The Jesus Lizard Book

I reviewed a book about the rock band Jesus Lizard for Paste. It’s the latest in a steadily increasing pool of books looking at indie guitar bands from the ’80s and ’90s.

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Philip Bailey Still Hits The High Notes

I reviewed the new memoir from Philip Bailey, the lead singer in the group Earth, Wind & Fire. Check that piece out over at Paste. It’s hard to pick a favorite Earth, Wind & Fire tune, so I picked two.

 

In the book, Bailey points out that his sound was heavily indebted to the Brazilian singer Sergio Mendes, which comes through in the vocal clouds here.

Miranda Lambert’s Platinum

I wrote about the new Miranda Lambert album, Platinum, for the Atlantic. It’s one of the strongest albums of the year so far, and it comes at an important moment for country music. Below, check out Lambert’s take on soul, entitled “Holdin’ On To You.”

Ben Watt, Master of Reinvention

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I wrote about the new album from Ben Watt–and interviewed him a little bit–for Diffuser. See the piece here. Watt started out playing acoustic pop, then spent twentyish years as one half of Everything but the Girl, and has continued to successfully reinvent himself after that. His website is a lot of fun. Below, a track from Watt’s first solo release back in 1983.

Downtown Madonna

I reviewed a new book about Madonna for Paste. Moral of the story: if your mom calls, pick up the phone.

 

Carl Wilson, Celine Dion Talk About Love

I reviewed the book Let’s Talk About Love for the LA Review of Books. The author (also Slate’s pop critic), Carl Wilson, goes out of his way to try to understand a Celine Dion album that he hates. In doing so, he tries to figure out the source of taste and the job of a critic.

Nirvana Makes It Big, With A Little Help From Rocky

I reviewed Experiencing Nirvana–a new book about an early Nirvana tour across Europe that helped the band build positive press in 1989–for Paste. See the piece here.

 

A First for the Staple Singers

I wrote about a new book on the Staple Singers for Paste. Surprisingly it’s the first book on a group that had two number one hits and earned admiration from Elvis, Dylan, and Prince. Below, a Staple family track that the Stones ripped wholesale.

 

And here’s their last number one hit, written and produced by Curtis Mayfield.

Classic Influences

I wrote about new albums from The War on Drugs, the Men, and the Drive-By Truckers, all of which wouldn’t sound out of place in the late ’70s or ’80s. It used to be that “indie” artists rebelled against these sounds; now they all embrace them. Check out the piece here.

An old Drive-By Truckers track:

 

If you’re more of a ballad person:

 

Questlove’s Family Affair

(I wrote this last summer, when the drummer Questlove’s autobiography came out, but my piece slipped through the cracks, so I’m posting it now.)

In Ahmir Thompson’s memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues, the drummer writes about his decision to go by his better-known moniker, Questlove. The name, he writes, combined “a mix of substance and style;” so does his book. Mo’ Meta Blues includes some normal career description, but several years are described largely through the records he remembers listening to at the time. He also throws in interviews with (and interjections from) the manager of his band, as well as emails from other people involved in the writing and editing process. Musicians take note: most of the time, Questlove manages to spice up a form that should be interesting — after all, few people have an artist’s breadth of experience — but too often ends up boring, repetitive, and predictable.

Not that Questlove throws the whole musician’s autobiography playbook out the window (for another interesting experiment in music memoir, read the book-length interview of the artist Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy). “[E]very music memoir has the same shape,” writes Questlove, “[i]t starts off with a simple statement about childhood: ‘I was born. . . My dad did this.’ But I don’t want to start that way. I can’t start that way. I won’t.” But of course, he does.

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