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Perfect Sound Whatever

Narrated by: James Acaster
Length: 6 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (47 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The brand-new memoir from James Acaster: cult comedian, best-selling author of Classic Scrapes, undercover cop, receiver of cabbages.

Perfect Sound Whatever is a love letter to the healing power of music and how one man's obsessive quest saw him defeat the bullshit of one year with the beauty of another. Because that one man is James Acaster, it also includes tales of befouling himself in a Los Angeles steakhouse, stealing a cookie from Clint Eastwood and giving drunk, unsolicited pep talks to urinating strangers. 

January 2017

James Acaster wakes up heartbroken and alone in New York, his relationship over, a day of disastrous meetings leading him to wonder if comedy is really what he wants to be doing anymore. 

A constant comfort in James' life has been music, but he's not listened to anything new for a very long time. Idly browsing 'best of the year' lists, it dawns on him that 2016 may have been a grim year for a lot of reasons, but that it seemed to be an iconic year for music. And so begins a life-changing musical odyssey, as James finds himself desperately seeking solace in the music of 2016, setting himself the task of listening only to music released that year, ending up with 500 albums in his collection. 

Looking back on this yearlong obsession, parallels begin to grow between the music and James' own life: his relationship history, the highs and lows of human connection, residual Christian guilt, and mental health issues that have been bubbling under the surface for years. Some albums are life-changing masterpieces, others are 'Howdilly Doodilly' by Okilly Dokilly, a metalcore album devoted to The Simpsons' character Ned Flanders, but all of them play a part the year that helped James Acaster get his life back on track.

©2019 James Acaster (P)2019 Headline Publishing Group Ltd

What members say

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hilarious

James Acaster is brilliant. Laugh out loud moments, and muscially educational, give it a try

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Good music compilation, not enough biography

I'm a big James Acaster fan, I think his netflix specials are the best thing on the entire website but I'm not a huge fan of this book/audiobook. Its clearly very earnestly written and he's done his research on these musicians and their projects, whilst splicing in a fair amount of little anecdotes and comedy. Overall though I really wish there had of been a greater focus on the details of his personal struggles so you could hear more about the anxious positions he was in and explore the connections he was making with these albums. The result instead is that there's this continuous stream of album recommendations spaced apart by often vague descriptions of conflicts with people in his life. I know he probably doesn't want to turn this into a winge about the details of his breakup etc. but its part biography... I need to know whats going on if I'm going to relate to you dude. Otherwise the production and performance on this audiobook is great, James puts a lot of charm into the text and there's a bit of added humour which is clearly only available in audio format.

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Loved it!

Loved it! I love James, and you need to watch his Netflix special. And he is fantastic in taskmaster

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This was NOT what I expected but really enjoyed it

I'm a big fan of James Acaster His Repertoire on Netflix is the best thing on it. I expected this book to be something similar to his Classic Scrapes book. It really isn't. It's a passionate book on James' love of music. Particularly albums from 2016. Reading the blurb I expected some of James deadpan humour but that's not the case he loves his music and the love is infectious He had an up n down time during the research for the book. It's a book that describes his life challenges. I'd loved his comedy talent before but my respect for the man increased immeasurably. I've tried several albums based on his recommendations and some will stay on my playlist. Lots of laughs still and highly recommended.

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Write a full review?

Acaster is an easy listen, will makes you laugh out loud occasionally, relatable for the mentally unbalanced (me) and will probably seed a desire in you to be better musically educated. Thanks James


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  • sophie
  • 29-08-2019

BEST BOOK ABOUT 2016 IN 2019

I bought the book the minute audible emailed me that it was available. I stayed up until 1:45am determined to finish it the same day. Should I have spaced it out to enjoy it more? No. One day.

2017 was also the worst year ever for me, and I deeply appreciated hearing James’ chronological account of the project he immersed himself in to get through his year. I googled album covers, became an immediate fan of Laura Mvula, and reminisced over my own projects from that year. James, if you ever need an indie apparel designer to collaborate with on a project, I’ll meet you at the South Pole.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-09-2019

Thrilling

Not only tells the story of 2016's music, but is also incredibly relatable. An honest look at Acaster's emotions, psychology and life in general. If I could give him 10 I would.

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  • lserver362
  • 27-08-2019

Touching and resonate

This book is a homerun and connected with me on a deep level. Plus James Acasters reading is stellar.

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  • M. Pettis
  • 25-08-2019

I’m convinced

I am a big fan of James Acaster, loved his first book and his comedy specials and was so excited when this came out. Love the personal stories and that his through line is supported by the anecdotes about the musicians and the music making of these records. He casts a very wide net as far as music goes-which is great. I have already found two albums that I like from his recommendation, for which I am grateful. Aside from Acaster not mentioning two superb albums from 2016 specifically (Tegan & Sara’s Love You to Death and Francis & the Lights Farewell, Starlight!) he makes his case for 2016 being the best year for music, and I’m buying it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-08-2019

Loved it!

