I’ve been a bit down on Belle and Sebastian lately due to the uncharacteristic mediocrity of their most recent release. The band’s first new material since 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is a collection of EPs that combine to form a 15-track album titled How to Solve Our Human Problems. And for my money, it’s the weakest thing they’ve ever recorded.
At one point in the book he, as a record store owner, is asked to provide his top five favorite songs for a column in a local magazine. The prospect of having one of his lists set in stone and published for all the world to see scares him to death.
If You’re Feeling Sinister – Belle & Sebastian (1996)
Another sophomore album, Belle & Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister was also my first introduction to a band that would become one of my very favorites.
This record served as many people’s first impression of the group, as their debut album, Tigermilk, was not widely available for years after its release. Only when it was re-released on CD following the (relative) success of Sinister did casual fans get to hear it for the first time.
I really like the word ‘twee.’ It’s one of those words (and I think there’s a name for this) that sounds like what it means. Sort of like ‘guttural’ or ‘effervescent.’ I mean, can you think of a more twee word than ‘twee?’
Twee is also the most common adjective I’ve seen applied to Belle and Sebastian. They are certainly among the more delicate sounding bands out there. One could argue that their music is for pale art class geeks who would fall into a seizure if they heard genuine rock and roll.
I get that. But done right, I find delicacy in popular music a marvelous thing. And Belle and Sebastian most definitely do it right.
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.