Pitchfork made a selection of 11 best new music books. Among them: 'A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance' by Hanif Abdurraqib because of "language that evokes possibility; memoir that is both vulnerable and instructive; cultural analysis that deftly rejects linear historicizing; unlikely connections that tilt a reader’s understanding of the world"; 'Crying in H Mart', the debut book from Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner - "a gutting music memoir disguised as literary mukbang"; 'In Defense of Ska' by Aaron Carner "is a lovingly written defense of a vibrant, diverse musical underground that stayed afloat against all odds".

The Quietus presents a new book about hip hop’s relation to reality TV, 'Who Got the Camera? A History of Rap and Reality' by Eric Harvey. "Harvey’s central idea, borrowed from French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, that reality rap be understood as a 'hyper-reality'. By this phrase Baudrillard had in mind a world where spectacle and reality become indivisible, where media presentations of the Gulf War or of King’s beating, for instance, overwhelm any actual event. It’s an idea that serves Harvey’s understanding of the King tape, rap music, and reality TV, insofar as all amount to instances where reality and its representation become more or less indiscernible".

"In a postmodern pop cultural moment, when notions of purism and authenticity seem irredeemably old-fashioned, it may seem like an odd time to write a book that is not only a history of popular music’s defining categories – rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance and pop – but an unapologetic defence of them" - Guardian writes in a review of a new book 'Major Labels' by Kelefa Sanneh, about music’s top categories. The G concludes that "devotion to a sound, whether hip-hop or hardcore, is essentially about community and belonging; a way to signify our togetherness and signal our difference, often through allegiance to one style at the expense of all others".

Exploring British youth culture of the time, 'Scorcha!: Skins, Suedes and Style From The Streets 1967 -1973' is "a hefty book by Paul Anderson and Mark Baxter. Covering the rise of first the suedeheads and then the skinheads on British streets, it is a fascinating, lovingly compiled piece tracking in detail the fade from the musicality of the modish, ska-loving suedeheads – who were bravely swimming against the prevailing hippy tide in 1967 – into the more brutish skinheads. The attention to interview detail and mountains of picture research is monumental" - The New Cue recommends a new book.

"Jazz has somehow rediscovered its roots as populist music, embarking on a new and unscripted dialogue with mainstream culture. To some extent, jazz has even turned into a kind of talisman for forward-looking sounds in commercial music" - jazz music writer Ted Gioia writes in the third edition of his great book 'The History of Jazz', out now. "Artists as different from each other as Kamasi Washington, Esperanza Spalding, Shabaka Hutchings, and Robert Glasper have shown that they can draw on the full range of current-day song styles without losing their jazz roots, and attract a young crossover audience who are energized and excited by this give-and-take".

Former Maccabees guitarist and current member of Tailender podcast team, Felix White has written a memoir 'Always Summer Somewhere' about his band's breakup, about being the inspiration of an entire Florence Welch album, and his obsession with cricket. "It’s a brilliant book, funny, reflective, sad, funny again, dealing with the worst things life can throw at you with a real lightness of touch" - The New Cue gives its verdict. They also talked to the guy. White said that "some of the hardest stuff to write, that I really wasn't sure that I should or not, was the stuff about being a nice guy in a band but knowing that I'm being a nice guy in a band, because it was from a position of power".

“YOU NO TALK! YOU NO TALK! YOU NO PLAY! YOU COST ME! WHY YOU NO PLAY? YOU WANT ME KILL YOUR FRIEND?” - a supposed boss of supposed Taipei mafia was yelling on Richard Marx's phone in 1989 when the singer postponed his Taipei show due to heavy rain. He describes in his new memoir how they took his agent Randy Garelick hostage, demanding Marx to play two shows the day after, no matter the weather. He agreed, of course. Rolling Stone brings an excerpt of the book.

