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The Best Music Books of 2013

4474421855_5630cc2cfb_oOh baby, it is literally so damn cold outside. I have no interest in walking in a winter wonderland because the weather outside is actually frightful and I’m terrified that if I try to go anywhere I’ll get lost in a blizzard and never make it back home. It’s that cold. If Beyonce was like, “Hey girl, you can have backstage passes to my show this weekend if you just stand in the snow for ten minutes,” I’d be like, “Sorry, lady, but my heat is on and I’m not coming out for anything.” [Of course, it became bizarrely warm here in New England on the day this went to press. -ED.]
I guess there is one nice thing about these frigid climes – they offer up a great excuse to blow off plans and cuddle up inside with a new book. And with all of the excellent music-related titles that came out in 2013, I’ve had plenty to choose from. So if you’re a total wimp about the cold like me, grab one of these bad boys, pour yourself a half a drink more (at least), and get your read on.
Morrissey_Autobiography_coverAutobiography
Morrissey
I’m not the world’s biggest Morrissey fan, but the review that convinced me to pick up Autobiography was this one from Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield, who writes, “Practically every paragraph has a line or two that demands to be read aloud to the mirror, tattooed on foreheads, carved on tombstones.” High praise, coming from a guy who also writes for a living. But it turns out he was right: this book is bitingly funny, endlessly entertaining, and stocked with crazy personal anecdotes. Morrissey’s writing is – no surprise, given his songwriting abilities – electric. While I won’t be getting anything from this book permanently inked on my forehead, I might consider it on some less valuable real estate like an arm or a foot.
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Mo Meta Blues
Questlove
Drummer for The Roots, bandleader on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, producer, DJ, and all-around rad human being AhmirQuestloveThompson is one of the busiest and most accomplished artists working today. His memoir, Mo Meta Blues, is one of the coolest and most interesting pieces of literature to hit shelves in 2013. This book will teach you a lot, make you smile a bunch, and give you the lowdown on a whole list of records that you may not have known about and absolutely must check out. Is Questlove the coolest guy in music? Yes. Is he the coolest guy in the entire world? Probably also yes. Mo Meta Blues is proof.
9781555537296_p0_v1_s260x420Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN
Carter Alan
I get the feeling that Carter Alan‘s Radio Free Boston wasn’t too widely read or reviewed outside of the New England area, and that’s a real shame. The book details the history of Boston’s WBCN radio, a station founded in the late ’60s when its DJs could essentially say and play whatever they wanted. Author Carter Alan, a former music director and DJ at the station, manages to stay mostly objective as he recounts its history, but it’s charming how his love for WBCN shines through nonetheless. This tale may not have a happy ending – WBCN played its last notes in 2009 – but the book kind of makes you wish radio stations today were as cool as this one was in its prime.
HowMusicWorks_620x796
How Music Works
David Byrne
Okay, yes, technically Byrne’s How Music Works was released at the tail end of 2012. But the paperback edition, which came out earlier this year, is completely revised and updated and includes the same beautiful, full-color pictures that were found in the hardcover version. So I’m counting it. While the text is exhaustively researched and incredibly thorough (some might say dense), the book manages to be fun and engaging throughout. And while the Talking Heads frontman does discuss how music works in a technical sense, the book really shines when he writes about how and why we relate to music the way we do. Part memoir, part textbook, and all celebration of music, it’s the kind of book that you can come back to year after year.

Justin Timberlake To Perform Solo For First Time In Four Years

After a four-year-long absence from solo performance, Justin Timberlake will finally take the stage this February 2 at a charity concert in New Orleans to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. The invitation-only ”DirecTV Super Saturday Night” concert will also feature DJing from The Roots drummer ?uestlove. For those who were invited to catch this prime lineup, it’s going to be a pretty awesome weekend; Super Bowl XLVII will be taking place the following day in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Earlier this month, Timberlake premiered “Suit & Tie,” the latest single from his forthcoming solo album The 20/20 Experience, the singer’s first solo outing since 2006′s FutureSex/LoveSounds. Check out the brand new lyric video for “Suit & Tie” here.

Check out OurStage artist Cameron Jaymes if you’re a fan of JT.