Ahh, I listened to this book so quickly and now I’m sad it’s over! I would consider myself a casual music fan, I’ll find a few songs I really like and listening to them over and over until I get sick of them. But I’m happy to say that this book made me to find a new found excitement for music. You can hear James Acaster’s passion for every song he writes about and although my taste in music is slightly different to his, this book made me share this passion. As for the storyline, he managed to make it reasonably light and got a few good laughs out of me, despite talking about a very difficult period of time for him. The openness he approached every story with was great as I felt like it made it easier to relate to the problems he was dealing with. For some weird reason I also really enjoyed when things were changed slightly to make the book more audio book listener friendly.

James Acaster truly held nothing back in this awesome book which I think everyone should give a try.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • ross
  • 11-09-2019

Wasn’t for me

Loved his last book. This wasn’t for me.
Sent it back.
Shame. Wanted to like it

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • K. Richards
  • 05-09-2019

The clues were there

I love James Acaster. Have seen him live several times, watch anything he's on, on TV, and Classic Scrapes is by far the funniest book I've read and/or listened to. This audiobook, I pre-ordered, but each interview given about the book after that, increased the dread. It is, literally, about the CD's released in 2016. To be fair, I was warned. I expected humour. I really thought it would be, somehow, amusingly done. Unfortunately, I should have picked up on the warnings. Not just extremely tedious, but interspersed with frequent clanging, tinkling sounds to denote, "between chapters". I regret and resent buying this audiobook.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua
  • 28-08-2019

Hilarious, honest and insightful.

I really enjoyed listening to this book. On the face of it a book about albums from 2016 is an obscure theme, but that’s not the story here. I actually got a lot personally from the breakdowns/solutions to the hard times in life that we all go through. It genuinely changed my outlook to a more positive one. Great book made even better my James’ reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rhys Clark
  • 27-08-2019

I LOVE JAMES ACASTER! A GREAT LISTEN

Now I have loadw of albums to listen to! a really good, enthralling yet easy listen/binge listen over the August bank holiday weekend. it's always great to learn more about James' life. Truly one of the most unique and hands down my favourite comedian! 😍😍😍

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Badger
  • 03-09-2019

I don’t understand the appeal of this book.

I downloaded this because I am a fan of James Acaster’s stand up. I expected this to be funny or witty in at least some way but as far as I can tell it’s a string of mediocre reviews of pop albums from 2016. Sad to say I found it boring, self-indulgent and disappointing.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Phil
  • 02-11-2019

Not what I expected - exactly what I needed

As a big fan of his stand up and his panel show persona I bought this book expecting silly humor and whacky anecdotes wrapped in an easily digestible storyline.
God was I wrong.
The book is centered around James Acaster’s list of favorite music from the year of 2016. He gives insightful background information on the artists and what exactly he likes about the around 300 albums that he brings up.
While this sounds incredibly dry on paper it is actually the perfect anchor for the autobiographical journey of how this obsession with music from this particular year started:
James’ life took a nosedive in 2017, he took hit after hit in his personal and professional life and had to deal with the subsequent psychological consequences. Collecting music from what is objectively the best year for music ever helped him keeping it together.
The honesty and depth as well as the brutal self-reflection in this book will get under your skin immediately. I had no idea what I got myself into when I bought the book, only to find that it was exactly what I needed.
I learned more about James Acaster, myself and music and I’m incredibly grateful that the author shared this odyssey with us.

The line at the end “I’m doing much better these days by the way” had me (a grown man) burst into tears on public transport - thanks James.

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  • Ana S.
  • 01-11-2019

Honest and full of opportunity

James is brilliant as expected. He's also very honest and his telling feels very cathartic.

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  • Mr SA Lambe
  • 29-10-2019

Interesting but be aware of what you're getting

Like a few of the more disappointed readers, I was almost ready to give up 10 minutes in, but I stuck with it, and I'm very glad that I did. However, listeners need to be very aware of what this book is - and isn't. It's NOT Classic Scrapes two, but a frequently painful and sometimes hilarious memoir of Acaster's 2017, and the activity that made that year bearable for him.

There a touch of Dave Gorman in the banality of this activity - hunting for music from 2016 - and the book is beautifully read, as you might expect. It's also very funny in places, especially towards the end. However, as an audiobook it does have its flaws. If you're listening in the car or on a walk, there's no obvious way of checking out the artists he suggests. Indeed, while he obviously interviewed the artists he features, his descriptions of their lives and motivations come across like a man reading a glorified press release. Dozens of them. However, there's a sort of mesmeric pleasure in this, and I found myself enjoying these sections even if I was occasionally irritated that they broke up the rather more interesting autobiographical information.

So, if you're a modern music fan looking for recommendations from a music fanatic, or interested in the inner workings of a somewhat tortured comedian, you may enjoy this. If you just want a bunch of funny stories, treat this book with caution.

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  • Nigel
  • 27-10-2019

Disappointed

Early on James says staff in Waterstones won't be sure if this should be in the comedy or the music section. I think that's what disappointed me when I was so looking forward to reading it. It's not very funny nor is it particularly convincing in making its claims for the music referred to. Quite a lot is flat reviews of albums which when read are difficult to absorb. He speaks fast and I'm sure that this would have been a much better physical book to stop and refer back into when listening. I struggled half way and decided I needed to return it. Maybe I'll visit Waterstones and see if I can find it to purchase there.