Baby, it's cold outside . . . what better time to stuff the stocking of that special someone with a music-related treat to curl up with and enjoy. If you have a rock, pop, country, hip-hop, or jazz fan on your list, one of these books, box sets, DVDs, reissues, or holiday albums will become a part of the soundtrack for his or her 2016 — and, by extension, yours as well.
Grace Jones, "I'll Never Write My Memoirs
It would have been a shame if Grace Jones had stuck to her original plan. "I'll never write my memoirs," she famously decreed on "Art Groupie" from 1981's "Nightclubbing," back when she was an unearthly hybrid of disco queen, androgynous model, and trendsetting glamour-puss. She was part human, part extraterrestrial, and every inch a natural-born star.
A brisk read full of attitude and defiance, "I'll Never Write My Memoirs" is Jones's salute to the extraordinary life she has already led. It is very Grace Jones, which is to say absolutely fabulous. She took a crooked path to stardom, from growing up in Jamaica as Beverly Grace Jones, the daughter of religious parents, to her metamorphosis into Studio 54's ultimate creature of the night.
Jones writes with a heightened sense of her persona and what we expect of her. The book oozes the Tao of Grace. On her reputation: "I know that I was the wildest party animal ever. I pushed myself to the limit and started from there." On trans-Atlantic travel: "I flew on the Concorde so many times I knew the pilots. . . . I could have flown the plane, except I would have wanted to do it naked, sprayed silver, in roller skates."
No one but Grace Jones could make that statement — and make you believe it.
"Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl," Carrie Brownstein In a crowded — and welcome — field of memoirs by female rock musicians this year, Brownstein's stands out for its vivid account of what it was like to be part of the so-called riot grrrl movement. She writes unflinchingly about her days with Sleater-Kinney, both then and now, and especially about the power of music to turn her into the person she had always wanted to be. (James Reed)
"Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink," Elvis Costello The beloved singer-songwriter takes to the page as well as he takes to the stage, spinning the yarns of his four decade-long career of disparate musical storytelling and the characters he's met — and created — along the way, from Paul McCartney to "Alison." (Sarah Rodman)
"Reckless: My Life as a Pretender," Chrissie Hynde The fierce and funny rocker delves into the history of her classic tunes, troubled bandmates, and the wildly adventurous life that took her from rock critic to rock star and from Akron to Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (S.R.)
"The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America," Michaelangelo Matos Dance music is perceived as more for the body than the mind, but fans of all types of music can derive a rich sense of history from this estimable tome about the rise of EDM from the fringes to the clubs to the mainstream in the US. (S.R.)
"What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches," Peaches and Holger
Talinski It takes a lot of grueling work to pull off what Peaches does so subversively night after night on tour and in theater productions. That's the takeaway from this revealing (and NSFW) photo book on the electro-pop provocateur, as seen through the lens of photographer Talinski and featuring essays by Michael Stipe, Yoko Ono, and Ellen Page. (J.R.)
"The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory," John Seabrook New Yorker staff writer Seabrook travels from Stockholm to Seoul and beyond — into recording studios and executive suites — to detail the evolution of modern pop music and the hit factories that pump it out. He ties together songcraft, technology, business practices, and more to tell the tale of some of pop's biggest earworms. (S.R.)
"The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed," Shea Serrano In a passionate compendium of 35 years of rap, Serrano chronicles the genre's defining songs, from 1979's "Rapper's Delight" to 2014's "Lifestyle." Along with Serrano's text, it features illustrations by Arturo Torres and a foreward by Ice-T. As one Amazon customer noted, "Don't trust a man who gives this less than 5 stars. He's probably the police." (J.R.)
"You Don't Own Me: The Life and Times of Lesley Gore," Trevor Tolliver When Gore died in February after an undisclosed battle with lung cancer, pop music lost one its important early voices. Tolliver's account of the late singer's life, based on several years of interviews and research, is the first biography of Gore, from her early hits ("It's My Party" and the one referenced in the title) to her last years. (J.R.)
"Boys in the Trees," Carly Simon She's already revealed that Warren Beatty was the partial inspiration for "You're So Vain," but the revered singer-songwriter should unearth even more interesting nuggets in this memoir, including her privileged yet idiosyncratic childhood, the stories behind other hits, and the years she spent as Mrs. James Taylor. (See review, Page G1) (S.R.)