New reviews / Favorite book about music?

I thought I'd start a new topic of conversation by asking readers what their favorite book about music is. It doesn't matter if it's fiction or non-fiction, just throw out some music-related titles here that you've loved.

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john. in chicago.
it's me, yes. i survived jeremiah's tavern...

Damn, that's a good idea for a thread John. I haven't done that one yet, but I have a feeling it will be the next topic.

BTW, is the John I met in Rochester? If so, thanks for dropping by.

john. in chicago.
"Rock and the Pop Narcotic", by Joe Carducci. "Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana", by Gina Arnold. "Head On", by Julian Cope. "Last Train to Memphis", by Peter Guralnick. "Head On", by Juilian Cope. All of these are very obviously written by folks who strike me as fans first/foremost, but each takes in a different direction. Arnold is the ultimate groupie. Carducci classifies hundreds of bands along a continuum rock/not-rock. Guralnick is obsessively detailed (it's only volume one). Cope becomes a star himself. All great books.

When's the "favorite movie about music" thread? Or did I miss that one already?

"Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music" by Irwin Chusid is a fun and interesting read on a variety of acts from well known artists such as Syd Barrett and Tiny Tim to lesser known novelties like Jandek, the Shaggs, and the Cherry Sisters. The book covers about 20 acts and is always entertaining if not hilarious in places. It runs the gamut of creative personalities that didn't quite fit in with the traditional music scene.

oops forgot to mention - since you liked the first Boduf Songs so mcu, you ought to get the second one as well..

I second what Jon says about the mix album vividly recalling last winter. I'd just moved into a new flat with my girlfriend, and was playing the two mixes lots in the few days before Christmas. Listening to them now, really takes me back to that period. They were a great way to catch up with stuff I'd missed during the year. So I can't wait for this year's.

Also sorry to hear about your scare in the air - sounds pretty terrifying.

I have to second:
"Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis & Joy Division" by Deborah Curtis
as well as
"blissed out" by Simon Reynolds

Yes! Year-end mix please! To be honest last year's was kind of an album in itself for me...really makes me remember last winter quite vividly.

Sorry to hear about the landing...glad it all worked out though!

And the comment isn't irrelevant robin; perhaps I'll read the NMH write up yet!

I'm not so sure about Efterklang's 'Tripper', I've always felt they sound disjointed on that one. The new album is seamless in my opinion

funny no one suggested Lester Bangs 'Psychotic Reactions and ...' thought that was a classic . And i'm pretty sure the series of books is 33 1/3 as in rpm anyway i'd recommend the 'aeroplane' one i think it adds to the magic - sorry if this comment is no longer relevant

First off, thanks for all the different suggestions. I've been out of town at a conference, and during that trip had a rather frightening plane landing. Crash positions and all.

At any rate, I will leave this one open a bit longer before starting a new topic.

Ariana, I'm not sure if you're a real person or just really clever spam, but I never received an email.

Upcoming reviews will include Radiohead, Lekman, and a couple reissues I've finally discovered, along with some other stuff that has come out fairly recently. Seems like the year is slowly winding down, but there's still some great stuff to come out in the next month or so. Lists are starting to somewhat fall into place and I'm of course planning on posting another year-end mix of my favorite songs.

I really liked Mezz Mezzrow's book "Really the Blues" about the early days of jazz and selling weed in Harlem. It's probably still out of print but worth a peek if you can find it at a local library.

Taken by trees' debut and the tough alliance lp that came out around summer have been my guilty pleasures of the year. I wont tell people about them and I'm likely to skip tracks and tell "something I downloaded yesterday after some recommendations" when any of my roomates walk into my room and I'm listening.

i second with Jon. There are a couple of amazing songs (The Opposite of Hallelujah, A Postcard to Nina), but as a whole it just doesn't seem to click with me. Maybe it's because here the orchestration seems to prevail over quiet ukulele ballads, whereas on previous records there was a kind of balance between them.

That said, it's still a good record and certainly worth buying.

Talking about Swedes, can anyone not be in love with Taken by Trees' debut album and/or Victoria Bergsman('s voice).

hey aaron whats the deal with people wanting to talk to you, do you have good insite or what? i bet your a really cool guy so respond to me, i'd love to talk to you ;)

Aaron, I'm interested to see your opinion of the new Jens Lekman album. I'm such a huge fan of his past work, but I'm a little ambivalent about the newest release. It seems to lack the really really personal edge that "Oh You're So..." & "When I Said..." had.

Anyone else have any opinions? I just feel like this is such a step backwards for some reason. But that "bonus" cd, the Kateradsfklajsdfs 11.3D, or whatever it is, is pretty amazing really...

is it something by The Fall, his favourite band of all time?

Hey alwayscool, I heard that "teenage kicks" was John Peel's all time favorite song but some years before he died he changed his mind and placed it as his second favorite song, I've never known what his first pick was then, have any idea?

aaron - good call on the sunset album. i very much agree about "colt stands up" and "stallion" just killing the album's momentum, and the album's general unevenness.

some of the tracks totally rip, and are really great ("mending of the gown," "magic vs. midas," "taming of the hands," "courtesan has sung"). with some editing this would have been a blinding blast of an ep.

i was irked when the album leaked how some people were talking like this was the next great record of the decade or something. sheez...

mr. malcom
and i FINALLY got around to reading "our band could be your life" which was a lot of fun.

mr. malcom
do pull that down off your shelf. what the hell ya waitin' for.
listen to your wife for life's sake.

always cool
I kind of liked all 3 John Peel books (incl. autobiography) that have been published, I did like Steve Lamacq's book "Going Deaf for a Living" as well. I loved "Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis & Joy Division" by Deborah Curtis (and, btw, Control movie is fantastic). also liking the one I'm reading at the mo: "The Trouble with Music" by Mat Callahan. That's pretty much my knowledge of the music related books.

I'm loving 'In Rainbows' too Moka, it's the most accesible Radiohead album in a while. Only 'Bodysnatchers' fails to impact on me, while I think 'Reckoner', 'Nude', '15 Step', 'All I Need' and 'House of Cards' are just incredible

Books are so time consuming, i'm in the video making kind of field and i don't have time to create a mood that somone could just put down, i like to capture the moment in an awesome movie.

I would also recommend looking into that Bon Iver album that pitchfork reviewed. I managed to get a listen off a friend, and it is a beauty of an album. I haven't been able to fin it yet, but perhaps you will have better luck.

I'll hold off on my final review for "In Rainbows" for a little while at least. I honestly don't see how anyone could write a fair review having only been listening to the album for a day or less. It seems a bit unfair to the artist, who spent months creating the work, to take less than 24 hours to judge it.

Of course, me giving it a week or two of listening really isn't that much better in the overall picture of things, but I try to justify these things in my mind...

... which pretty much means I'm loving it.

Well, I know this idiot [url][/url]
is dissing the album and everything rh has released since "the bends". Myself I still can't find (not really interested in finding to be honest) any words for it but I've already gave it around 12 listens front to back and the only thought that comes to mind is that this is the album that they should've released after "kid a".


that would be a fantastic idea, depsite the fact i am very much into several montreal-based bands I have the feeling there is so much more going on there that i haven't tapped into yet

on another note:

What are people's thoughts on 'In Rainbows'?

You know...

I really wish someone would publish a book at some point about the surplus of *amazing* music that's been coming out of Montreal for the last decade. Perhaps that period is in its twilight, but it seemed to have such a huge impact on music for one city, and basically a very small group of people responsible for it...

Maybe it's just me that it found so so SO well!

Did anyone read that book on Warp? I thought that sounded pretty cool...

i enjoyed "our noise" by jeff gomez, a good fiction book about being an indie kid in the nineties, sweet memories of adolescence

Hey Aaron,
Concerning reviews:

Just wanted to say that I bought the Murcof album on your recommendation alone: quite amazing!

I usually don't like stuff that sounds so "perfect" in it's production, if you know what I mean, but this is such an amazing mix of so many things that I like, I'm really enjoying it with each listen. I ALMOST bought the 3xLP set, but I always feel like the more ambient stuff sounds better on cd than vinyl for some reason...

Also, I'm pretty fond of the new Mum, to tell the truth. Not sure why, but it's caught my fancy. Maybe I just had really really low expectations...

And I'm still having a little trouble with Strawberry Jam. I'm really biased toward the songs that Mr. Lennox is prominent on. Anyone else have a similar experience?

I've been reading the Brian Wilson autobiography. I'm only halfway through, it's an amazing read and it is any wonder how he is still alive, let alone touring again.

And the way he describes his compositions and productions really do point to a musical genius

I just wonder if that is where Billy Corgan got the title, I'll need to fish that book out

Shit, I *completely* forgot about the "in the aeroplane..." song.

Perhaps that song is a rip-off, but the 33 1/2 is a series that discusses different "great" records I think. So that's less likely, but...the song title...hmmmm.

Jon, Im sure there is a b-side called 'In An Aeroplane Over The Sea" and of course we all know the song "33". It might just be a bizarre cooincidence?

A great funny/entertaining book is "Seduced and Abandoned: Essays on Gay Men and Popular Music" by Richard Smith. It's a collection of pieces originally written for music papers. A big part of it is about pop/rock music but there's also an interview with Frankie Knuckles.

I don't believe that series has anything to do with SP in any way, shape, or form. I forgot what the SP song was about, and for some reason I assumed the "33 1/2" referred to the rpms on a turntable (though they're 33 flat usually...I think anyway).

So...I don't think so, but I could be wrong...unless that was just a joke. Haha.

Neil: If you're interested a year ago I scanned my copy of "krautrocksampler" book in english for a friend who couldn't find it anywhere and I still have it laying around somewhere in my documents. send me a line and I'll send it your way

Well the only music related book I've ever read is "krautrocksampler" which makes an amusing read but I wouldnt really call it my favorite since I don't have more books to compare it too and it's too short and incomplete.

"The rest is noise" book is an amazing idea and I'm looking forward that one too. I enjoy Alex Ross' blog and musical taste and I'm more than willing to be lectured by him anyday of the week.

