When you're shopping for the Gnome, you're shopping for big-ticket items. Stereo systems. Wide-screen TVs with top-shelf DVD players. Audiophile speakers in real teak cabinets. But then, you probably can't afford such lavish gifts. Not with those stock options falling faster than Mayor Schell's popularity rating.
Normally, the Gnome wouldn't even deign to address such a loser, but since it's that time of year, the time when your knobby correspondent hobbles off to Norway to visit the famille, drink lots of glg, and fascinate the gnomettes with tales from Seattle's music scene (oh, how they swoon when I mention Eddie Vedder), the Gnome's gonna cut you some slack. Here are some cheap gifts that'll make you seem like you know what the hell you're doing, whether your friend or loved one is a hipster, a dripster, or a software programmer.
First things first: If you're buying a gift for anyone who listens to music on a computer, it's imperative that you get them hooked up with a Wow Thing ($29.95, available at www.wowthing.com). This nifty little product from SRS Labs hooks into a computer sound card and dramatically improves the dynamics of the sound coming from those Altec Lansings or whatever tiny, tinny speakers were thrown in with your box. Housed in a translucent casing, this Walkman-size device also features knobs that bring up the high end and give depth to the low end. The Wow Thing can also hook into a game console, to a home stereo, or to a personal disc player. But it's most useful with a computer, where it can turn your WinAmp, Real Jukebox, or Windows Media Player into a desktop stereo with a kick.
You'll need to supply some music, and the Gnome's always rootin' for the home team. So it's time to hunt down some discs by local bands. For the R-O-C-K fan, start with two recently released discs by the Supersuckers: The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World, a best-of collection on Sub Pop; and The Evil Powers of Rock 'N' Roll, a disc of new material on Aces & Eights. Indie-rock hangers-on will appreciate obscure gems, and the Gnome humbly suggests Pillow (on Barsuk) by Little Champions, a band with male-female vocals and a crisp melodic attack that falls somewhere between the B-52s and the Pixies. For the more pop-minded listener, there's Five Gears in Reverse's You're Not Asking the Right Questions (on Montesano), which starts with a Beatles/Beach Boys aesthetic and adds a slightly mopey modern touch. One last word of advice: Shop at your local record store. You betcha!