Do you listen to the college station on your satellite radio? Have you ever been to an independent record shop? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’ve probably heard of Belle & Sebastian. The band has been around since the style of music was given a genre name. They were one of the first big indie names, and they’re still cranking out killer tunes. Forming in Scotland in 1996, Belle & Sebastian began by creating a characteristic sound. Combining traditional Scottish folk music with modern rock, the band became well-known quickly in Europe and soon in the states. Their first album, “Tigermilk” was meant to be an experimental project, but all 1,000 copies were immediately snatched up by troubled, artsy youth. After the success of “Tigermilk,” lead vocalist Stuart Murdoch decided that the project should be continued. Seven studio albums, 14 years and more than 15 EP’s later, the band’s music is still fantastic, catchy and well-received.
The band’s newest album, “Write About Love,” is pretty similar to their 2006 “The Life Pursuit.” It’s pretty much an even mix of good-time, steering wheel-slappin’ Euro-pop and somber, solemn ballads.
The album starts out with “I Didn’t See it Coming,” an upbeat track with whispery vocals and layered rhythms and percussion. The band’s only female member, Sarah Martin, gives us a great perspective of a girl who wants to get out of the small town. Many of Belle & Sebastian’s songs almost serve as visual portraits. Murdoch’s songwriting tends to paint a picture of a person or place, and he makes everything very relatable and real.
The next song, “Come on Sister,” is a lovely pop song. Stuart’s voice is glam-packed and vibrant. Synthesizer, keyboard and choppy guitar hop up and down next to each other in the background, and a catchy drum beat holds it all down.
The fourth track and the most upbeat song on the album, “I Want the World to Stop,” is possibly my favorite track. Murdoch and Martin harmonize perfectly when singing about a desire to slowly savor morning, noon and night. “I want the world to stop.” they sing. “Give me the morning. Give the understanding. Give me the afternoon and night.” This is a beautiful, melancholy song, but it doesn’t sound depressing, and it’s most definitely not a downer.
“Write About Love,” the title track is another poppy gem. It’s presumably about an office worker whose boss is telling them to write about love. “I hate my job,” Martin sings. “I’m working way too much. Every day I’m stuck in an office. I take my lunch up on the roof.” Maybe the subject of this song works at a publishing company or something. You can always find yourself making up your own scenarios to characters in Belle & Sebastian songs. That’s why the songwriting is so good. It involves you almost by accident.
The next song “I’m Not Living in the Real World,” is about a young kid who’s having some existential troubles. Fluttering keyboard and a background vocal melody work hand-in-hand to create a scene of a boy walking through a schoolyard. It’s perfect. Then the whistling comes in to top it all off. “I’m waiting for the real world,” the “boy” sings. “But I’m not ready for the real world.” I can relate to this kid, for sure.
The album ends with “Sunday’s Pretty Icons,” a somber song with a catchy fuzz guitar loop. It sounds like Murdoch is barely there, but he’s still telling us about some person in his head. This is a great song because it leaves you feeling whimsical.
“Write About Love” is a worthy addition to Belle & Sebastian’s discography. It’s sure to please indie rockers and general music-lovers alike. Pick it up, and watch all of these stories unfold in your head, too. If you buy it, as always, buy it on vinyl. If you do, you get two extra tracks, a digital copy, and a really cool vinyl record.