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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

Audible Sessions with James Acaster

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What listeners say about Perfect Sound Whatever

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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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! 😍😍😍

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

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.

17 people found this helpful

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Good listen

An interesting listen and worth it just for the band Okily Dokily.
James is very funny and there are some good tales in there as well as a serious overall theme. I not a big music person but that doesn’t matter. Don’t let it put you off.

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Half biography, half musical review, wholly great

It is splendidly well-written and being narrated by its author is certainly a bonus. He delivers a heartfelt performance and certainly helps land his own material exactly the way you'd expect. It actually saved me reading this book while hearing his voice.
The book itself is just wonderful to listen. He weaves in and out of the thread of his own story to create a parallel or link to the music he then goes on to describe. The very personal nature of his relevelation mirroring the intimacy of the each of the artist's work.
I wasn't sure I'd like this book, I'm not into music theory and can't under in depth analysis so this felt like a Gamble. Perhaps it was the fact this is an audio book, but you fell that much closer to the author as he goes over some of his most painful thoughts and emotions. I hope opening up about this all was as cathartic for him as it was for me to listen to so so many testimonies on feelings and experiences I can absolutely relate to (excluding shitting my pants in a public place.)

1 person found this helpful

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love James

to be honest, I'm not that interested in music and literally I had heard of only 1 of the artists he mentioned...but I had to keep listening cos I didn't want to upset James by stopping early ....you never know if he knows....and after the year he had in 2017, I just couldnt handle the responsibility of adding to that...anyway, he kept teasing the end of chapters with updates on his life and that was enough to keep me hooked.
Having said all that, if he does a second version "2019 was the greatest year in music", I would be the first to buy the audio version!! love James, he's a good man and a funny man.

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Brilliant

Loved it. Loads I could say about it but I don't have time as I am off to listen to some music from 2016

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Enjoyable and unique

I like Acaster's comedy so decided to pick this up. Enjoyed it as audio - listening to him talk about his unique project was nice and with a sprinkling of his own life in between the music sections. Those weren't really to my own taste but I thought it was interesting to hear snippets about the lives of different artists so overall I enjoyed it. Some funny parts and I found it to be pretty relatable.

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listen to this book now!!

although i would not usually choose a book about music i absolutely loved it, i thought the premise was so unique and weird, it was hard to put down and i hoped it would never end

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brilliant.

not what you think. better than you thought. genuinely touching and honest. loved this massively.

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  • Alena
  • 06-12-19

No more sadness!

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

4 people found this helpful

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  • sophie
  • 29-08-19

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • John C.
  • 15-05-21

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Vanliv
  • 11-12-19

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-09-19

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Bonnie Hawkins
  • 09-08-22

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
  • 24-07-22

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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  • Amber Nielsen
  • 18-02-22

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
  • 27-11-21

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
  • 31-03-21

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.