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  • Perfect Sound Whatever

  • Written by: James Acaster
  • Narrated by: James Acaster
  • Length: 6 hrs and 55 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (37 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 listeners say about Perfect Sound Whatever

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  • Leo
  • 2019-12-19

brilliant.

this is a gold mine for interesting and tastebreaking music recommendations. if you are looking for an entertaining life story filled with interludes of brilliant album descriptions; this is the one.

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  • Alena
  • 2019-12-06

No more sadness!

Not to make any big announcements, but I feel like this book cured my depression.

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  • sophie
  • 2019-08-29

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.

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  • John C.
  • 2021-05-15

Enjoyed his other book this one not so much.

I wish there were more stories like in James other book. The going on about obscure musicians and records gets old fast. I am still a fan but it’s a swing and a miss.

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  • Vanliv
  • 2019-12-11

Best comedian currently working

This book is a hilarious account of one man’s odyssey to find meaning in a depressing world by listening to music made by artists who were also trying to find meaning in a depressing world. It genuinely gave me a feeling of being connected to humanity, which I don’t feel too often these days. Knowing that so many musicians recorded albums to deal with feelings of isolation, despair, and heartbreak made me feel much less alone. Also, James Acaster is a brilliant storyteller. If you haven’t seen his four standup specials on Netflix, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Watch them immediately. He instantly became my favorite comedian when I saw them, edging out John Mulaney. Sorry, John. I still love you.

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  • Bonnie Hawkins
  • 2022-08-09

Thank you James…

for spilling your guts out and letting us lap it up. The melancholy (both yours and the artists) are so relatable and the music then, provides a sort of salve in context. Well done and Namaste.

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  • Mary
  • 2022-07-24

A vulnerable book about navigating adulthood, scaffolded on albums (all sorts)

This book was so much more than I expected. I came to hear someone passionately fixate on obscure albums, and got that and so much more. Anecdotes about James’ struggles with loneliness, depression and loss are threaded together with albums produced by artists who contemplated serious topics. This book unlocked memories of albums I enjoyed in 2016, and generally forced me to contemplate my own loneliness and healing. James had a rough go of 2017, but hearing him process his experience helped me to process my own “2017” (which in my case was 2021). I think we each have our own “2016” and “2017” as we settle into adulthood. James was guided through his 2017 by artists who wrote music about their “2017”s in the years prior. I feel as though this book was for me like those albums were to him.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-09-10

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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  • Amber Nielsen
  • 2022-02-18

Entirely Not What I Expected, But Somehow Better Than I Imagined

It is a surprisingly raw and vulnerable look into James working his way out of dark place while cataloguing the music of 2016. And it made me want to love music again.

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  • MJCLAXDEN
  • 2021-11-27

Great Talent, Jumbled Story

In America, we don't see enough James Acaster.

I am fan of James Acaster after seeing him on some of the British shows like "Would I Lie To You?" and others I have sporadically seen on YouTube or BritBox. I then sought out his comedy and eventually his "James Acaster's Classic Scrapes", both of which I highly recommend.

I enjoyed this performance. But the content really felt like it belonged in two or three separate books. For example, I would see the books being 1) James reviews bands/albums from 2016, 2) James' reflects on life-changing experiences that formed inflection points in his life and what resulted from it, and 3) I guess I was wrong, there were only two books I felt these could be cleaved into.

The challenge I had is that it jumped around a lot. I think most people prefer more of a linear thought process rather than a "stream of conscience" experience when reading or listening to a book. While the jumping around had the effect of compelling a more intense listening, it detracted from the experience for me.

This is a minor point, but I always wonder why there always seems to be some reference to Trump or Brexit winning. It's almost like it's a box to tick to get one's bona fides certified. It's not overwhelming, but it's like having a serious discussion with a spouse and then throwing a jibe about how they annoyingly squeeze the toothpaste the wrong way. It takes away from the sincerity of the larger conversation.

In the five or six instances I noted, all but one came out of nowhere. One related to what drove a particular artist to feel like he was no longer alone - the vocal anti-Trump sentiment - which seemed appropriate to the artist's story and how James related to it. The rest...it was like offering a gratuitous - but empty - supportive comment to your best friend after a break-up about how much the other party was [insert appropriate derogatory term here].

I guess I come from the old school - like Johnny Carson - it's okay to make jokes about politics, but not preach about politics. He abided by the adage that comedy is entertainment - an escape from reality - and people don't want life to intrude on their entertainment.

Nevertheless, the comments didn't detract from my score, the erratic nature of the theme jumping did.

I recommend this book, in particular, for the music aficionado.

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  • Michael Andrew Kinkead
  • 2021-03-31

Incredible

His level of nuance is what I have always strive to be. And his sheer insane moments are exactly what I try to do. Less funny of course. His premise for the book intrigued me years ago I just had grad school. The entire point of this book is a man coming to term with change and accepting that nostalgia puts blinders on the joys in front of us and that maybe, it's okay to move forward. If that isn't something we all need to work on, I truly don't know what we can do at this point.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-01-22

niche but great

very interesting
not comedy but I expected that
the only downside is that he says a lott of names and descibes their music but you cant hear the music. for that I would recommend to also listen to his Spotify list.
I found it very comforting when he talks about his mental health, the music parts where interesting and makes you want to listen to new music.