The end of the year is usually a time for nostalgia and restrospectives, and the options available this season are simultaneously timely and timeless.
Amy, Amy, Amy
There are any number of reasons why LGBT folks embraced the late diva Amy Winehouse. Her voice, a powerful instrument, emerged from the most unlikely place — a petite Jewish British girl. Her original songs had a certain sass that queer folks could both relate to and admire. Her look and style certainly inspired more than a few drag queens and trans-people. Her untimely death at 27 in 2011 is considered by many to be the single greatest tragedy within the music industry so far in the 21st century. Asif Kapadia’s informative and heartbreaking documentary, Amy (A24) — out on DVD in December — offers an unflinching view of the singular vocalist and songwriter. With rapier wit and a sense of humor that belied her youth, Winehouse’s star ascended, blazed and ultimately faded out too soon. Rare archival footage helps reveal an astonishing portrait of Winehouse’s life and creative process. Those interviewed for the film include Winehouse’s childhood pals, Juliette Ashby and Lauren Gilbert; her divorced parents, Janis and Mitchell; friends and collaborators like Tony Bennett and Mark Ronson; and many others whose lives she touched. amyfilm.co.uk
This winter, divas of all stripes will strut their proverbial stuff. The shelves of record stores, iTunes and other music outlets will be stocked with a wide array of releases perfect for everyone’s music library. Topping the list are albums by beloved songstresses Janet Jackson and Adele.
Seven years have passed since Jackson’s last release, making Unbreakable (Unbreakable/BMG) one of the most anticipated recordings of the year — and of her career.
The new Columbia album by Grammy- and Oscar-award winner Adele has finally arrived. Four years after her multi-platinum career-defining sophomore effort 21, 25 has generated more buzz than a healthy beehive. iTunes.com
The Kids are Alright
Described as “a music primer for children,” What Is Punk? (Akashic Books), by Eric Morse presents an accessible overview of the punk music scene from its beginnings with illustrations by Anny Yi. For those not in the know, the book is just as educational (and entertaining) for adults, too. Written in rhyme with photos of colorful clay characters set in iconic locations, What Is Punk? presents the history of the “deafening roar/that awakened the people,/like never before.” The musical legends that grace the pages include New York Doll David Johansen (appropriately in high heels), Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Henry Rollins and the all-female band The Slits. What Is Punk? just might be the coolest bedtime story ever written. akashicbooks.com