Review Summary: With an incredibly unique and entertaining sound, the Books mix skeletal acoustic instruments with an arsenal of original samples.
Musically and artistically, the Books fall into a league of their own. At this point, countless reviewers have already noted the incredibly original and distinctive sound of this American duo, but I can't stress enough how unique the Books really are. Formed by Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong, the Books have become well-known for their sagacious use of field recordings and samples, while looping these numerous sounds and effects on top of simple acoustic instrumentation. On paper, it might not seem so extraordinary, yet hearing these components come together as a whole is invigorating. Thought for Food
is the duo's most fundamental take on this sound, yet their inventive and resourceful approach to the music is thoroughly enjoyable.
Thought for Food
is, without a doubt, a quirky record, saturated with an eccentric brand of humor. The vocal samples, for the most part, contribute to this fickle and perplexing tone. Additionally, the samples give Thought for Food
a life of its own. Most of the spoken words are taken completely out of context, but the fun in this record often comes from trying to visualize the images and settings conveyed through immersive elements like crowded background noises or periodic spurts of laughter. While many of these snippets of recordings come across as random and unscripted, the Books gracefully organize them to not only fit in with the general arc and tempo of the songs, but to also enhance the songs' liveliness. Segments of "All Our Base Are Belong to Them", for example, call to mind an amusing family party, filled with laughter and entertainment. Once the phrase "I was just clearing my throat" seems to induce another stream of chuckles, it's virtually impossible not to feel completely lost. However, the steady progression of the song with the help of banjos, acoustic guitars, and other vocal excerpts feels superbly orchestrated.
If the samples were expunged from Thought for Food
, the sound would be incredibly rudimentary. Aside from these field recordings of unknown sources, the Books stick to standard acoustic guitars, banjos, cellos, and violins for the most part. As a result, their songs never feel overstuffed or overwhelming. The bare-boned instruments leave ample room for the creative and flexible implementation of their collected samples and effects. For percussion, the Books even stray from the typical drum set, and instead rely on other objects they can find in the room to bang on, such as pots, pans, jars, and bottles. Thus, the duo sounds even further enveloped in the environments they are devising, rather than sounding tied down to a studio.
The opening track, "Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again" takes full advantage of the duo's stockpile of samples, ranging from birds in the trees to an enthusiastic crowd filling a stadium. The various sources of sound in this track, once they build up enough steam, are almost too fast-paced to point out all at once. On one listen, you might catch what sounds like a meteorologist's forecast and another time you might detect the sound of a golfer teeing off. Despite this medley of noises thrown at the listener, most, if not all, of them serve to authenticate the experience. The elevator sound in "Read, Eat, Sleep", for example, gives a sense of purpose to a track that feels like it is gradually sinking in the first place.
The Books do not hesitate to deliver some bizarre tracks like "A Dead Fish Gains the Power of Observation" and "Contempt", which proudly stand evenly in between comical and downright creepy. However, the duo also generates some very catchy melodies that only further attest to the Books' mastery of composition, like on "Motherless Bastard", "Mikey Bass", and "Getting the Done Job". Therefore, Zammuto and de Jong, experiment to the fullest extent with the bounty of sounds at their disposal, but they also channel their efforts into coherent, pleasurable tunes. Ending with the danceable, mirthful "Deafkids" the album wraps up abruptly and facetiously with the word "silencio!" Clearly, the Books are having fun with their music, and it's just as splendid to tag along for the ride.
Thought for Food
amalgamates heaps of chaotic, restless sounds, while concentrating on an engaging listening experience. The Books essentially succeed here on all fronts, never limiting themselves to conventional structures. Hearing the plentiful samples fall into place between skeletal instruments is both delightful and mystifying. With an edgy collage of noises and effects, the Books successfully establish themselves as a truly innovative, incomparable music outfit.
Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again
All Our Base Are Belong to Them
Getting the Done Job