THIS year’s music books have been a riot of politics, sonics and sex. Let’s start with the latter.

“Sex didn’t empower me for years,” Lily Allen writes in her memoir My Thoughts Exactly (Blink Publishing, £20). “Those older men I had sex with at the beginning had no interest in helping me explore or discover sex. They didn’t give a shit about me or any of that.”

Allen’s book is quite frankly astonishing. It is so candid, so revealing – about her mental health, her family, and, yes, her sex life – that there are several moments reading it when you find yourself thinking: "Lily, don’t tell us that. We don’t need to know."

But, of course, we want to. And that’s why this is so compelling. As an account of the cost of fame, this cuts deep.

Almost as revealing is Into the Valley (Wymer Publishing, £19.99), Richard Jobson’s memoir about his early years before during and after his time in The Skids. It’s a rather plainly written book to be honest but Jobson is revealing and honest and hyperaware of his own failings. That is more than enough compensation.

Brett Anderson’s Coal Black Mornings (Little, Brown, £16.99) is a more considered, more consciously literary effort. At times it is a little overwritten to be honest, but that’s a minor flaw. Because for the most part this is a tough-minded and emotionally acute account of the Suede singer’s childhood and teenage years, about his relationship with his parents and the route map that pop music provided for him to march away from his suburban origins.

In comparison, Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite (Blink Publishing, £20), Roger Daltrey’s account of his time in The Who feels very meat and potatoes, despite the odd punch-up (Roger decking Pete Townsend) and the odd car driven into swimming pool (courtesy of Keith Moon).

It all feels a little flat and frankly out of date. That said, it does sound authentically like its author’s voice, even if that is just Daltrey having a moan about Harold Wilson’s “socialist” government’s taxation regime.

For a more rewarding account of the golden age of rock turn to Ray Connolly’s Being John Lennon: A Restless Life (Orion, £20). Connolly, who met Lennon regularly, is recounting a familiar story here, but he tells it well. The result is neither hagiography nor character assassination, rather a nuanced examination of Lennon’s life before, during and after his time as a Beatle.

And Connolly’s description of Lennon lashed to the wheel of a yacht during a Force 8 gale is a movie just waiting to happen.

Retreating to the margins both Robyn Green and David Haslam have written intriguing books about music as a delivery vehicle for other dreams.

For Green, the only girl in the boys’ club that was Rolling Stone magazine in the early days, that dream was writing. Her memoir The Only Girl (Virago, £18.99) is a waspish, score-settling book (neither Rolling Stone’s founder Jann Wenner nor David Simon, showrunner on The Sopranos, come out of it well)

 But maybe no one does. “In those days,” she writes, “I didn’t think much about the damage anything I wrote might do, how it might hurt feelings, careers.”

Like Lily Allen’s book, it is at times surprisingly confessional. At one point she even tells us about the time she slept with Robert Kennedy Junior (“I was pretty sure it was an unwritten rule that you weren’t supposed to have sex with the subject of an article you were writing,” she admits).

Green’s book is in the end an eyes-wide-open account of a particular time in America, a time in which Rolling Stones journalists could be found roaring down California highways stoned on mescaline in the company of Annie Leibovitz and Hunter S Thompson.

By contrast, Dave Haslam’s Sonic Youth Slept on my Floor (Constable, £20) is a more restrained, more buttoned-up memoir, one that is happier looking outwards than inwards.

As a fanzine writer and DJ Haslam was a minor character in the Manchester scene in the 1980s and 1990s. But that allows him to take a more objective view of Manchester’s musical mythology.

 And so, for example, he’s particularly clear-eyed on the Gunchester days at the Hacienda. For once there’s none of that fanboy gush over Mancunian gangsters that can sometimes mar these things.

And yes, Sonic Youth slept on his floor.

Turning from the subjective to the objective … Nick Coleman’s Voices (Jonathan Cape, £20), is an exploration of the voice in popular music as filtered through the writer’s own tastes and instincts (so, maybe not that objective after all).

To be honest, I had something of a testy relationship with Coleman’s own voice. There are times when he’s trying way too hard here, to the extent that it’s irritating.

Some of this comes down to personal taste. I understand the logic of his sense of distance from, say, Sinatra; a sense that he can’t find himself within Sinatra’s particular projection of masculinity. I just think he’s wrong. Because on When No One Cares or Songs for the Lonely, Frank sings with an ache that is the antithesis of the rinky dink rat pack maleness Coleman identifies in his voice.

Then again, I love Gladys Knight and Coleman loves Gladys Knight so there are points of agreement.

And ultimately this is a picture of an engaged listener during a particular window in pop culture. Coleman asks good questions (‘what is soul?’), heads off in unexpected directions and best of all sends you back to the records to hear what he hears.

To tougher times. On July 31, 1975, sometime around two in the morning, returning from a gig in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, the five members of the Miami Showband were pulled out of their van and shot on the side of the road. Three of them – Fran O’Toole, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy – died there at the roadside. In Northern Ireland during the Troubles musicians were as much targets as everyone else.