"An inspiring, provocative vision of the many ways popular music matters- how caring writers have addressed its meanings, pleasures, mysteries, racism, sexism, populism, democratic vistas, conflicts of interest, angles of entry, leaps of faith, tricks of fate, joking around, stormy Mondays, mother fuyers, weary blues from waiting, reasons to be cheerful, simple twists of fate, sexy bits, and did I mention racism?" - Robert Christgau writes about new book 'Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music' by (one of his best friends) Eric Weisbard. There are two narrative lines in the book - "the shifting dialectic of vernacular and sentimental and the flowering and wilting of music journalism as a profession".

“In the wake of criminalisation, our nighttime and festival industries had become a massive success... It was still rave, at the end of the day. The spirit was still alive and kicking in the people who chose to get fucked up and go dancing together at every possible opportunity” - author and rave veteran Matthew Smith writes in his new photo-book of ​’00s clubs. Music journalist Simon Reynolds goes beyond the obvious: "In the public but intimate setting of the rave, private fantasies that can’t be expressed within the strictures of routine existence are enacted... We see people both losing themselves and finding themselves, building a collective dreamworld under the cover of night”. The Face invites us to step inside 'Full On, No-Stop-All Over'.

"You have generations of Black artists who have been wary of where and how their material archival life-worlds are handled” - author Daphne A. Brooks says in Audiofemme interview about her new book 'Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound'. The book is divided into two sections (“Side A” and “Side B”), crisscrossing through time as Brooks connects writer and singer Pauline Hopkins, who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with Janelle Monáe. Brooks is a Yale professor who previously wrote 'Bodies in Dissent' and the 33 1/3 book on Jeff Buckley’s album 'Grace'.

"I’m at peace with my life, with my stories. That peace is a dignity. Which means I guess I’m kinda proud of my life. In fact, my life is extraordinary! I truly feel joyful and I think the book has helped provide some joy" - singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones says in The New Cue interview about her new autobiography 'Last Chance Texaco'. The Washington Post describes the book as a "raw and roving life story", whereas Arts Fuse writer declares it "the most transparent about the vagaries of fame... of all the biographies of female musicians I’ve read in the past year".

An interesting interview in the Rolling Stone with Bob Dylan manager Jonathan Kaplan, who releases his new book ‘The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life’ May 4. The part about drugs says plenty about his rock years: "Robbie called Eric [Clapton] a 'chicken junkie' because Eric snorted it. He didn’t shoot it in his veins. But he was definitely at loose ends in a way that I hadn’t seen". Kaplan refused to manage Rolling Stones because of drugs: "I had just dealt with Eric, and just the nervousness of trying to get somebody onstage who was wrestling with heroin didn’t seem like it was worth it. Life was too short. I reached that point where I thought, maybe there’s a way to make a living where you don’t have to worry about a call at 3 a.m. because Richard has driven his car into a tree. The only person they call is the tour manager, right?". Slightly better experience with the Band: "Everybody was pretty well behaved from, say, June of ‘69 until June of ’70. Richard [Manuel] wasn’t drinking that much. Levon [Helm] liked sleeping pills, but it didn’t get to the bad spot. Rick [Danko] would snort anything that was put in front of him, but quite frankly, cocaine was not an issue in the late Sixties, and neither was heroin". George Harrison, on the other hand, liked to speed-drive and - meditate!

Guitarist Anthony Garone wrote a book 'Failure to Fracture' chronicling his 22-year-long journey of learning how to play King Crimson’s 11-minute instrumental 'Fracture', Guitar World reports. Robert Fripp once described his 1974 masterpiece as “impossible to play”, especially because of the section roughly three minutes in where the guitarist begins a nonstop barrage of notes called a “moto perpetuo” – an Italian term for “perpetual motion”. Over the years, Garone published blog posts and videos about his efforts, and kept working at it until he had a breakthrough after enrolling in a week-long guitar instruction course led by Fripp in rural Mexico in 2015. Last year Garone released a video of him playing the song (watch it below). 'Failure to Fracture' is released May 18.

