Monday, October 4, 2010

North Adams existential pop craftsmen The Books headline the Pearl Street Ballroom in Northampton on Friday, October 22nd

 Over the course of three albums in nearly a decade's time, the Books have grown to become one of modern music's most genuine innovators. The Way Out continues the Books' tradition of meticulous, existential songcraft, infusing the playfully surreal elements of previous albums with a humorous, childlike excitement. Produced and recorded as always in the Books' home studios, The Way Out expands on the charm and intimacy of past endeavors with a deeper emotional resonance and an ever-impressive marriage of seemingly disparate sound worlds.

Built around found audio snippets of adults and children, "The Way Out" playfully dissects these anonymous guests' words, recontextualizing them to sometimes humorous, sometimes profound effect. And as always the music itself is interesting and provocative. These are skilled musicians, eschewing typical arrangements, signatures, and beats for explorations of texture and rhythm.

Highlights on the album for me include: "A Cold Freezin' Night" - a frenetic, bass-and-rhythm-driven soundtrack to the murderous threats of a group of children; "Beautiful People," a harmonious chant-like mathematical dream (I'm not sure I understand the subject matter, but what a trippy song!); and "All You Need is a Wall," which finds the group coming close to putting together a conventionally structured folk song (and they can sing!).

For those who know The Books, there's lots to love and enjoy about this album. It will feel familiar from the start in that its a natural, albeit slight, evolution (and then, only really in that sense that they use their own voices a bit more and push into some heretofore unexplored genres).

For those new to The Books, this album is as good a jumping off point as any. And although fans often say "The Books" and "experimental" in the same breath, don't be scared by the label. Yes, its different cup of tea, but its a lovely sip nonetheless.  -Kris Bell/Amazon

Tickets for The Books with special guests The Black Heart Procession at the Pearl Street Ballroom on Friday. October 22nd are available at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686 and online at 

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