Five new gift-ready reads are here for the music lover in your life. From operatic rock to Americana, from classical to soul, we’ve got a pitch-perfect match no matter their genre of choice.
Queen superfans may be looking forward to the upcoming biopic Bohemian Rhapsody—starring “Mr. Robot” lead Rami Malek as iconic frontman Freddie Mercury—but the publication of Martin Popoff’s lovingly compiled Queen: Album by Album is an event in its own right. Popoff, who claims Queen is “absolutely the greatest band to ever walk this earth,” takes a deep dive into the band’s catalog and discusses each record in lively, conversational Q&A’s with musical figures like Sir Paul McCartney, Dee Snider, David Ellefson of Megadeth, Patrick Myers (lead in the Broadway musical Killer Queen) and more. Starting with Queen’s 1973 self-titled debut, the book moves chronologically, and every chapter begins with a detailed and passionate essay from Popoff on each album’s merits. Absolutely packed with photos of the band, gig posters and fun ephemera, Popoff’s freewheeling guide is definitely one to display.
Since 1994, the Chicago-based alternative rock-turned-Americana band Wilco have been pioneers of the indie scene, winning multiple Grammys and inspiring countless other musicians in their wake. Founder, frontman and lead songwriter Jeff Tweedy finally opens up to his devoted fans in his first memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. Put your well-loved copy of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” on the turntable and settle in as Tweedy takes you through his childhood, early creative days in Chicago, the writing and recording of celebrated albums like 2004’s “A Ghost Is Born” and lays out some of his biggest struggles and triumphs.
A CLASSICAL TRADITION
Let’s be honest: Classical music has a bit of an image problem. For many, the mere mention of the genre conjures up images of the snooty bourgeoise in stuffy symphony halls. But BBC radio host Clemency Burton-Hill aims to change your perceptions and make you a bona-fide classical fan with Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day. For each day of the year, Burton-Hill provides a piece of music by a wide range of composers—from a soaring hymn by medieval nun Hildegard of Bingen to stripped-down contemporary pieces composed by Philip Glass—along with a short rundown of the piece’s history and a description of what to listen for.
Joni Mitchell from Women Who Rock. Illustration by Anne Muntges, reproduced with permission from Black Dog & Leventhal.
LADIES LEADING THE WAY
Music journalist Evelyn McDonnell has written extensive biographies of groundbreaking artists like Joan Jett and the Runaways and Bjork, and she lends her decades of experience to editing Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyoncé. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl. The goal of this gorgeous coffee table book is “to tell a narrative story by focusing on key select figures who were true game changers.” And although the title suggests a focus on rock artists, the included essays offer “portraits of diversity, from Patsy Cline’s country melancholy to Joni Mitchell’s folk jazz to Missy Elliott’s avant rap.” Written by women and illustrated by women, this is a powerhouse collection that is completely, unapologetically celebratory. Revel in the greatness of Women Who Rock.
THE ONO FACTOR
Speaking of women getting some well-deserved credit in the music industry, did you know that Yoko Ono was only recently co-credited as a writer on John Lennon’s 1971 single “Imagine”? And now, her role in shaping Lennon’s late-period music and art is fully explored in Imagine John Yoko, a celebration of their partnership. Compiled by Ono and replete with photos from her personal archives, facsimiles of Lennon’s handwritten lyrics, stills from their narrative videos, excerpts from key interviews conducted during their collaborative period, concept sketches and photos of Ono’s pivotal art exhibits and more, this book will be a must-have for any fan of this world-changing pair. In a time when Ono’s activism seems as relevant as ever, she offers a rallying cry in the powerful preface: “Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Power works in mysterious ways. We don’t have to do much. Visualize the domino effect and just start thinking PEACE. It’s time for action. The action is PEACE.”