Purchase includes postcard signed by They Might Be Giants.
They Might Be Giants have always blazed an original path, kicking down the doors of alternative rock with songs like “Don’t Let’s Start” and “Ana Ng”, and their ambitious new project BOOK takes that impulse to another level. The music from BOOK teems with the same energy, melody, and inventive songcraft, but this latest effort goes even further, introducing an immersive and fascinating album experience that blends photography, design, text, and music. True to its title, BOOK isn’t just a collection of 15 new songs: it’s a 144-page art book (sold separately), created in collaboration with Brooklyn street photographer Brian Karlsson and celebrated graphic designer Paul Sahre.
Like their Dial-A-Song service, breakthrough MTV videos, and vast catalog of television work, BOOK was borne out of the duo’s relentless quest to take their music to new platforms and new places. “At this point, the album itself might seem like a quaint idea,” John Flansburgh explains. “Giving yourself real creative challenges keeps you moving forward.” John Linnell adds, “Nowadays albums are often just a collection of ones and zeroes. With BOOK we’re looking to make a more interesting object.”
Like so many creative efforts, the making of BOOK got very complicated in 2020. The band was just weeks away from completing the album when the pandemic hit. Linnell, Flansburgh, and their musical co-conspirators had to wait the better part of a year for social-distancing protocols to relax, so they could finally all work together to wrap things up.
While Linnell notes that some of BOOK’s songs are “humorously germane to the catastrophe going on around us”—like opener “Synopsis for Latecomers,” a punchy warning not to panic—these 15 songs are classic TMBG, with inspired lyrics and airtight arrangements that stay in your head long after the final note. Flansburgh describes “I Lost Thursday” as a song that’s “about the simple recognition that you’re losing touch with time, but it certainly speaks to this moment.” The song’s musical bedrock is a bassline that Linnell recorded remotely. Flansburgh compares its “pushy fusion sound” to the band’s landmark 1988 album Lincoln. “Wait Actually Yeah No” brings lilting horns. The Hammond organ drives “Lord Snowden,” which drew lyrical inspiration from Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown. The princess and her husband, photographer Lord Snowden, “were quite louche, and I found their relationship fascinating,” Flansburgh explains. “He was a permanent outsider, always looking at her world from the remove of an artist and a commoner. For a songwriter, feeling that kind of distance is pretty relatable.”