I’m not some depraved lunatic looking to prey on you or your children, I want to explain to this woman. I’m an upstanding member of society, with gainful employment and everything, I think to myself. But my mindless gaze betrays me. She shuttles her kids away from my truck, instinctively putting a protective arm between their impressionable minds and my seemingly lecherous stare. Sure, it’s insulting, but I can’t blame her. It’s 11:30 a.m. on Christmas morning, and I’m parked in front of the local market, spaced out like Randle McMurphy after the lobotomy. All I can say in my defense is that she ain’t the one listening to The Lemon of Pink.
Sent to the store for more wine (because who can celebrate the birth of Christ without copious amounts of booze?), I grabbed the Books’ new album on my way out the door, and spent the next thirty-eight minutes of my life in a gleefully non-productive trance. With the spark of the ignition, I was greeted by the slow cascade of acoustic guitars that punctuate the title track, followed soon after by whispering voices, a violin or two, the mechanical clicking of some unknown device, and a foreign-ish voice quizzically proclaiming “The lemon … of pink.” After the addition of a plinking banjo and Anne Doerner’s unbelievably natural female voice singing a quiet tune, I was sucked into the meticulous, puzzling, heavily acoustic and strangely pleasing collage of vocals and found sounds that the Books calls home.
To pigeonhole this record as “folk-tronica” would be disastrous. Okay, it’s often folky, and it’s definitely electronic, but The Lemon of Pink is much more than the sum of its parts: a celebration of sound, in and of itself. Nearly ever track has vocals, but nothing like you’d imagine. There’s the occasional voice singing a discernable tune, but more often than not it’s a random smattering of cheers, coughs, offhand remarks and spoken words pieced into a rhythm. The Books manages to squeeze every last ounce of beauty from these commonplace sounds and let them carry the songs here. Who knew there was anything special about the mutterings of children? Or a woman reciting the months of the year in Italian? On “S is for Eversing,” these elements are placed against a backdrop of grinding samples and ambling violins, and the result is nothing short of gorgeous.
If you’re looking for verse-chorus-verse or the easy payoff of a sugary hook made to lubricate drunken sing-a-longs, you’ve come to the wrong place. The closest thing you’ll find to a traditional “song” here is the wind-up toy clicks and floor-stomping, lap-slapping percussion of “The Future, Wouldn’t That Be Nice.” But the Books are always in complete control of their sound library, and therefore you’re always in good hands. At times, the songs appear to have no direction, but an eccentric logic always reveals itself. It misses nabbing a 9.0 rating simply because I’m not sure how often you can listen to something like this. Maybe never again. Maybe forever. But everyone should listen to it at least once. Sound has never sounded so good.