The Best Albums of 2010: 7. Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love

7. Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love
Rough Trade

I know a spell
That would make you well
Write about love, it could be in any tense
But it must make sense

– Write About Love

Is it even worth trying to be critical about this band?

Is this their best album? No.

Will 2010 be remembered as the year this album changed the world? No.

Was it the soundtrack to my year? Yes. (although it came out quite late in the year)

I’m a huge Belle & Sebastian fan, and it’s been far too long between drinks (although the God Help the Girl album is a five star classic). I could not wait for this album and I’ve spent a lot of time with it. And it’s lovely.

2005’s The Life Pursuit was a pop/rock/dance extravaganza. This one dials it back a little. There’s definitely some fun and funky numbers, but nothing approaching the 70s T-Rex wannabes on their last album. In fact, we see the return of two B&S staples – the fragile acoustic songs, and the female vocals.

Although it’s simplifying it, it’s like they are torn between their two sides at the moment. The first half of the album is filled with the rockers. Seems like it could be the funnest B&S album yet. But the album trails off to a series of slow numbers at the end. A bit late era B&S, a bit early era B&S.

The dance/rockers (or potential singles) do everything they are supposed to. I Didn’t See It Coming is a hit right out of the box. Write About Love returns to a classic Stuart Murdoch theme – escape from sickness through fantasy (with actress Carey Mulligan on vocals). And without trying, they are just a little cleverer and wittier than bands trying to mine the same sounds.

As usual, the ballads are where the emotional heft of this record lays. Calculating Bimbo is an affecting a character study as anything Murdoch has ever written. Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John continues the soulful ballad that they are quickly mastering, while two friends quiet fall out with eachother. Speaking of quiet – I’m not sure any other band has the balls to be as quiet as Read The Blessed Pages’ sombre whisper.

This album, like Dear Catastrophe Waitress, has a bit of everything. It doesn’t have a solid narrative as an album – but that might be what five years off gives you. Part of me would have liked to have seen B&S turn into a blue eyed soul band, but it looks like everything is back to normal.

Which is why this album is not higher on the list – it’s exactly what I expected. No surprises. After 5 years, it’s is only just good enough.

But this band. Geez. I just love what they do. It just seems I love them more as the years pass. As all the contemporaries get deleted off my iPod, I’m tracking down B&S b-sides. I don’t find myself getting as obsessed with bands anymore, but for some reason this band remains. If you have not discovered this band, then this record is not a bad place to start (although maybe Dear Catastrophe is better…)

Every 7 years, my birthday falls on a Monday and there’s always great albums released. This year, this was one of them.

Best Tracks: Write About Love, I Want the World To Stop, Calculating Bimbo

Official site – http://www.belleandsebastian.com/

There was no clip for Write About Love, but here are the band performing it on Jimmy Fallon. Why they keep doing silly things like having kids writing in the crowd. Just makes them seem like the most shut off indie band ever. Oh well. Great glasses Stuart.

http://static.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid401.photobucket.com/albums/pp94/theaudiopervjr/belleandsebastianfallon.mp4

As WordPress wont embed a photobucket video, here’s a YouTube of I Didn’t See It Coming

Advertisements

100 for 2000 – #63. Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2006 – #3. Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
(Rough Trade)

It’s funny to think that for a band that I love so much, their last album was the first one I bought on release. But I guess Belle And Sebastian have slowed down. Ever since the band regrouped after the departure of Isobel Campbell and Stuart David, learnt to play live, do interviews and enjoyed being in a band. The Life Pursuit is even more slick, more fun and more exciting.

The band really shines on this record. As the story goes, the band started rehearsing and writing without Stuart Murdoch, and he finally came in and finished off the song ideas. And so, never has this band sounded less like Murdoch‘s backing band. Blues Are Still Blue, Price Of A Cup Of Tea and the amazing 70s funk of Song For Sunshine.

And as great it is that the band is on fire and the music sounds great – it is still Murdoch’s show. He brings in some of his best songs. Funny Little Frog, the first single, a twisted song of devotion. White Collar Boy is a bizarre cartoon of the simple boy led astray by a beautiful woman, set in a prison. Weird, but fun.

