Is this book about Nina Simone's gum? Of course it is, and the story behind that piece of music history is worth reading alone. But it's also about the multi-instrumentalist and beautiful weirdo Warren Ellis and the magic in his collected talismans over the years as a member of the Bad Seeds and Dirty Three.
Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back at the RiotGrrl movement of the 90s reveals as many flaws as it does strengths - it was a safe space for women tackling issues of sexuality, violence, and anger during a political period when teenage girl autonomy was the monster lurking under the bed of puritanical America. But only a safe space predominately for girls of a certain type (white, cisgender, straight.) Despite the shortcomings, the DIY culture it sparked continued on, and the doors it opened for women to scream their hearts out into microphones still reverberates today in bands that break the mold that Riotgrrl created.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland meets Vesper Flights in this whimsically melodic collection of animal based essays. Amy Leach and her ensemble will undoubtedly win you over with bouts of incredulous laughter and many moments of awe. If everyone should lend them an ear, we'd all care a little more and learn a lot too.
Perfect for any Janis fan or someone into the 60's music scene. A good slow burn toward fame from a Texas girl who just wanted to paint but then discovered Bessie Smith. And like the cover says, it's about her life and her music, not harping on her death which already takes up too much space when she was such a fantastic vocalist and songwriter that inspired many.
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.
Initially skeptical to read a book about a young musician with just a couple albums out (who may not have even hit his creative peak yet), I quickly understood just why, in the year 2020, this book needed to come out. Using the framework of the 4 albums of Kendrick Lamar, Marcus J. Moore writes a "cultural biography" to explain the intersection of hip-hop and the Black Lives Matter movement today. This is a timely read about one of the great popular musical artists of today.
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).