No list of musical moments will ever come close to the momentous gravity of NYC’s influence on sound over the last century plus. The following pairings, however, aim to tap into some of our personal favorite milestones in the midst of it all. Some of them—the Beastie Boys Book and Paul’s Boutique, for example—connect directly. Others—like last year’s exquisite photographic study of the Chelsea Hotel and Leonard Cohen’s posthumous album—share a profound emotional attachment. All, however, move us—and amplify each other—regardless of decade or genre.
A photographic tour of one of NYC’s most storied residences, Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven ($35) bridges past to present and myth to reality through deeply textured images by Colin Miller and thoughtful text by Ray Mock. Within, both Miller and Mock convey the Chelsea Hotel’s continued bohemian spirit, carried along by the remaining residents of its previous iteration. It’s an open window to an opulent world defiant of time and circumstance.
Thanks for the Dance
Released after Leonard Cohen’s death, the nine-song album Thanks for the Dance ($31) finds the artist’s son Adam fleshing out some of his father’s incomplete sonic sketches with the help of several extraordinary collaborators—Bryce Dessner of The National, Damien Rice, Javier Mas, Patrick Watson and Beck included. A startlingly beautiful addition to Cohen’s lengthy portfolio and a labor of love, the album offers finality. This 180g white vinyl pressing is a Barnes & Noble exclusive edition.
Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest
Written by poet and critic Hanif Abdurraqib, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest ($17) is part essay, critique, history lesson, and love letter. Tracing the group’s rise (from their initial existence as the Afrocentric rap group Native Tongues to magazine covers, significant albums, a break-up and return), the book is factual but emotional, thoughtful and tender, and written by an expert who also happens to be a fan.
We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in 18 years We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service ($33) was released late 2016 but still feels (like all of their records) super-fresh after countless listens. Featuring the likes of André 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Elton John and more, it’s diverse and boasts seamless production across all 16 tracks. Of course, the group’s beloved, now-deceased member Phife Dawg makes a posthumous appearance.
Face It: A Memoir
An autobiography by punk icon Debbie Harry, Face It: A Memoir ($30) was crafted by Harry and music writer Sylvie Simmons. The fascinating tome is full of history, anecdotes and wild tales, but steers clear of being a full-on confessional—which perfectly suits Harry’s impeccably crafted Blondie persona. From her teenage years to moving to NYC, meeting Chris Stein, her rise to fame and the creation of Blondie (the band and the character), nearly everything gets documented alongside never-before-published photographs and artwork. Of course, there’s much more to Harry than Blondie, and plenty of that is explored within, too.
Blondie’s third album, Parallel Lines ($35) was many individuals’ introduction to the imitable band. Recorded at NYC’s Record Plant in the summer of 1978, it was released just a couple months later in September and includes the breakthrough songs “Hanging on The Telephone,” “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another.” Along with producer Mike Chapman (who the band was apparently not in favor of working with initially, as he was “very Hollywood,” Harry writes in her memoir), Blondie borrowed from disco during an era in which the genre was widely denigrated. The result is an iconic collection of songs, and an immediately recognizable album cover.
Meet Me in the Bathroom
Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 ($15) is the incredible story of NYC’s explosive music scene in the early 2000s—in which bands like The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem and more were propelled into fame. The behind-the-scenes insights are from some 200 interviews with musicians, journalists, photographers, managers, music executives, groupies, DJs and more. It’s a fascinating read—full of gossip—and not just for rock enthusiasts.
Electric Lady Sessions
Recorded at the famed Electric Lady Studios (built by Jimi Hendrix and designed by architect and acoustician John Storyk), Electric Lady Sessions ($32) includes live versions of several LCD Soundsystem tracks, as well as a few covers. With songs like Heaven 17’s “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang” and The Human League’s “Seconds,” the record offers extra insight into the band’s new wave and synthpop influences. An essential for LCD fans, this two-vinyl set comes with a DFA lightning bolt sticker.
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire
Written by music critic Will Hermes, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever ($13) explores the years in the mid-1970s when NYC was failing as a city, but punk, hip-hop, disco, salsa and jazz were thriving from block to block, borough to borough. Beginning with New Year’s Day in 1973 and ending with New Year’s Eve in 1977, the book is encyclopedic and detailed, and tells the fairytale of various music scenes and the fascinating ways they oftentimes converged in a city that was, in many ways, divided.
Get Up With It
A compilation record of songs recorded by legendary trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis, at NYC’s Columbia Studios between 1970 and 1974, Get Up with It ($40) is a foray into jazz fusion, with elements of rock, soul, psych, funk, calypso and more woven throughout. At the time, many jazz purists were surprised by Davis’ oddball and adventurous choices, but the record has proven itself as a significant game-changer. Dedicated to the then-recently deceased Duke Ellington, the album features cameos from an impressive line-up of musicians including Herbie Hancock, Cedric Lawson, John McLaughlin, James Mtume and others.
Beastie Boys Book
From two of the three Beastie Boys themselves—AD-ROCK (Adam Horowitz) and Mike D (Mike Diamond)—comes a wildly comprehensive retrospective on the iconic trio. Telling the tale of how they—of course with the beloved MCA (Adam Yauch), who passed away in 2012—went from teen punk rockers when they formed in 1981 to hip-hop legends (with a few detours to jazz, funk, experimental and more along the way) the Beastie Boys Book ($28) also features contributions from frequent collaborator Spike Jonze, Luc Sante and others. In addition to the memoir components and rare photos, the tome features a graphic novel, a map of Beastie Boys’ New York, a cookbook and more. The book is as much of an amalgamation as the band itself.
Named for a fictional store and featuring snippets of a staggering 105 songs (from Johnny Cash to Idris Muhammad, Kurtis Blow, the Ramones, and John Williams’ theme for Jaws), the Beastie Boys’ second album Paul’s Boutique ($25) is heralded as a cornerstone of sampling in hip-hop. The aforementioned samples apparently ended up costing the band $250k in various legal fees, but are evidence of the vast influences and inspirations they used. The album contains elements of their humor, penchant for jazz, early days in punk, and their everlasting love for NYC.
A love letter to New York City, the power of youth, commitment to one’s artistic pursuits and, simply, friendship, Patti Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids ($25) celebrates destiny—from tumult and tragedy to success. In this illustrated edition, never-before-published photographs and ephemera join Smith’s exceptionally beautiful words. Smith captures a moment and a movement—and honors the life of Robert Mapplethorpe in the process.
The Peyote Dance
The first in a triptych of albums (collectively entitled The Perfect Vision), The Peyote Dance ($24) sees Patti Smith join experimental musical outfit Soundwalk Collective in a work of tribute to French poet Antonin Artaud. Soundwalk Collective’s founder Stéphan Crasneanscki traveled to the Norogachi municipality of Mexico’s Sierra Tarahumara, where Artaud himself visited in 1936, curious to know whether a peyote shaman from the Rarámuri people could free him of an opioid addiction. Soundwalk Collective recorded in both the village and cave where Artaud lived, capturing sounds earthly and human, delicate and divine. Smith then joined them in studio, back in New York to weave together each track.
Images courtesy of respective publishers