more – unless they’re by Taylor Swift. When you think about it, though, the humble CD makes the perfect Christmas gift: it’s personal, easy to wrap and looks way better under the tree than an iTunes gift card. Here are some ‘under the radar’ releases that will make perfect presents – whatever their taste.

1. Country: Colfax by The Delines

Colfax The Delines album cover

As the author of The Motel Life – which became a critically-acclaimed film last year – Richmond Fontaine frontman Willy Vlautin is perhaps better known for his stories than his songwriting these days, which must be the only reason this gorgeous, melancholy record got so little attention. Singer Amy Boone brings gin-soaked soul to Vlautin’s lyrics, while the Decemberists’ Jenny Conlee adds some bar-room piano blues. (£12.53)

Order this online

They might also like: Burn Your Fire for No Witness by Angel Olson

2. Punk: Rips by Ex Hex

Rips Ex Hex album cover

The debut album from this DC garage rock trio is perhaps the most appropriately named record of the year, delivering 12 pure punches of aural adrenalin in around 35 minutes. Rips takes its cues from power pop and 1970s garage rock – seething and swaggering, and never outstaying its welcome. (£10.07)

Order this online

They might also like: Break Out by Chris Devotion & the Expectations

3. Shoegazers: Heartstrings by Howling Bells

Hearstrings Howling Bells album cover

As tempted as I was to list this under ‘soul’, it was a bit of a reach too far. Howling Bells’ frontwoman and lead songwriter Juanita Stein has always had a voice that would stop anybody in their tracks, but as anybody who listened to the London-by-way-of-Sydney four-piece when they first emerged 10 years ago could tell you – it’s never just been about the voice. Loud but never knowingly jarring, Heartstrings is an emotive, absorbing album that deserves to be turned up loud enough to drown out everything else. (£8.99)

Order this online

They might also like: Too True by Dum Dum Girls

4. Pop: Tough Love by Jessie Ware

Tough Love Jessie Ware album cover

Can I get away with describing a onetime Mercury-nominated songwriter as ‘under the radar’? I’m going to sneak this one in on a technicality as Tough Love – the follow-up to Jessie Ware’s lauded debut Devotion – is hardly packed with radio-friendly drivetime hits. It’s only after repeated listens that it becomes clear just how insistent (and beautiful) these sweet songs of heartbreak are. (£12.99)

Order this online

They might also like: Creation by The Pierces

5. Hip-hop: G.I.M.P. – Government Issue Music Protest by Loki

GIMP Loki album cover

Wondering where all the good protest singers are in 2014? They’ve got rid of their guitars in favour of using rhymes and beats as fascist-killing machines – there’s room for more words that way. He’s been around for years but Darren “Loki” McGarvey only emerged as an important political and cultural commentator this year. His ambitious concept album about a dystopian future Scotland is a powerful – and hilarious – listen. (£8)

Order this online

They might also like: A Thing Brand New by Stanley Odd

6. Girlband: Honeyblood by Honeyblood

Honeyblood album cover

Created from the simplest of ingredients – guitar and drums, two-part harmonies and casual kiss-offs – this self-titled album from Glasgow two-piece Honeyblood is easily one of the year’s finest debuts. Stina Tweeddale’s candy-coated vocals are by turns venomous (‘Super Rat’) and lovestruck (‘Fall Forever’), while the band’s minimal setup never sounds underdone. (£9.57)

Order this online

They might also like: Hour of the Dawn by La Sera

7. Singer-songwriter: Somewhere Else by Lydia Loveless

Somewhere Else Lydia Loveless album cover

Ohio-born country singer Lydia Loveless has a voice that belies her 24 years – raw, rich and ragged. Somewhere Else is her third album and it’s a brutally honest catalogue of mistakes, desire, heartbreak and resentment – but one that comes with unshakeable conviction and a killer soundtrack. (£11.12)

Order this online

They might also like: Are We There by Sharon van Etten

8. Classic rock: Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Born in the USA by various artists

Dead Man's Town various artists album cover

Of course the classic rock fan on your list loves Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, which is why – 30 years on – this reimagining by some of the leading lights of contemporary americana is a perfect gift. Artists including Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Joe Pug, Low and Nicole Atkins reinterpret these beloved, bombastic songs in a style more akin to The Boss’s haunted Nebraska. (£9.49)

Order this online

They might also like: Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs

Check out Lis’s lifestyle and music blog Last Year’s Girl or keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.

Share this on Twitter: