Let's Go (So We Can Get Back)
As a founding member of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, Jeff Tweedy has spent the past two decades penning and performing the soundtrack for a generation of long, soul-searching road trips. Though his songs seem to pour from his listeners’ hearts rather than into them, this is the first he’s spoken at length about the personal history between his lines. Plunk yourself down in the passenger seat and enjoy the ride of his life.
Beastie Boys Book
“Wild Card,” ADROCK’s introduction to the Beasties’ history, is named in memory of founding member MCA (who passed away in 2012), “the rare person who actually does all the crazy things they say they’re gonna do.” It’s also a fitting description of the band’s story, told with Mike D in the trio’s characteristic break-all-rules, invite-everybody-over style: tall (true) tales share space with rare photos, illustrations, a cookbook, a graphic novel, a bespoke map of New York City’s cultures and characters…you get the idea. The coffee table won’t know what hit it.
The Music Shop
The ’80s are ending, and Frank’s storefront—on a down-at-the-heels street in the English suburbs—is a lone bright light for a scattered community of music lovers in need of vinyl therapy. It’s also all he has, until a winsome customer with a long green coat and a foreign accent stumbles into his life. A sweetly nostalgic romantic comedy in the tradition of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, The Music Shop is proof positive that the right harmony at the right time really can transform the world.
If you were lucky enough to slip backstage after a Florence + the Machine concert and stumble upon its force-of-nature singer’s journal, you’d have your hands on, well, this. Florence Welch’s first collection of lyrics, poetry, and artwork is an invitation to the cosmic blossoming that began with sneaking out of art school classes and has exploded across the globe. In these intimate arrangements, she’s curated the evidence of who and where she’s been all these years—and as the title suggests, the gorgeous accumulation reads like a book of spells.
A generous collaborator and larger-than-life character onstage, David Bowie was an elusive figure when the lights went down: he maintained that he was not his otherworldly alter egos, and was notorious for carrying a foreign newspaper around New York City (so if recognized, he could claim he was, say, an anonymous Greek gentleman). With interviews from more than 180 “friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators”—and never-before-seen material from two decades of his own conversations with Bowie—Dylan Jones initiates the ultimate conversation about rock and roll’s most enigmatic shape-shifter.
My Own Devices
International travel with a rap collective doesn’t leave one with much time for socializing and sightseeing—Dessa calls it the “adventure tax” she pays to buckle herself into tour vans all day and fold herself into dark clubs each night. But the accomplished performer has the Rumplestiltskin-like ability to spin her hours on the road into literary gold. Her stunning essay collection would be a feather in anyone’s literary cap, and the fact that she’s assembled it while wearing something like a dozen hats is nothing short of miraculous. You’ll need an extra copy of this one for your own next trip.
Five decades after Otis Redding’s indelible performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and his tragic death in a plane crash, a fellow musician has released his definitive biography. With the cooperation of the Redding family and painstaking research (including unprecedented access to information on the singer’s background, upbringing, and meteoric career), Jonathan Gould offers a comprehensive portrait of the phenomenal young man who defined the Stax Records sound and changed soul music forever.
The Indispensable Composers
As the chief classical music critic for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini loves to invite participation in his treatment of the greats: he once crowd-sourced a list of the all-time top ten composers (and then horrified some readers by omitting Gustav Mahler—the nerve!). As a concert pianist, he also has a very personal relationship with them. This unabashedly subjective essay collection offers his scholarly and intimate impressions of 17 artists—and invites both neophytes and aficionados to roll up their sleeves and engage with these legacies.
As Questlove notes in his introduction to Vikki Tobak’s treasure trove, “music should be seen and heard,” and this jaw-dropping collection of hip hop’s most iconic images—with nearly 200 photographs from more than 50 photographers—presents music like it’s never been seen before. Contact sheets offer a contemporary glimpse of how visual artists interact with their subjects, and these primary texts—captured at underground New York clubs in the ’70s, classic album shoots, and everywhere hip-hop has gone over the past 40 years—are an invitation to some of the most you-had-to-be-there moments of all time.
When Jann Wenner founded Rolling Stone in 1967, he was a Berkeley dropout and San Francisco fanboy bringing counterculture to the mainstream. Half a century later, he’s the godfather of rock and roll journalism—and Joe Hagan, the journalist he tapped to write his biography, considered the job his “last great assignment.” Readers will love the resulting book for the same reason Wenner loathes it (he called it “deeply flawed and tawdry”): Hagan captures both the historical significance of what Wenner created and the long, strange trips the Rolling Stone crew and its subjects took to get there. This is rock history at its juiciest.
Most of us wouldn’t have the means to play an old-fashioned, painstakingly hand-labeled mixtape if we received one (and if you do, have you considered cleaning out your garage?). That said, it’s significantly easier to find the perfect song-saturated gift than it is to settle on a track to fill the 34 pesky seconds of silence at the end of Side B. Consider this a literary jukebox of the year’s greatest hits: from an expert meditation on the classical canon to a soulful story of finding love in a music shop, our genre-hopping playlist has a tune for every taste.
Editor: Eliza Smith; Featured Image: Matt McCarty