Friday, February 13, 2009


I love to read books by music critics and fans. My all-time favorite book is "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby (the John Cusack film is also one of my favorite movies). I have read it more times than I can count. The copy of "HF" that I own is a wreck- pages are falling out, lines are underlined, and there is some slight water damage. I love it.

Below is a list of other books by music critics/fans that I love and recommend.
  • "Songbook" by Nick Hornby

This collection of essays about Nick Hornby's 31 favorite songs is essential reading. He writes so well about the songs he loves, which range from Ben Folds Five to Rufus Wainwright to Teenage Fanclub. I think that I especially love this because many of the songs he counts as his favorites (Badly Drawn Boy's "A Minor Incident," Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road") are my favorites as well.
  • "Love is a Mix Tape" by Rob Sheffield

This heartfelt little memoir about Sheffield (who used to write a column for Rolling Stone and now writes for Blender, I believe) and the death of is fiance, Renee, is both a love story and a reflection on how music has shaped his life. Every chapter includes the track list of a mix tape he listened to during that time.
  • "Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life" by John Sellers

One part music-based memoir, two-parts Guided By Voices love letter, John Sellers's reflection on the music that meant most to him (including 80's hair metal, U2, straight-up pop, and lots of GBV) is a witty look at how the songs you hear can change who you are. At times, the pages-long footnotes were irritating, but overall this is a really enjoyable book.
  • "Killing Yourself To Live: 85% of a True Story" by Chuck Klosterman

As the title suggests, it's tough to tell which parts of this memoir are fact and which are fiction. Initially, Klosterman sets out to write about dead rock stars, but then the book veers into a look at his past and present girlfriends. Sometimes Klosterman's writing got to be too narcissistic but overall I enjoyed it.
  • "The Show I'll Never Forget" by Various Authors

In this essay collection, 50 writers reflect on their most memorable concert experiences. The essays are alternately hilarious, thought-provoking, and just plain weird.
  • "I Like Food, Food Tastes Good" by Kara Zuaro

My sister got me this cookbook for Christmas. Every recipe is written by bands like Yo La Tengo, Smoosh, Ben Kweller, and the Hold Steady (there are TONS more). Most of the recipes seem disgusting, but it's funny just to read the stories about food.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


"Thirteen" by Big Star has been one of my all-time favorite songs for years. The simple lyrics are absolutely perfect, the acoustic picking is charming, and the wavering harmonies tie the song together as probably the best song about young love, ever. Naturally, a song this good can't survive without being covered. Luckily, the covers I've heard are beautiful takes on the original that would make Alex Chilton proud.

From Wilco's piano-laced take on the tune to Elliott Smith's earnest rendition to Garbage's moody pop-rock ballad, these interpretations of the flawless song prove that it may be perfect, but it isn't without equal.

Which is your favorite cover?

Latest BYT Posts

Here are a few of my latest posts on Brightest Young Things, including two "In Defense of Top 40" columns.

IDOT40: "My Life Would Suck Without You"
IDOT40: "Heartless"
Sunny Songs for a Winter Day

Writing the IDOT40 column is so much fun and I always love reading the comments on those. Pop music can, ironically, be pretty polarizing.

TV on the Radio on the TV

I'm very puzzled.

TV on the Radio is a front-runner in the never ending "America's Radiohead" contest, and they released probably the best reviewed album of 2008 (the unbelievable Dear Science). They've also been known to put on mind-numbingly awesome live shows. But this weekend on Saturday Night Live, they sounded awful.

TVOTR played "Golden Age" and "Dancing Choose." The latter was better than the former, but both sounded sloppy and unbalanced. Apparently, SNL has a sketchy history with sound so I think I can chalk up the lackluster performance to poor sound technicians. Thank goodness. I had been really looking forward to their set and was pretty disappointed to hear them sound so muddy.