Kerouac, Murakami, Cortazar, Vian and Ellroy do have a "jazzy" approach on their novels so maybe I could pick some of their books as my favorites. If you haven't read anything on them I strongly suggest you to do so.

I've been constantly recommended by different people to read Ashley Kahn's books on Miles Davis "kind of blue" & John Coltrane's "a love supreme". After I told a friend that I found those two albums overrated she slapped me and told me that ever since she read the books 2 years ago she become a convert and both albums haven't stop playing on her house.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm curious on your take of the new radiohead album.

oh man, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions is great, as is A Love Supreme - The Story of John Coltrane's signature album

miles davis' autobiography is intense, there's really good tid bits on all your favorite jazz artists of that era, and how the ny jazz scene really was in his time

Jon, do those books have anything to do with The Smashing Pumpkins or did Billy Corgan steal those for song titles?

Has anyone read the 33 1/2 book on "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"?

I'm curious to read it but at the same time don't want have the 'magic' ruined, you know? Certainly one of my favorite albums of all time; I guess I'd be more inclined to read it if Jeff Mangum wrote it, haha.

And nice reviews lately Aaron; AC was right on (it took me about 8-10 listens to even remotely like Peacebone, and several to get into the album in general), as well as the Murcof album.


In the way of fiction, I'd recommend Kazuo Ishiguro's "The Unconsoled."

David Toop's "Ocean of Sound" is good, but I like returning to "Blissed Out" by Simon Reynolds. There are some amazingly good essays about the best of the late 80s music that I love so much - The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, Nick Cave, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Throwing Muses, AR Kane and so on. It's definitely worth trawling eBay for a copy.
His other recent book, "Rip It Up And Start Again", covers the post-punk period, and is pretty good too.
I've also got a copy of Julian Cope's "Japrocksampler", but haven't started it yet. As expected, Mr Cope seems to be more interested in the more psychedelic and hard-to-find recordings.
If anyone can find a cheap copy of "Krautrocksampler" (in English), let me know, because I've been searching for ages.
Finally, for my birthday I got a book about The Smiths, which goes into great detail about each song they recorded - what songs influenced the music, the meaning of the lyrics, the recordings and initial live performances - very good.

david oliver
funny the david toop book was going to be my mention,david also later produced "exotica"which is not quite as poetic as ocean of sound but still an interesting read.

Aaron, there's a couple of books about ambient music that are kind of interesting...
1. David Toop - Ocean of Sound (this one is more than just an anthology on music. It's more about the subject of ethereal and imaginary worlds. really great)
2. Mark Prendergast - The Ambient Century (this compiles the loose-knit group of musicians that make "ambient music". Pretty general but not the most well-written).
Another book that got me into psychedelic music (though, now I think it's very limited in scope) is Jim DeRogotis' book, "Kaleidoscope Eyes - Psychedelic Rock from the 60's to the 90's".

sorry this isn't a "book" but very interesting online essay about playing electronica live. i think anyone who does live gigs with electronica will be interested in reading this, from German producer Robert Henke (aka, one half of "Monolake):

All the aforementioned texts are fun reads that really capture that ephemeral essence of music. But there are some fantastic academic books available if you're looking for insightful discourses that will take your appreciation of music to a new level, taking a step back to look at what music means -- and it is more than just taste, more than the subjective meaning of, say, your favorite meal. These few completely transformed the way I look at this little passion of ours:

"Performing Rites" and "On Record" by Simon Frith
"Black Noise" by Tricia Rose

I really loved the book 'White Bicycles' by Joe Boyd. His passion for music is incredible and he is responsible for some of the greatest music ever.

sean taylor
my 2 favorite books about music are "Our Band Could Be Your Life" by Michael Azerrad which chronicles most of the SST bands and most of the worthwhile underground bands of the 80s
The other book is "Rip it Up and Start Again" by Simon Reynolds which chronicles Post Punk from its beginning to its evolution to what it is now. Impressive books.

Bastion, I've seen the movie "High Fidelity," but I'm assuming it doesn't compare to the book itself (even though it was pretty darn good)...

My wife (who is more well-read and intelligent than myself) keeps telling me to read "Lipstick Traces" by Greil Marcus, but I haven't yet pulled it off our shelf. I'm currently reading about the deadliest plague in history, so I think I might need a bit of a lighter follow-up.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Chock full of top-5 lists and meaningless musical debates, all down quite humorously.

for those who speak german: "verschende deine jungend" by an author called teipel.

I can't help you with book suggestions but I have to say I completely agree with your Murcof review. Cosmos is EXCELLENT. I was actually first turned on to Murcof by a review of yours several years ago. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

I honestly haven't read too many books that are directly related to music, oddly enough.

In the past year or so, I have gone through two titles that I really enjoyed, though. One is Jeff Chang's "Can't Stop, Won't Stop." Since I largely feel like an idiot about hip hop and rap music, I felt like it was a great introduction for me, and the historical sections of the book were excellent.

In terms of short interviews and the like with lots of different musicians, "Audio Culture" also had some great moments.

I must say that I'm really looking forward to "The Rest Is Noise" by writer Alex Ross (it comes out later this year). His writing on classical music is killer, and his book looks to be even more varied.