In Trouble Songs (Bloomfield Press, £14.99) Northern Irish writer and broadcaster Stuart Bailie gives us a deft, heartsore book about music in the north and about the north from the 1960s to the present day; from Astral Weeks to Snow Patrol, via Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones and Christy Moore, taking in everyone from John Lennon to Bono and Bananarama.

It is, inevitably, full of hard stories to tell, but Bailie’s account is impressively clear-eyed.

Time for synths. Whatever Liam Gallagher might say, “electronic music is the natural stuff of now.”

The journey to this point – the point of Skrillex and Janelle Monae and Calvin Harris – is the one traced out by former Melody Maker journalist David Stubbs in Mars By 1980 (Faber, £20).

The best stories here are in the first section, where the likes of Gyorgy Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen are finding their way to a new sound in the days before the technology really existed.

Stockhausen grew up in Germany. His mother was mentally ill and was killed by the Nazi authorities in 1941. His father was killed in the war and Stockhausen himself worked in an ambulance crew on the front line. Ligeti was born in Transylvania, a middle-class Jew. His father and younger brother were murdered in the concentration camps and he had to flee home after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

By the time Stubbs reaches Kraftwerk the book’s structure becomes a bit jumpy and jittery, itchily moving back and forth through time. Still, he covers the bases and gains bonus marks for admitting that in his sixth-form year he was copying both Phil Oakey’s face fringe and Midge Ure’s pencil moustache.

Talking of Midge …

Vic Galloway’s catalogue for the National Museum of Scotland’s summer exhibition Rip It Up (National Museums Scotland, £14.99) faces the same challenge as the museum faced. How do you encompass some six decades of Scottish pop? The DJ and author’s answer is to try and give everybody and everything a mention. The problem with that is that it means there’s no room to give anyone the attention they deserve.

That said, even in a breathless book there are moments that catch your breath. Like the reminder that Leslie Harvey, Alex’s brother, was electrocuted onstage at the Swansea Top Rank in 1972 while playing with Stone the Crows.

Here comes the retrofuture. Jason Heller’s book Strange Stars (Melville House, £20) takes us through the crossover between science fiction and pop music during the long 1970s (roughly from Bowie’s Space Oddity to Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes), taking in everyone from Lee Scratch Perry to the Rezillos.

We learn that the title of Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze was inspired by Philip Jose Farmer’s novel Night of Light and that George Clinton was a fan of UFO conspiracist Erich von Daniken. And if nothing else Heller leaves us with the prospect of what might have been: a collaboration between Joy Division and Michael Moorcock was discussed but didn’t come to anything. If only.

In When Words Fail (Granta, £25) the Guardian journalist Ed Vulliamy, whose normal brief is often war reporting here looks at the role of music in conflict and in his own life. It covers Shostakovich writing his Seventh Symphony in a Leningrad under siege from the Nazis during the Second World War and Iron Maiden performing in Sarajevo at the height of war in Bosnia in the early 1990s. Vulliamy asks tough questions about the role of music during war, but also hones in on its role as consolation and act of defiance.

With 1001 Guitars To Dream of Playing Before You Die (Octopus Books, £20), we are now deep in muso territory. This is instrument porn for wannabe rockers. In that it more than serves the needs of its audience. It may also provide visual evidence for the argument that the uglier the guitar the worse the band.

D is for dedication. Adrian Harte’s account of the alt-rock stroke rap band Faith No More, Small Victories, is clearly a labour of love. His account of the band’s story is exhaustive, informed and studded with first-person testimonies. As a reader it helps if you like the band. But if you are this is catnip, I suspect.

All these white boys and girls. They always get top billing, don’t they? The truth is, though, the best music writing this year is about black music.

The slimmest book in this round-up, but one that cuts deeper than most, is Margo Jefferson’s essay, On Michael Jackson (Granta, £9.99) It’s a tough-minded take on Jackson’s troubled life, from his damaged childhood to the everything that came in its wake.  “Child stars are performers above all else,” Jefferson writes. “Whatever their triumphs, they are going to make sure we see every one of their scars. That’s the final price of admission.”

Harlem 69 The Future of Soul (Polygon, £16.99) is the final volume in Stuart Cosgrove’s soul trilogy. It takes us to Harlem in 1969, a place of poverty, drug problems, violent death and great music.

Cosgrove’s deep dive into the year’s events is an epic feat of archival research that has then been expertly marshalled into a narrative that joins the dots between Donny Hathaway, Jimi Hendrix, the Black Panthers, police corruption and the Vietnam war.

Will Ashon's Chamber Music: About the Wu Tang in 36 Pieces is a more consciously artful (or, depending on your tastes, self-consciously artsy) take on the creation of the hip hop collective’s debut studio album. But it’s all the other things it takes in – black religious fundamentalism, a history of minstrelsy, Hong Kong’s wuxia cinema and pornography and the Mafia on New York’s 42nd Street – that will keep you reading.

The best music book of the year, however, is also the most up-to-date. Inner City Pressure (William Collins, £20) is a gripping, angry, utterly engaged history of grime music. Dan Hancox’s account of the rise of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Stormzy et al from their east London council estates over the last 20 years is also a potent polemic against New Labour politics, urban gentrification, inner city policing, Grenfell and austerity. Nostalgia this is not. And all the better for it.