It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
The Books – The Lemon of Pink (2003)
The Books released four adventurous records before splitting up in 2012, and The Lemon of Pink might just be the duo’s greatest work.
Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong developed their own one-of-a-kind sound when they started their band, blending traditional instruments with obscure samples. It’s a bit similar to what the Avalanches do, I suppose, but they don’t use samples to get people on the dance floor; they do it to create atmosphere.
The Lemon of Pink, from 2003, finds The Books at the top of their game, blending long sound collages with straightforward folk songs and mixing in a bit of humor along the way.
Album opener “The Lemon of Pink” is actually split into two parts, though you never want to just listen to one of them. “The Lemon of Pink I” features guest Anne Doerner talking and singing over calm melodies played by acoustic instruments, and “The Lemon of Pink II” is where things get a little wilder, with sounds racing in and out as all signs of a “normal” composition completely vanish. It’s a great mission statement of sorts, preparing the listener for the ride ahead and creating the perfect introduction to “Tokyo,” perhaps the highlight of the whole album.
“Tokyo” introduces layer after layer of guitar—and maybe some banjo?—for a minute before the strings kick in, aided by the voice of a woman and then several other voices, some of them appearing for just seconds at a time. The track makes you feel as if you are walking through a large crowd in a hurry, catching just fragments of conversations as you race by, and it’s exhilarating when combined with that wonderful guitar work. Much of the band’s debut album, Thought for Food, followed this exact same format, but it would focus more on the specific voices to hear what they had to say. I like how “Tokyo” switches things up just a bit while remaining true to the band’s trademark sound.
Each song on The Lemon of Pink is interesting in its own way, but the other tune that stands out among the rest is “Take Time,” which begins with a series of sampled voices before the band actually sings the name of the song over and over, pausing after each word: Take. Time. Take. Time. More voices appear, with the guitar part getting more urgent and dramatic, until things eventually end with that familiar chorus: Take. Time. Take. Time.
With The Lemon of Pink, listeners really do need to take their time or they may miss something. The Books craft beautiful tunes, but if you lose focus, it’s very likely you could miss a key vocal sample or transition. And you don’t want to miss anything on this album, I can promise you that.
All of this duo’s albums are worth seeking out, but I do recommend people begin with this one. It’s a great introduction to their sound, and you can listen again and again, discovering something new each time.
I should add that The Books reissued their old albums several years ago, so what I own is actually that version of The Lemon of Pink. It’s the same great album, but with a different look!