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?uestlove To Teach NYU Class, College To Get 1000 Times Cooler

If there were anything to make you want to go back to college again – besides the socially acceptable binge drinking, sleeping until noon, and wearing sweatpants to dinner – it would probably be taking a class with ?uestlove. Yes, that’s right. This spring, The Roots drummer will be teaching a two credit class on classic albums at the Clive Davis Institue for Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The course’s tentative syllabus involves the analysis of time–tested albums such as Led Zeppelin IV and Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall in order to understand the many factors that go into making those select albums designated classics. Billboard reports that ?uestlove will be co–teaching the course in conjunction with Harry Weinger, the vice president of A&R at Universal Music Enterprises.

Continue reading ‘?uestlove To Teach NYU Class, College To Get 1000 Times Cooler’

Discourse & Dischord

 

The Good

?uestlove inherits Jimmy Fallon’s dynasty in “Downton Sixby”

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon? “Downtown Sixby” gives you an inside peek the talk show host’s life offstage, where cue card valets come up with hilarious Kardashian jokes, hirsute daughters look for love, and Roots drummers stand to inherit the Fallon dynasty.

Flight of the Conchords reunite for charity

It’s business time again for Flight of the Conchords. The New Zealand duo have reunited to pen a charity single for Cure Kids called “Feel Inside (And Stuff Like That). Check out the lyric video below to hear how robbing robbers and feta cheese just might be the solution to it all. Continue reading ‘Discourse & Dischord’

?uestlove Annonuces Relaunch Of Okayplayer Imprint

?uestlove is injecting some swagger back into the music industry.

The Roots drummer, social media gadfly, and music bon vivant born Ahmir Khalib Thompson announced the return of Okayplayer Records in an exclusive feature with Billboard Magazine.

Okayplayer has existed in one form or another since 1987; the moniker originated from the self-given name of a loose-knit collective of artists that would go on to become The Roots. Since then, Okayplayer has been best known as an online music entity, though the company also dabbles in live events and media production.

News of Okayplayer Records’ relaunch was accompanied with word of some upcoming releases from the label for 2012. Rapper Danny!, who has been working with Okayplayer since 2006, is slated to have his sixth studio album, Payback, come out on September 25th. Payback will mark the end of an eight year gap between releases from Okayplayer.

It was also announced that Young Guru, the studio wiz responsible for engineering ten of Jay-Z’s 11 albums, will be releasing Young Guru: Essentials Vol 1, his all-beats debut album, through Okayplayer as well. Essentials Vol 1 is also the first in a planned series of albums from Young Guru, so fans shouldn’t worry about the lights at the Okayplayer Records offices going out any time soon.

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Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Bonnaroo rocks again

Bonnaroo was this past weekend, and there were many moments that were to be expected: Radiohead was stunning, Eminem was fierce, Danzig tried to punch out a photographer. Then there were the surprises—The Root’s tribute to MCA, Alice Cooper performing “Born This Way” and, best of all, the return of D’Angelo. The R&B singer, who’s been out of the spotlight for 12 years, was introduced by ?uestlove during The Roots’ set, and took the audience through classics by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, and Parliament. Watch him perform “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” below.

Glen Campbell, Josh Homme star in “A Better Place”

Glen Campbell’s video for “A Better Place” is nothing if not poignant. In it, the country singer, who is battling Alzheimer’s, flips through photos of his life, reminiscing about the good times as Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age hovers nearby. “A Better Place” is intended to be Campbell’s last video, and is the single off his final album Ghost On The Canvas. Just listen to the line “Some days I’m so confused Lord, my past gets in my way,” and try not to get teary-eyed. We failed.

The Bad

Lady Gaga strikes back

After being hit with a pole wielded by a backup dancer during her concert in Auckland and suffering a mild concussion and black eye, you’d think things get better for Lady Gaga. But NOOOOO, along comes Madonna with a couple of kicks to the singer while she’s down. Gaga responded to Madonna’s jabs during her Auckland concert—and she did it while PLAYING A KEYBOARD MOTORCYCLE, people! Check it out below. Oh, and Gaga, we think the black eye looks boss.

Coney Island high school bans patriotic song, not Bieber

George Washington is rolling over in his grave at this one. Greta Hawkins, principal of PS90 in Coney Island, banned kindergarteners from singing “Proud To Be An American” at their commencement ceremony, deeming the lyrics “too grown up.” But she let the class perform Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” naturally. You know, cause the lyrics “Are we an item / Girl quit playin’” are totally age-appropriate for a five year old.

