Musical Xmas Presents: alt-J, Ellie Goulding, Frank Ocean and Taylor Swift

So, this week let’s look at what you might get for your younger family and friends this year. Of course, no-one under 25 actually buys physical music anymore, so if you present them with a CD you may get stares of amazement as they wonder what this shiny object could possibly be...

It may be too late to get the teenager in your life into Mercury Music Prize winner alt-J with An Awesome Wave. There’s every chance your recipient will be familiar with their quirky dub-folk-pop – but it’s a great album anyway and every home should have one.

I didn’t get the initial hype around Ellie Goulding, but her latest album Halcyon is very confident, clever electro-pop with one stunning track in “Anything Could Happen”. One of the “singles” of the year, if singles still existed... It’s cool enough for the kids to play in front of thier school/Uni friends, but smooth and pleasant enough to avoid musical arguments or having next door neighbours banging on the wall in the hall of residence. Probably appealing more to a female demographic I would guess, although not exclusively.

If your young musical fan has shown any interest in what we might call the more accessible end of soul – from classic Marvin Gaye through to Prince and Outkast – then they will enjoy Frank Ocean with Channel  Orange. It’s winning lots of “best of the year” awards, with its clever, somewhat retro take on soul, hip hop and rock. Much of the album is somewhat more edgy and left-field than the track here, but it is an interesting and rewarding listen.

I can’t bring myself to mention One Direction or Justin Bieber, but I had a pleasant surprise when finally listening to Taylor Swift's album Red. I had her down as another cute, teeny, Svengali-created pop poppet, but actually, it is not bad at all. She writes most of her own material, and it’s tuneful pop-rock with a good sense of dynamics and variation – it might be sacrilege but I even thought of U2 at times. It goes on a bit (16 tracks) but if you buy it for your 12 year old, you might enjoy it more than you expect...

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