The Premise Wonderland 2014
by Stacey D’Erasmo
Years after flaming out, singer-songwriter Anna Brundage launches a comeback tour in Europe, grapples with her bohemian-family history, spins many MFA-level metaphors.
Real-Life Inspiration? Anna’s cult status and single-album stardom sound like Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum; her much-mentioned tresses — “red and thick, pirate’s hair” — say Neko Case.
Behind The Music Moment(s) The verdict after the recording sessions for the first album? Cocaine is amazing! After the second, in a crumbling French château? Not so much. Also, there be groupies.
Sample Lyrics “By the sea/On the green ship/I will be waiting/We will go then/Only then/Only then/We will go then….Wonderland”
Industry Wisdom On the strangeness of being on the road: “Tour time is different. It has no edges, no top, no bottom. It is a series of present moments.”
Cred Score 2½
The Premise The Love Song of Jonny Valentine 2013
by Teddy Wayne
It’s hard out there for a millennial tween-pop superstar — even one with a multi-octave range, an L.A. McMansion, and an awesome signature coif.
Real-Life Inspiration? It rhymes with Shmustin Shmieber. There’s also an older teen-pop rival, Tyler Beats, who seems very Timberlake-y.
Behind The Music Moment(s) It’s all basically BTM in book form, between Jonny’s ruthless momager, his underage exploits with sex and substances, and Day of the Locust showbiz insights.
Sample Lyrics “Girls and guys/Burgers and fries/ All gets ruined with a coupla lies”
Industry Wisdom On Idol-type TV shows: “People who don’t have any talent themselves always want to believe they can at least spot good talent, like that’s a talent itself.”
Cred Score 3
The Premise Freedom 2010
by Jonathan Franzen
Richard Katz, a man who makes “wryly titled records that a certain kind of critic and about five thousand other people…liked to listen to,” finds sudden indie-mainstream acclaim, hates it.
Real-Life Inspiration? With his caustic politics and dark-horse charisma, Katz comes off as a cross between Nick Cave and Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins.
Behind The Music Moment(s) A Grammy nod and the adoration of the NPR set send him into a tailspin of drugs, debt, and general self-destruction.
Sample Lyrics “They can buy you/They can butcher you/Tritely, cutely branded yogurt/The cat barfed yesterday”
Industry Wisdom On creativity: “Every hour of the day…some energetic young person was working on a song that would sound…as fresh as the morning of Creation.”
Cred Score 4
The Premise A Visit From the Goon Squad 2010
by Jennifer Egan
A sprawling web of characters includes an indie-label owner, a record producer, and a gaggle of safety-pinned punk-rock kids.
Real-Life Inspiration? The producer recalls legendarily louche Me Decade power players like Lou Adler and Robert Evans; the punks are more general, but Egan makes you smell it.
Behind The Music Moment(s) Goon has all kinds of powders, pills, and poolside fellatio. Most decadent, though, is the label guy pinching gold flakes into his coffee cup daily.
Sample Lyrics “You said you were a fairy princess/You said you were a shooting star…. Now look at where the f—we are”
Industry Wisdom On music technology: “Too clear, too clean…. The problem was digitization, which sucked the life out of everything that got smeared through its microscopic mesh.”
Cred Score 5