Any list of my favorite artists would find the Scottish septet Belle & Sebastian nestled right up top. I like these guys so much that I could scrap this format and go to a ‘Belle & Sebastian Song of the Day’ very easily (though I’d have to live without Alex’s readership).
My favorite description of the band was a back-handed compliment (or maybe an open-handed criticism?) along the lines of “They’re a seven-piece band that somehow sounds like a single guy in a room with an acoustic guitar.” Much of their music is gorgeously delicate, a blend of guitar, piano, strings and horns buttressing Stuart Murdoch’s fragile vocals. But they’ve showed a knack for rocking out as well, especially on recent albums, and a crunk vibe I wouldn’t have thought possible from a bunch of twee Scotsmen.
I have dozens of songs to choose from but I’ve gone with ‘Seeing Other People’ because, though I’ve listened to it and loved it for years, I just now realized what it’s about. I always figured it was about a boy and girl deciding to, well, see other people. But a more careful reading reveals that it’s actually about a gay relationship.
For example, I never knew the childhood myth that suggests kissing your own elbow will change your gender. So the lines “You’re kissing your elbow / You’re kissing your reflection” didn’t really register. Knowing what the song is really about, it all seems very obvious now, but I guess that’s true about most things.
Anyway, it’s nice to know that even old favorites can still surprise me.