Feb 16th, 2009 // 24 Comments

Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, in which a book is given over to an appraisal of an album, once again opened the floor for proposals last year, and the publishers got 597 of ‘em in response. And our peanut gallery discussed what they wanted to pitch, and what pitches they would like to read. Now the 597 proposals have been whittled down to a short list of 170, running the gamut from two each for the Beatles’ White Album and Slint’s Spiderland to Vampire Weekend, 808s and Heartbreak and M.I.A.’s Kala. Between 20 and 25 of these will make the final cut. [33 1/3]


  1. Dan Gibson

    Sadly, the world is apparently not ready (quite yet) for my Michael W. Smith inspired masterpiece.

  2. DocStrange

    Garth Brooks in the Life of Chris Gaines got into the shortlist. I’d actually like to see what direction the author’s going to take on that one.

  3. Thierry

    I find it hard to believe that we might get a Blackout book (or two!) before anything’s published on Judee Sill…

  4. Al Shipley

    There are a LOT of albums I’d love to read about on that list. Mostly I’m just going to gnash my teeth and kick myself for not pitching every time I see an update about this, though.

  5. Chris B.

    @Dan Gibson: The first thing I looked for on that list was to see if your Michael W. Smith idea was there. It was one of the ones that most intrigued me.

    I knew my proposal on Anniemal was doomed when even my friends said “what’s that?” when I told them what album I was writing about.

  6. La Mareada

    @DocStrange: Most of their commenters don’t seem to understand that a recent indie rock fave or a respected classic is likely to be too dull and reverent to read. Arcade Fire as a book? I’d rather read one based on the freaky experiments or the noble failures or the just terrible.

  7. Poubelle

    Rather than mope that none of the Pulp proposals made it, I will say I think the O Brother soundtrack would yield something really interesting. Also, I just noticed The Chills’ Submarine Bells was on there. That’d be cool.

  8. doublewhiskycokenoice

    the fact that young jeezy is on there is a complete joke. if we’re going to pick a contemporary rap album, i defy anyone to give me a reason why juvenile’s ’400 degreez’ or big pun’s ‘capital punishment’ wouldn’t completely destroy that record.

    also, if there is a god, ac/dc’s back in black should win out.

  9. Lucas Jensen

    Most of the 33 1/3′s I’ve read have not been that good. I kinda stopped reading them.

  10. Anonymous

    Have they written one about Manowar’s “Kings Of Metal” album?

  11. Jack Fear

    @doublewhiskycokenoice: But it’s not about the quality of the album-it’s about what’s going to make an interesting book. The idea that best album = best book shows a complete misunderstanding of how writing works.

    The best 33 1/3 books that I’ve read have been the ones where the author was ambivalent about the record, esp. the Led Zeppelin IV and Use Your Illusion volumes. When the record is an undisputed classic, the treatment gets too reverent – too many of the books are 150-page blowjobs, with no critical thesis or analytical intent behind them.

    And do you really want top read 50,000 words that basically boil down to “OMG SO FUCKING AWESOME”?

  12. Nicolars

    @Jack Fear: That’s my problem with a lot of the indie-skewing 33 1/3 books — I don’t want to read a whole book on why someone thinks Slint is so awesome.

  13. Al Shipley

    @Jack Fear: I wouldn’t say the author of the Zep book is ambivalent toward the record — ambivalent toward “Stairway” and maybe one or two other songs, but not the whole album.

  14. Diglett

    My favorite books in the series are those where there isn’t any blowjobbing or hand-wringing at all, but a shitload of fun reporting about the album and the people around/behind it, see: Dan LeRoy’s Paul’s Boutique book. Mine is still kicking, but given the odds I’m definitely trying not to get too excited about said chasing people around.

  15. Anonymous

    @Diglett: Yes, the Paul’s Boutique book is quite good- I never knew about that other guy who was involved in the making of the album (the one who is kind of a recluse now), because normally you hear only about the Dust Brothers. Colin Meloy’s “Let it Be” is pretty decent, too, coming from the point of view of a young kid in Montana.

    I’m still in favor of anything involving “Marquee Moon,” X, “Odessey and Oracle,” Phil Ochs, or Dinosaur Jr.

    I think it’s too soon for anything on Kanye, Britney, Arcade Fire or even Mountain Goats.

  16. the rich girls are weeping

    It’s amazing how less and less interested in I am in the whole 33 1/3 folderol the slimmer this list gets.

    That being said, I wish I was the one behind that that All Hail West Texas pitch. (ha!) Other than that, though — the shortlist is beyond yawn-worthy. Then again, if the target audience is entry level-alts, as Hipster Runoff so lovingly describes them, than the greatest indie hits of the 90′s and early-aughts is where the $$$ is.

  17. the rich girls are weeping

    @the rich girls are weeping: er, or the popist hits of the 90′s and early-aughts for that matter. clearly there will be a smattering of canonized classics in the mix for crediblity, but this just might actually be the year for exile in guyville!

  18. Anonymous

    For anyone interested in reading one of the proposals that barely missed the cut, here is one of them:

  19. DocStrange

    @La Mareada: Oh yes, reading about a bad or crazy album would be a much better read than on a great album like “Funeral”. But hey, you never know. Maybe the Arcade Fire book will be as interesting as the Masters of Reality book from last year.

  20. DocStrange

    and not only that, but the fact that even though the Chris Gaines album was a failed and laughed at, its first single “Lost in You” remains his only Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 even though its not as good of a song as, say, “The Thunder Rolls”.

  21. Ned Raggett

    I’m on the shortlist — if I get through, great, but my goal with the book is far more than simply talking about the album in question (it will have a lot to do with technology and the reception/discussion of music and what has become normative over time).

  22. Chris Molanphy

    @DocStrange: Just to clarify: that’s because “Lost in You” is the only song Brooks released as a commercial single. Prior to 1998, that was required in order to chart on the Hot 100; the Country chart is all-airplay. So, no offense, but your data point means nothing viz. Brooks’s/Gaines’s popularity.

  23. scott pgwp

    @Nicolars: Fuck, I guess if mine gets picked I’m going to have to come up with a new angle. I thought “give Slint a blowjob” was the way to go, but maybe not…

  24. bcapirigi

    I’d rather read a good book about an album I’ve never heard (ie. Let’s Talk About Love) than a so-so book about one of my favorite albums. Though ideally, I’d like a good book about an album I love…
    My proposal didn’t make the list. I guess the world will just have to wait for my thesis about George Michael’s facial hair.

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