You may have no desire to know the intimate backroad histories of old LA, you might not be a film buff, but I'm telling you... you don't have to be much of anything to fall in love with this book. I couldn't stop until I found its author, the inimitable Matthew Specktor, in possession of success or happiness or peace or something that resembles those impossible objects. These aren't just essays about Fitzgerald, Warren Zevon, Thomas McGuane, Renata Adler; this is a book about what it is to be an artist in America. Specktor's story is both erudite and crafty magic.
Abdurraqib masterly balances the informational and the personal in this exploration of black performance from the vaudevillian-turned-spy Josephine Baker to the vulnerability of Wu-Tang Clan to poem-like entries "On Times I Have Forced Myself to Dance." (Did you know, even after singing about wanting to dance with somebody, Whitney Houston couldn't really dance? Check out the 1988 Grammy's.) Anyway, check this out if you want a beautifully entertaining book on entertainment.
I'll admit, before this book, I couldn't name one song by A Tribe Called Quest. Abdurraqib writes something and I read it, simple as that. Just like with his other work, he comes at Go Ahead in the Rain (a song by A Tribe Called Quest) wanting to geek out and back it up with a well-researched history. My favorite parts were, varied within the timeline of their illustrious career, Abdurraqib's personal letters to Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali that read equally like letters to friends and to great influences. The cover really says it all.
Danny Goldberg was more than a band manager to Nirvana but a friend and confidant, especially to Kurt Cobain, at the height of their career. He is able to share the good and the bad, without idolizing or demonizing Cobain, in this look behind the music scene of the early nineties punk rock and grunge surge. So sit back, maybe unplug with Unplugged in the background, and enjoy.
This is a must read. Abdurraqib combines the experience of music and culture through such an engaging lens, it's hard to put it down. He can talk about Carly Rae Jepsen, Fall Out Boy, Bruce Springsteen, being black, being Muslim, living in contemporary America all in one breath with such ease and such a command for language. Seriously, even his Instagram captions are well-written (you should follow him).
For every young creative who is just trying to find their place in the world. Reading this feels like you’re reading the diary of your best friend.
The artwork in this book is SUBLIME! I was so entranced by the soft, graphite drawings that transition from page to page and add emotional depth to Nina's story. However, the text is sparse and best serves as an introduction to her accomplishments. But hopefully this beautiful book sparks an interest to learn more of the life of this legendary singer.
When Franz Nicolay quit his job playing keys in The Hold Steady, he did exactly what any sensible, accordion-toting folk-punk would: he went to tour the former Soviet Bloc on his own, sleeping in strangers' apartments and on venue floors, and traveling via overnight trains with dubious schedules. With Rebecca West as his literary guide, Nicolay visited some of the darker, stranger corners of the Balkans and the former USSR, met a tight-knit community of rockers, artists, dreamers, and all-around nutjobs, drank a quantity of Vodka, and played some great shows – all while witnessing firsthand the disturbing resurgence of nationalist movements and the renewed spread of Kremlin control in the region. A fascinating travelogue, a political study of an increasingly relevant corner of the world, and a rare rock and roll tour memoir that manages to be engaging and intimate without feeling self-indulgent, all wrapped up in one excellent package.
For readers who remember what it is like to use the click-wheel on a first generation iPod, or watched Gideon Yago on MTV2, this book is for you. Exploring the rise and fall of the post-9/11 indie music scene that grew from the grimy grates of NYC and beyond, the oral history includes vibrant voices like Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Interpol, and other bands that your cool older sister introduced to you back in middle school.