Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Belle and Sebastian

Write About Love


On their first album since 2006’s The Life Pursuit, B&S have blended their original sound with their current one, and what a great blend it is. This is the most successful fusing of folk/rock and synths I’ve heard yet, and it’s about time.

The muscular rock powers their smart pop, making their folk good for color, texture and shading. The synths give their music a vaguely prog feel, and everything in the end is intergraded seamlessly, making for a rush on the fast songs, and a hush on the quiet ones.

The singing is top notch. Stuart Murdoch sounds sly and clever, but also gentle. Sarah Martin is sweet, wise and bright, and Carey Mulligan’s backing vocals add a chipper air. But as wonderful as they are, three songs stand out, one for their guest vocals, one for the vocal arrangements, and one for the way the lyrics are sung.

“Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John” is mostly sung by Norah Jones, who sounds dandy, and is a nicely quirky choice for a guest vocalist. In that song, a couple blames themselves for their breakup. “I’m Not Living in the Real World,” a bemused look at a young man’s journey from childhood to adulthood, is sung by Stevie Jackson, who adroitly captures the confusion he feels, and Murdoch’s backing vocals, running along side Jackson’s, make for a thrilling point/counterpoint arrangement. “Read the Blessed Pages” sung by Murdoch, is infused with regret, but also tenderness and love for the woman he left behind. It’s a questionwhether the lyrics are fiction or non-fiction. As fiction, the song is a beautiful love song. But if they are non-fiction, especially since the couple in question were in a band, are these lyrics directed toward Isobel Campbell?

Write About Love was more than worth the wait, as it is spectacular in every single way. There is something here for everyone, for those who want the folk/rock of their earliest albums, to those who like their more recent pop/folk/rock sound. As this album falls in-between, this is a fine addition to their already distinguished catalog. [www.belleandsebastian.com]

Andrea Weiss

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