"I don’t have any right to complain.. When you look at the 8 billion people on the planet, a reasonably affluent caucasian cis-gendered male public figure musician is not necessarily the first person you think of as having valid criticisms about how they’re being treated” - Moby says in a Guardian interview. He is about to release a new album next month - orchestral reworkings of his old hits - as well as a new documentary about his life going from "out of control, utterly entitled, self-involved drink and drug addict" who missed his own mother's funeral because he got drunk, to the producer of philharmonic pieces.

The Foo Fighters leader has announced 'The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music', a memoir made as a spinoff from his pandemic Instagram account, @davestruestories, through which he shares tales from his music career. Grohl emphasizes that he wrote the book himself, without a ghostwriter. In the YouTube player below, hear an 11-minute extract from the book, narrated by Grohl himself. The book, due out October 5 through Dey Street Books, is available to pre-order from the newly launched website davegrohlstoryteller.com.

'You’re History: The 12 Strangest Women in Music' by Lesley Chow is a look at twelve groundbreaking female artists who remain criminally underappreciated, including Neneh Cherry, Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks, Kate Bush, Sade, and TLC. "I wanted to come up with a different value system, celebrating music which has a hot, immediate effect on your body - seizing your impulses as much as your conscious mind" - as the author had told in the Music Journalism Insider interview.

"One of the most ​immersive novels I’ve ever read….This is a thrilling work of polyphony—a first novel, that reads like the work of an old hand” - Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about debut novel by Dawnie Walton 'The Final Revival of Opal & Nev'. It's about the meteoric rise and break-up of a fictional 1970s rock duo, which made Washington Post reviewer to write - "at times, I held my breath, wondering if the novel could sustain its tightrope act — balancing its array of voices, its fictional history with actual history". Kirkus reviews writer praises the "intelligently executed love letter to Black female empowerment and the world of rock music".

Thorn / Morrison

"Women have been written out of history for centuries, their contributions to culture diminished, dismissed, or viewed solely in relation to the men in their lives. But through her entertaining, affectionate and righteous book, Thorn invites us to witness her friend in all her gobby glory" - Guardian writes in the review of 'My Rock'n'Roll Friend' by Tracey Thorn on Everything But The Girl, and her relationship with Lindy Morrison of the Go-Betweens. The G adds that "the author brings wit, candour and vividness to her storytelling... as well as providing a portrait of a mercurial and brilliant musician, the book exposes the sexism and hypocrisy of an industry, and attempts to right a terrible wrong".

Mötley Crüe

Richard Bienstock and Tom Beajuour, the authors of the new oral history 'Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion' choose eight of the most archetypal and illustrative videos of '80s hard rock. It's Poison's 'Talk Dirty To me', Guns N' Roses' 'It's So Easy', Mötley Crüe's 'Looks That Kill' and several others similarly ridiculous. As for Binstock and Beajuour's book, All Music argues it is a "treasure trove of stories, drama, and details from one of the most over-the-top eras in rock".

A great talk with singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, a long time ago a member of Fairport Convention, in Guardian about his new book 'Beeswing: Fairport, Folk-Rock and Finding My Voice' about the start of his career. Thompson is a touring musician and misses playing now in the pandemic - live music needs to happen, he says, “otherwise, as a human race, we will go extinct. Music is so great for kids. It makes you cleverer at everything else, and also teaches you to go past a mistake. If you make one [when you play live], you can’t burst into tears and stop. You just have to carry on”.

"Ostensibly the story of Nick Cave’s formative years, it is so beautifully constructed that one is not just delivered besides the young Cave, but also next to the modern version" - The New Cue says recommending Mark Mordue's new book 'Boy on Fire'. The writer also describes the difficult path he took while writing it - "basically the project just got bigger and bigger as the range and the depth of Nick Cave’s output kept rolling on. I ended up in a situation where I had long ago spent my advance. If I was working on the book, I was not earning money to live and support a family. If I was doing freelance journalism and teaching writing at uni, I was not working on the book. So nothing was right with anyone anywhere. Eventually my former publisher got tired of me. My relationship collapsed. I had nowhere stable to live. Depression, chaos, drinking … it was the full disaster as I tried to hang on to myself and put it all back together again. That is the other side to the book when people say it took me ten years. Well, really, five years to write it, yeah, and another five years to learn how to live again". Nick Cave also likes it.

