Monday, July 13, 2009

the 33 1/3 series

After finishing school this spring, most of my reading has been catching up on the books that have accumulated in my "to read" pile over the last few years. Of course in doing so, I end up buying more books anyhow. But that's neither here nor there. The majority of my reading material this summer has been music-related writings. I plan a post with a few raves from this pile, but Continuum's 33 1/3 series deserves their own post.

Most of you are likely familiar with the popular and acclaimed series of books. If you aren't, here's the basic rundown: each book in the series is by a different writer, focusing on a single album. The books are all fairly short, and the form they take varies - some are more about personal reflections of a particular album, others gain access to the artists for interviews and provide more of a chronicling of the disc, others are rock criticism.

The series is already up to 65 individual titles, with another 28 in the works. It's interesting to see what albums are being canonized by the series. Also interesting are the albums from the last 20 years or so, which while popular, may not have gotten a lot of attention as far as focused texts go.

I've barely even scratched the surface on the series. It's hard to compare the books, because they're all written from different perspectives and in different styles. However, they're pretty much always interesting and engaging reads for music geeks. The only one I've not been taken with so far was on The Replacements' Let it Be, mainly because the writer strayed quite a bit from the album itself. But of the other 6 or so that I've read, all have been quite good. One of my personal favorites was Matthew Stearns' take on Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. In addition to gaining access to interviews with the group, Stearns' introduction is particularly insightful, and has some interesting things to say about sound and recorded media.

So if you haven't dipped into this series, I highly recommend it. You'll probably find yourself (like me) wanting to collect every volume.

Check out the list of current and upcoming titles in the series here.

And check out the consistently entertaining 33 1/3 blog

More on music-related summer reads soon.

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