I know people who hate this record (most significantly, people who put out their previous albums). And yes, it’s almost like the second album of a new band.

I obviously love the new band though. And with this record, I finally felt like I was in the club.

One more thing. I always thought Mornington Crescent was in Scotland, but as it turns out it is of course in London. I think of their song every time I pass it. As we head into the London years, I thought I should point that out.

100 for 2000 – #35. Belle And Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2003 – #5. Belle And Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
(Spunk)

I did not discover Belle And Sebastian until some time later. So although I was aware of Dear Catastrophe Waitress (and there were some big fans in the Reservations), this was the last album of theirs that I ever picked up, when I eventually went back. This is one of their very best albums, and Belle and Sebastian are one of my top 5 bands, easily.

I’m always interested in the diaspora of records that leads to someone being a fan. But here is how I met, and fell in love with Belle And Sebastian.

As if I didn’t have enough going on in my life, I was also writing music and DVD reviews for a friend’s film magazine – Filmink (they call themselves Australia’s Best Film Magazine and I have to agree). One of the things I was given to review was Belle And Sebastian’s Fans Only DVD.

Of course I had heard of B&S. They seemed unnecessarily twee and whimsical, girly and – this is an odd one – very Melbourne. There’s this invisible unsaid musical divide about Sydney and Melbourne. There was a twee scene that existed in Melbourne that could never happen in Sydney. You would be killed. So, I’m pretty sure I resisted B&S for the same reason I avoided all those crap twee Melbourne bands in colourful stripey bonds t-shirts. I had no time to pretend I was still a kid.

If you’re not a fan of B&S, you might have a similar view. But, I’m on the other side now – a die hard fan. Almost all of my preconceived notions were wrong. They did, however, inspire many terrible bands (mainly from Melbourne).

So, back to this DVD. I put it on and set about writing a review. I barely knew anything about this band. I skipped over some of the more boring bits, and odd film clips for songs I didn’t know. There were some nice, fun moments on the DVD (a collection of film clips and home footage – it’s more scrapbook than story).

Then came the moment.

Right at the end of the DVD, there is footage from Glastonbury. Stuart Murdoch introduces the song, and quietly launched into The State I Am In. It’s beautifully shot, and sounds great. And the song – like many people before me – blew my mind.

I mentioned this to Paul, who surprised me actually when he told me he was a big fan. An ordering t-shirts from a faraway website type of fan. He made me a mix CD – a best of essentially. It hit all the big songs, and I liked a lot of it. Around this time, they toured Australia for the first time. Someone had a spare ticket and I snapped it up.

That first gig, I was still a novice. Plenty of songs I didn’t know, plenty from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, an album I still didn’t own. I did pick up the b-sides and EP collection, Push Barman To Open Old Wounds. It had the State I Am In on it, so I was happy with that.

As I fell more and more in love with the songs I had, I started again at the beginning. Tigermilk, Sinister and so on. I realised that there was a guy behind this band, Stuart Murdoch, who wrote the best songs. The more twee stuff (especially the terrible songs written and sung by Isobel Campbell) came from an era of the band when they tried to be democratic. That was over and Murdoch was largely in control, and writing almost all the songs again.

By the time I was up to Dear Catastrophe Waitress, a new album was out (more about that later). On the tour for The Life Pursuit, I was a hardcore fan, I had every record and knew every song. I was up the front and sang along to every one.

This album effectively marks the beginning of B&S version 2. Production values went up, with Trevor Horn as producer. Playing live became a priority, and the band sounded full and rich.

It has my second favourite Belle And Sebastian song (after The State I Am In) – If You Find Yourself Caught In Love. It’s a major work – and I loved that when Murdoch was on NPR’s Fresh Air, interviewer Terry Gross asked him about this song in particular. It is something very special. Piazza New York Catcher was recently used in the movie Juno. There is an awesome Thin Lizzy inspired I’m A Cuckoo.

Where did you learn to love music? It’s an odd thought I have sometimes. No one teaches you. It’s something you pick up along the way. And it can happen so randomly, and so quickly.

If you like what this band does, then chances are you’re already charmed by this album.  And although they are still relatively new to me, I find it hard to imagine a time when I didn’t love this band.

Tuesday Tunes Bonus: God Help the Girl – Funny Little Frog

God Help the Girl - Funny Little Frog

God Help the Girl - Funny Little Frog

When we decided to do this Tuesday Tunes column, we thought we might struggle to find one free legal download a week by established bands. Right now, we are looking at doing two a week. There is so much great music being given away for free in the world. We love it.

We can get away with calling this a bonus track because we’ve already posted a free track from God Help the Girl. It’s the new music/film project by Belle And Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch.

Their self titled album is fast becoming our favourite album of the year. This track is a particular highlight, having already been a favourite of ours from the last B&S record, the Life Pursuit. This version is slower, sexier and more dangerous.

Get the track here – http://godhelpthegirl.com/news/56/funny-little-frog-mp3
More about God Help the Girl including some great videos can be found on their site – http://www.godhelpthegirl.com

Tuesday Tunes: God Help The Girl – Come Monday Night

God Help the Girl - out 23rd June

God Help the Girl - out 23rd June

God Help the Girl is the new project by Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch. It has been in the works for quite a few years – in fact it was made concurrently with B&S’s 2006 album the Life Pursuit.

The key change here is the vocalists. Murdoch himself said that their last album was lacking a girl vocal. With God Help the Girl, it’s an almost all girl affair.

The history goes something like this; Murdoch had some songs that he felt would be better if sung by female singers. So in the modern day and age, he basically put the word out far and wide. A good old fashioned audition process led to a set of new female voices, mostly backed by Belle And Sebastian. It’s a very 21st century way of making an album.

The final part of the story has not happened yet, which is a Murdoch penned film which ties all the songs together. It is due to start filming next year.

Pretentious? Of course it is. But Murdoch is such a nice, self depreciating guy, it’s tough to hold it against him sometimes. Having been such a long time since the last B&S album, we’re eagerly awaiting this album.

You can download ‘Come Monday Night’ at http://www.godhelpthegirl.com/

Top 10 of 2006: 3. Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

3. Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit


I’m a recent convert to Belle and Sebastian. This is the first B&S album I’ve bought as it came out, and it’s not really what I expected. This sounds more like a glam rock Bowie album.

Two things make this record better their best since If You’re Feeling Sinister, which is now ten years old. 1) The record began without lead singer Stuart Murdoch, with the band just mucking around. The result is it never sounds like a band backing a songwriter, but rather a full band. 2) Stuart wrote all but one song in the end, anyway. So it doesn’t sound like a mix tape of singers and songwriters.

The band are simply on fire. It’s fun, it’s groovy and heck, even a little sexy. It’s 70s rock and 70s soul. There’s a bit of Thin Lizzy, Stevie Wonder and plenty of sing-alongs. And the bass is right up the front and funking everything up. The singles – Funny Little Frog, White Collar Boy and The Blues Are Still Blue are the best singles they’ve ever released. They, god forbid, rock.


They aren’t the only ones. There’s at least three other songs that would sound great on radio. But thanks to Murdoch, they will never be considered cheap knock offs. He fills the songs with his unique point of view. Funny Little Frog is love song to an imaginary lover. And there’s plenty of stories about lost and lonely young men and women. There’s no way you can figure them all out in one listen.


Then there is the really out-there stuff. Song for Sunshine and We Are the Sleepyheads are almost psychedelic. Only two songs – Another Sunny Day and Dress Up In You sound like B&S of old – sensitive, poetic story songs with many verses. They give the album much needed space.


So I’m going to stop describing an album you may never have heard and just say, somehow, Belle And Sebastian of all bands has made my favourite party album this year. There’s only one low moment – To Be Myself Completely, written and sung by guitarist Stevie. It just doesn’t compare to the wonderful multi layered fun that Stuart Murdoch has come up with.


I’ve had this album since February and I still listen to it regularly. It may lack the bittersweet reflections they are known for, but who cares? Sometimes you need to stop thinking and just dance.

Danny Yau
London