The Birthday Party

An amusing article in the Quietus about 'Nick Cave's Bar', a new book by Aug Stone about a bar in Berlin in the 1980s which was a "home from home" for many creative people - musicians, filmmakers, painters, poets, and punks. Risiko stood at 48 Yorckstraße in West Berlin, on the border between the Kreuzberg and Wilmersdorf-Schöneberg sections of the city. It wasn't really Nick Cave's bar (although some in Europe did call it that back then), but Blixa Bargeld bartended at Risiko during Einstürzende Neubauten’s early years, and Cave would come to visit it with the rest of The Birthday Party.

"Athens was key in taking this punk idea that anybody can play and showing that anybody can do it anywhere. I think that Athens is the place that makes it clear—mostly through the career of R.E.M. but not entirely—that you can make music that reaches an underground or even a mainstream national audience anywhere. And that these kinds of cultural transformations and bohemian cultures we think of as really only occurring in certain urban spaces can actually flourish anywhere" - author Grace Elizabeth Hale tells in Please Kill Me interview about her latest book 'Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture'.

Writer Clover Hope released a new book 'The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop' which spans decades, and took her 2,5 years to write. In a Music Journalism Insider interview she explaines how she "wanted to write about what each of the women brought to hip-hop as a culture and rap as a genre... For Queen Latifah, I wanted to talk about her achieving longevity through film. For Eve, I decided to write about her bringing high fashion to hip-hop. For Cardi B, I wanted to write about her wielding the power of social media to star-making effect". Why 100? - "I wanted people to see the number and think about magnitude and impact".

Feel the earth move under your feet
February 10, 2021

'Monolithic Undertow' - an introduction to drone

Brian Jones

The drone has bewitched for millennia, exhorting us to succumb to the joy of hypnotic immersion - author Harry Sword writes in the Guardian introducing his new book 'Monolithic Undertow' where he traces drone from its ancient beginnings through the 20th century. As a starting point to the genre drone he suggests: Éliane Radigue, Rolling Stone Brian Jones' early live albums, Earth, the original Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise, The Bug-Justin Broadrick-Moor Mother collab Zonal, and Sarah Davachi.

Do want you like, someone else will too
January 21, 2021

The idea that made Warner Records big: Let’s stop trying to make hit records

A great read in LA Magazine - an excerpt from the book 'Sonic Boom' by Peter Ames Carlin about the rise of Warner/Reprise from a jazz small-house to a rock'n'roll powerhouse. It all started when Reprise Records president Mo Ostin signed Jimi Hendrix which turned out to be a great success, against expectations from other label bosses. Then, in an afternoon in 1967, Ostin gave the company’s troops the most unexpected direction ever uttered by a top executive at a corporate record label: “Let’s stop trying to make hit records”. Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, and Gordon Lightfoot followed.

A very good selection of the best books covering musical topics released this year, picked out by the Rolling Stone. Sasha Geffen presents an interesting idea in 'Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary' - that "popular music has always been powered by transgressive ideas about identity". Mark Lanegan's 'Sing 'Backwards and Weep: A Memoir' is "one of the most compelling and revealing rock memoirs ever". 'The Baddest Bitch in the Room: A Memoir' by the marketing specialist Sophia Chang is about, well, the character in the title.

Pitchfork made a great selection of music books published this year - a collection of best writings by the satire website The Hard Times, high-school biography by Tegan and Sara, journals by ’70s gay porn flicks soundtrack author Patrick Cowley, a case against R. Kelly by journalist Jim DeRogatis who investigated him for 20 years, […]

1 2