WE'RE YOUR HERO: How many times have we pulled your fat out of the fire? Don't start counting, it'll take all day.

Now, here we go again, helping you get out of this final week before Christmas with a last-minute gift-buying guide.

Happily, the gift ideas aren't ours, otherwise all your relatives would get miracle Drinking Birds and books on hygiene for Christmas (two of our lucky relatives will, in fact, be receiving those very gifts. That's why we're the Joy of Christmas personified).

While you've been weaving from holiday party to holiday party ignoring your gift-buying duties, we've been staying sober and compiling what various experts are calling the best stuff of the year.

POPULAR MUSIC: Music is one of the most popular gifts for a few reasons, not the least of which is the attractive $15 price point. Here are the top five virtual albums that have been virtually leaping off the virtual shelves at iTunes. You can buy them at the record store, too:

1. "21," Adele

2. "Red," Taylor Swift

3. "Babel," Mumford & Sons

4. "Up All Night," One Direction

5. "Fun Nights," Fun.

ANTI-POPULAR MUSIC: If you're buying for a kid who knows what good music is, that kid isn't going to want a best-selling CD for a gift. There's nothing that young music experts hate more than music that sells like crazy. We know; we are that kid.


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Here's what the more discerning fans/writers/editors at the A.V. Club have dubbed the best of the year:

1. "Metz," Metz

2. "Bend Beyond," Woods

3. "The Seers," Swans

4. "Channel Orange," Frank Ocean

5. "The Idler Wheel," Fiona Apple

READERS: Books follow music closely in the gift-giving standings, again with the price point, though it's a heftier $25 or so. The Daily Beast has compiled the best-of lists by critics at the New York Times, the Washington Post and others and came up with a consensus list that's real good (in that we pretty much agree with it). It's a top-five list with eight entries because of a messy tie for fifth place:

1. "Bringing Up the Bodies," Hilary Mantel

2. "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," Ben Fountain

3. "The Yellow Birds," Kevin Powers

4. "NW," Zadie Smith

5. "Canada," Richard Ford

5. "Dear Life," Alice Munro

5. "Gone Girl," Gillian Flynn (we didn't like it)

5. "Arcadia," Lauren Groff

GADGETRY: Techno-gadgets are greatly appreciated gifts. And, save for the miracle Drinking Bird, fairly expensive. But what's money? Nothing. Here are Time magazine's top five gadgets for 2012:

1. Apple iPhone 5

2. Nintendo Wii U game controller

3. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 camera

4. Raspberry Pi Model B, a little credit-card-size computer on a USB stick that plugs into your computer or TV

5. Lytro, a camera that allows you to change focus and perspective after the photo's been taken.

MOTHER'S DAY: If those gifts are too gizmo-y, try one of Esquire magazine's Gifts for Your Technophobe Mother. We must be getting old, motherly and technophobic, because we'd happily accept any of these:

1. The iPad Mini

2. Garmin Nuvi 2555 GPS

3. Spotify Gift Card (for streaming music)

4. Hamilton Beach Voice-Controlled Coffee Maker

5. Nest 2.0 Smart Thermostat (set your house's temperature with your smart phone so it'll be toasty/chilly when you get home).

CAR BOW: You know how this time of year you see a lot of TV commercials about people buying cars for gifts during the holidays? That's because some people do that. Especially thoughtful wives. Here are five cars that Men's Health magazine has in its Dream Garage. Giant red bows are extra, but, then, what isn't when you're buying a new car?:

1. Jeep Grand Cherokee STR8 ($54,500)

2. BMW Z4 sDrive 28i ($48,700)

3. Audi A7 ($59,300)

4. Fisker Karma high-performance electric car ($95,900)

5. VW Passat TDI ($27,900)

tgrobaty@yahoo.com, 562-714-2116, twitter.com/grobaty