The Way Out—The Books’ first album since 2005’s Lost And Safe—samples self-help tapes, Gandhi, and even a fellow who counsels the anxious that “there is no one right way to doing the dishes.” (Relief for all!) In the course of this spiritual mix-and-match, Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto grow more ballsy and lovingly funny in their interplay with the voices they find on abandoned cassettes and LPs. By way of introduction, “Group Autogenics 1” bobs along on the possibilities (and occasional confusing laughs) a hypnotherapy tape offers: “Whoever you think you presently are, thank you.”
The Books and their samples seem willing to follow each other’s cues across the spectrum. A children’s story inspires giddy beats on “The Story Of Hip Hop,” and the first answering-machine message on “Thirty Incoming” draws tenderness from De Jong’s cello. The analog synths and electronic kick-drum of “I Am Who I Am” pound apart the measures as a preacher barks, “What! I! Am! I! Will! Be!” The Books prove they’ve expanded mightily by nailing their first attempt at funk, “I Didn’t Know That,” while “All You Need Is A Wall” and “Beautiful People” revisit and refine territory they’ve explored before. The underhanded, lovely melodies of “Chain Of Missing Links” bridge the new and the old. The Way Out provides the best introduction yet to The Books’ nerdy experiments, but also to the duo’s grand, goofy emotional range.