The Books’ The Lemon of Pink is 13 years old, and I’d never heard of it. Having now played it every day for the better part of a week and a half, it feels like a moral failing on my part to have missed out on a decade plus worth of listening. It’s that good, and that perfect, and you should do everything you possibly can to get this into your life.
Having been out of print on vinyl from Temporary Residence for the last five years, and only available as an import from German label Tomlab before that, it’s easy to understand why this album has been an underground thing for so long. Ready represses from similarly-minded musicians like the Avalanches and DJ Shadow have made those artists well-known throughout indie circles, if not exactly household names.
However, the cut-and-paste aesthetic applied by the likes of the two aforementioned artists doesn’t even come close to explaining what the Books do on The Lemon of Pink. Rather than searching for beats and melody lines from old records, the duo of Nick Zammuto and Paul De Jong — along with banjo player and vocalist Anne Doerner — create music by taking snippets of those old records and treating them like instruments themselves, as well as sampling their own words and musical instrumentation.
The best way to describe the record is that it’s to folk as the Avalanches’ Since I Met You is to soul, or as Moby’s Play is to gospel, but even that’s absolutely reductive and ridiculous. It’s strangely glitchy and electronic: the seams show here and there, and it can be a very awkward listen at times. However, it’s so warm and embracing; it feels like something an android might create to play next to a campfire.
Trying to break down the Books’ album track-by-track feels like a silly exercise, especially given Zammuto’s rather excellent liner notes. The Lemon of Pink is also something best experienced as a whole. The opening title track, with Doerner’s vocals and a catchy melody, might work as a solo listen, but the rest of the LP really benefits from taking in every track, along with what precedes and succeeds it. It’s haunting and beautiful, and it’s hard to not get emotional at how absolutely wonderful The Lemon of Pink is while you’re listening.
The LP sounds gorgeous, and the remastering job evidently gave everything a much more full and rounded sound. Whether through headphones or speakers, The Lemon of Pink will blow your mind as you listen. The vinyl has a slight crackle, but nothing distracting.
The gatefold, die-cut cover is a sight to behold, and you can change the mood you want based on which side of the booklet you want to slide in: do you want red or blue? The vinyl is gorgeous. This is maybe the prettiest LP I’ve seen this year. The clear yellow with opaque pink splatter absolutely nails the titular colors, and it’s almost a shame it’s hidden away inside the sleeve. Half the appeal of playing this record is being able to take it out of the sleeve and look at it.
There’s an LP-sized booklet which comes with the record, and it features track-by-track stories and recording info for every song. It’s kind of technical, kind of personal, and it’s absolutely the perfect thing to sit and pore over as you’re spinning the album. There’s a download card for the record, along with the standard VMP art print — which is gorgeous, and possibly the first one I might actually hang up in my office — and cocktail recipe.
The Books’ The Lemon of Pink is November’s selection from the Vinyl Me, Please subscription. You can subscribe to VMP here. December’s release will be Nina Simone’s Nina Simone Sings the Blues.