At the beginning of The Way Out, the fourth album by found-sound-obsessed duo The Books, a man says, "Welcome to a new beginning." It sets the tone for one of music's most indescribable acts to reinvent itself—a strange task for a group whose work is sometimes called "a genre of one." And yet that is what's kept The Books' music beyond comparison for over eight years; the more they change, the more they stay the same.
For certain, The Way Out sounds like The Books. Nick Zammuto's hushed vocals still make their way through guitar and cello tones, broken sample-based rhythms, and loads of found cassette and vinyl recordings. The formula works particularly well on the vocal-heavy "Beautiful People," the straightforward folk of "Free Translator," and soulful, string-based standout "All You Need is a Wall." It's the increasing sense of musicality that sets The Way Out apart from the band's past efforts. The album boasts a solid melodic presence and song-based format—brought forth by more instrumentation (guitars, assorted strings, horns, synths, etc.) and vocal work than The Books have ever used.
As the album closes with a slow pulse of unnameable drones, a woman says, "You're becoming the world, and everyone in it." The dislocated sample prompts a sensation that The Way Out has brought you closer to humankind. In a way, it does. The Books have combined unobtrusively strong melodies and sparse drum rhythms with their unending collection of humanity's sonic hodgepodge. It's an undefinable musical culmination of our collective conscious—reminding us that the more we've changed, the more we've stayed the same.