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Belle, Sebastian and love

October 22, 2010

Pop fans rejoice; Belle and Sebastian are back with “Belle and Sebastian Write About Love.” After a four year lull since their last proper album, “The Life Pursuit,” Belle and Sebastian have returned with 11 sugar-encrusted tracks about, well, love.

The album begins with a straightforward bit of melody sung by violinist Sarah Martin. While the melody is sweet, the lyrics give the song a more bittersweet feel. Combining jubilant lines like “Make me dance/I want to surrender” with more sorrowful ones like “Trouble’s never far away when you’re around,” and “I’m just not in the running,” Martin paints a picture of a complicated kind of love.

On the second track, the band’s frontman Stuart Murdoch takes over the vocal role on the jaunty and delightful “Come On Sister.” 

The next track, “Calculating Bimbo” is a lackadaisical jab at an ex-lover spiced up with a healthy dash of wry humor.

In the middle of the album, Belle and Sebastian bring in a couple guests for a pair of duets. The first of these, “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John,” is a lazy little soul ballad featuring Norah Jones. The music lilts along gently as Murdoch and Jones look back wistfully at a one-night stand.

They follow this duet with “Write About Love,” a lively anthem featuring British actress Carey Mulligan. “Write About Love” is followed up by the even livelier “I’m Not Living in the Real World,” a ditty about adolescent anxiety and girls sung by guitarist Stevie Jackson.

Tracks eight through ten strip things down for a more vintage Belle and Sebastian sound. With simpler instrumentation and a more subdued style hearken back to the band’s ‘90s material.

The best of these is “The Ghost of Rockschool,” which swings along with a lovely melody before the instruments drop out leaving Murdoch’s voice hanging alone on air before building back to a gently climactic chorus.

The following track, “Read the Blessed Pages,” a slow, spare song of regret, is much plainer but almost as lovely.

The band closes the album with “Sunday’s Pretty Icons,” a track that draws its sound in no small part from ