Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Belle & Sebastian- Belle & Sebastian Write About Love

A few weekends ago I tuned into to watch live coverage of Matador at 21 from Vegas. A bunch of my favorite bands were playing, the likes of Sonic Youth, Spoon, The New Pornographers and two of the headlining sets were from the reunited likes of Pavement and Guided by Voices. The third headliner was Belle & Sebastian. Suffice to say, the were the best out of the three. Where Pavement was going through the reunion train on their last stop, they looked like they hated each other...still. Guided by Voices was a fun mess, complete with Uncle Bob's antics, drinking, and sloppy playing, you know what to expect at a GBV show, and don't expect a tight sounding group. Belle and Sebastian though have fallen into a catagory of "where have I been?".

I was skeptical about Belle and Sebastian, I'm not a girl, nor am I in love, but damn, if they weren't so adorable and great sounding live. I decided to bite the bullet, purchasing the album at work, where I'm already known for being weird and going home and listening to it, and well...I sort of like it...a lot!

"Write About Love" has it's pop sensibilities down to a point. There's ace drumming all around, great string arrangements, awesome use of synths, great song writing, and most of all, beautiful singing. Who said pop music was dead? "I Didn't See it Coming" is a nice slice of it all, featuring the fabulous pipes of Sarah Martin. In fact, Martin's vocal delivery is so good on this album, it's easy to forget Isobel Campbell was in this group, much less put out a good album this year. "Come On Sister" is a synthpop extravaganza with Stuart Murdoch taking the lead here. Murdoch isn't pretentious, in fact, much of this album revolves around ordinary life. There's no quizzical or weird imagery, and the way these songs are sung, it could almost be as if these things could happen to you. It's as relatable as pop music gets.

The album also has guest spots, and unlike many albums where this type of ordeal would take away from it and mask the band's flaws, they work extremely well. Norah Jones guests on "Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John" and while it sounds like a song that could've been on her vastly underrated "The Fall" which was released last year, you'd be foolish to say she doesn't have a voice that doesn't match what B & S are trying to accomplish, and if your local Adult Alternative station finds this song, you and your parents will be sick of how good it is.

The other guest spot is from Academy Award nominated actress Carey Mulligan. Mulligan made my pants tighter and heart flutter in last year's amazing film "An Education", and I think I'm more in love with her now that she sings back up on the title track. "Write About Love" is a cooky, upbeat, sometimes funny and brutally honest song. Realistic images are seen listening to the lyrics, the song is so infections and groovy that you can't help but smile. This song followed by "I'm Not Living In the Real World" are a strong one-two punch smack dab in the middle of the album, equally balancing the top and bottom halves of the album.

"Real World" is everything happy about this album. Living the day by day life can be hard sometimes, and doesn't the band know this, but this song makes it downright liveable. If I ever get dumped, I could play this song and not have a care in the world until the Cowboys lose again. It really is the last "upbeat" track on this album, but the album is so strong as a whole you won't even care.

The Flaming Lips' "Soft Bulletin" was an album I bought in high school because I heard it was one of the only albums that could rival "Kid A" as the best album of the past decade. What "The Soft Bulletin" did to me was restore my faith in pop music. Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne crafted an album that took Pet Sounds senses and crafted up for the next century. While "Write About Love" isn't an album like that, it should restore your faith in good pop music. While many pop musicians are looking to do something different, most of the time it flat out sucks and it turns out badly, look at Xtina's latest turd.

Belle & Sebastian, I'm here, I'm a new convert, your style of effective and believable pop music is something I thought I could never enjoy, but congratulations, you've won me over and I don't feel guilty one bit. If I had a band like you in my life, I probably would've been a less cynical person growing up. But it's okay, I've found you guys now and I'm staying for a while, won't you?

**** 1/2 out of *****

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