Release Date: July 20, 2010
The leak of the week happens to be the latest full-length of my favorite band. Did I just use the F-word? Sorry if I offended anyone there. I don't mean to be so exclusive. But after listening to The Way Out a few times, I think it has solidified The Books as my current favorite group of people making music today. Their only real competition is Menomena. Actually, these two will probably trade places in my ranks a few times before the end of the year. But right now, it is The Books.
In the 21st century, music shouldn't sound like anything other than what The Books are doing. With buried treasures of recordings from the past 100 years hidden in thrift stores, libraries, garage sales and youtube, we have so much material for creative puzzle making that hand-played instruments should be getting dusty in corners. Instruments are still fun, but found sounds are so much more interesting now that we live in an age of digital editing.
After five years of waiting, The Books have released something incredible. I was beginning to wonder after a few years if they'd do anything like Lemon of Pink again. Then they covered Cello Song with Jose Gonzalez, and I was assured that more excellence was on the way.
One thing that particular song proved was that Nick's voice could harmonize with Jose's, and sound gorgeous. I had been put off a little bit on 2005's Lost and Safe by the unexpectedly more prominent vocal element. I'm not sure if there's less singing on The Way Out, but it just seems more appropriate now. Free Translator is one of those poetically charged quiet Books songs that lulls its listener into a trance. And it's all because of Nick's soft voice and improved songwriting. The images are surreal and dreamy, and altogether heartwarming.
The album is full of laughs too (another key element that seemed missing on Lost and Safe). The Books are very funny. These latest songs about metaphysically challenged new-agers, hip hop misplaced in children's stories, and the usual Christian preacher wackjobbery, this is laugh-out-loud stuff.
I want to simultaneously contemplate the universe, black out into a coma, or paint a landscape as I listen to this music. Whatever happens, I feel so grateful when I hear the sonic creations of The Books. I can't explain how, but hearing these sounds assure me that life is still worth living. And living happily. God, I love The Books.