The Ugly

Lauryn Hill in trouble for tax evasion

Did you want to know the whole story behind Lauryn Hill’s refusal to pay taxes for two years? Neither did we. But the singer felt compelled to write a meandering explanation on why she didn’t pay taxes on her $1.8 million income. If you feel like reading a bunch of bull, knock yourself out.

Kanye West chastises Dubliners

When Dubliners throw coins, Kanye West throws shade. The rapper stopped his show after discovering someone had thrown a coin up on stage, and then blamed the coin for messing up his flow, saying “Don’t throw no hard sh** onstage.” Yeah guys, only the soft variety, please.

Miscellany

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Q&A … AND GENERAL CONVERSATION… WITH ?UESTLOVE

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Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, drummer extraordinaire and co-founder of the hardest working hip hop band, The Roots, talks with OurStage during a break from taping the Jimmy Fallon Show. Beside touring all over the world, The Roots also manage to be the house band for Fallon which has given ?uestlove recent insight into what it takes these days to make it in the music business.

OS: What advice would you give to a hip hop band that’s just starting out? Would you tell them to simply go out on the road and do as many shows live as possible, or would you tell them to hone their chops in the studio and build a fan base making mixes/demos/singles etc.?

?L: The answer will actually handle both of those together: I would insist that they rehearse for three to four hours a day. Real rehearsal. That is the key. This job with Fallon has forced us to do something that we’ve never ever done in our 17 years. We’ve never rehearsed. I know that’s weird to hear. We’ll do soundchecks, but that’s hardly rehearsal. It used to be where I considered Boise, Idaho, or St. Paul, Minnesota, as rehearsals, real shows would be L.A., New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Paris, major cities. What I’m finding out now is that with the show, that we have to rehearse hard for four hours, every day, we’re becoming better musicians, and we’re becoming way better songwriters. I feel like I’ve cheated us and cheated our fan base. All I can say is, damn, if we’d only rehearsed four hours every day since we started, we could have literally Lennon/McCartneyed the shit out of this industry. All our songs are based off a riff and a jam. If we really just applied that whole Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of rehearsal thing, we’d be kings.

OS: It’s refreshing to hear you say that, because I feel artists just starting out feel that if they just play live all the time that their sound will grow organically.

?L: Having this job is making me feel like we’ve only been operating at 40% of our powers, when we could have really been kicking ass at 95%. Its gonna make you a stronger songwriter, socially it’s gonna make you stronger— well you still have to deal with the closeness of being in a band and seeing these people all the time, i.e. the social aspect—but from a creative standpoint, as a band, you will be better, and you know I’m not saying you’ll be the best in the world. I know Deerhoof puts rehearsal before performance, by no means of their imagination are they virtuosos on some David Murray/ John Coltrane thing, but you can tell that those guys practice and play together.

OS: It’s funny cause you mentioned Deerhoof, because I was actually spoke to them once about how hard they rehearse, it’s amazing how it all comes down to practice. Look at someone like Trey Anastasio from Phish. When that band was at its apex, it’s not because they noodled for 18 minutes on a song, it’s because those guys rehearsed, they said they would spend like 6 hours a day when their not on tour, just sitting in a room, they would play rehearsal games, they would turn off all the lights so you can’t look for visual queues, you have to listen. They would do this for hours. Trey felt that the whole dynamic fell apart because life got in the way. Kids, getting so big, interviews, tours, all the “distractions” that took them away from practice time as they got bigger it may sound like we’re just improvising all this stuff, and a lot of it is, but really a lot of that improvisation comes from hours and hours and hours together in a room knowing where each other are musically.

?L: That’s why we do the Highline jam sessions as well. Tuesday, we played from midnight to four in the morning at the Highline. First of all, the pressure of practicing in front of an audience, that brings out an 7th sense that I didn’t know I had; that of an oppressor. The hardest thing about this gig is doing it each night. I guess I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I will say to all people that thought by taking this job and we were gonna phone it in from home. NO WAY! It’s funny when you mention the whole lights off rehearsal game, because we can’t all see each other during the show the way they have us set up, so this really does mean that we have to listen to each other. Which is always for the best.

 


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