With the passing of Thanksgiving, tours start thinning out because of holidays and travel conditions, and suddenly it seems like every other new release is an album of Brian Setzer Christmas tunes. Those of us in the Reader‘s music department feel your pain. (Go ahead and try to find a show the week of Christmas that you’d be really amped to write about.) But we’re doing everything we can to help keep away the wintertime blues. Yours and ours.

In the music section of our current issue, Noah Berlatsky gives us his take on Pink Friday, the debut album from the Harajuku Barbie of hip-hop, Nicki Minaj. Photo Pit reports back from a benefit for Pakistani flood victims last Friday where the likes of Sally Timms and Chris Connelly performed, and as usual the List is full of tips on the best shows of the upcoming week, including Talk Normal, the Roots, Galactic Inmate (who play the Inkbomb! rock poster show), and Chris Speed’s Endangered Blood. There’s also a preview of this weekend’s Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival.

By the way, if you haven’t yet read the Peter Margasak cover story on overlooked soul man Syl Johnson from last week’s issue, you owe it to yourself to do so. Then you’ll want to follow that up with this highly entertaining Q&A with Syl in the Village Voice, which contains the shocking revelation that members of the Wu-Tang Clan use profane language in casual conversation.