I promised myself I wasn’t going to read this book in one sitting, but, like everything else James Acaster related, I gobbled it up as soon as I got my grubby little hands on it. Perfect Sound Whatever is Acaster’s defense of 2016 as the best year for music OF ALL TIME.
Also, he was having a slight breakdown at the time. Totally unrelated.
Let me be very clear: the only reason I bought this book was because of my un-ending adoration of James Acaster. I like his sense of humor, his work ethic, his kindness and empathy, his weird podcast where he’s a genie who’s also a waiter and I really, really like his paisley shirts and corduroy pants and I wish I could be every bit as lankie and hilarious as he is.
But also, I really, really like Taylor Swift and an entire book on music by someone who’s into grunge and hip hop and math rock (yeah that’s a thing, and no, it’s not, as I first thought, rock music about math. Yes I genuinely thought this. Don’t at me.) is a bit much.
The book contains a slight bit of back history of his reasons for the project, before diving into the actual music. He presents albums by artists, usually providing a bit of backstory to the artist and the process of developing the album before tacking on a few descriptors of the music. It’s best to read this book slowly and listen to the albums as you go. It gets a bit messy at times when it jumps between his life and the music. The albums he describes don’t always have a clear connection to the story of his life or the emotions. Also, there are A LOT of albums. 366 to be precise.
For me, personally, because I love James Acaster to a degree where it gets a bit weird, I would have preferred to read about the albums as a way to tie into James’ life and I’m less interested in the stories of the musicians that he included. In the end the book mainly becomes a reminder to tap into the present, to be aware and connect with the art around you as it is now and stop living in the past. The backstories of the musicians are driven by Acaster’s need to connect. And the book has broadened my horizons and introduced me to, and made me love, lots of new music. The only fault, really, is that 366 albums is a lot to connect to and the overwhelmingness of the potential for connection leaves, at least this reader, to withdraw and seek solace in connections that are familiar to us. This is why Taylor Swift is so comforting, we know her story, we can’t escape her story, but still it’s so easy to connect to. I really admire Acaster’s attempt to open up the world and make us all a bit more connected.
The book did give me some great recommendations and I will definitely keep diving back in whenever I need a breath of fresh air. So if you feel a bit stuck music wise, or know NOTHING beyond TayTay, this isn’t the worst place to start – just remember to read it slowly!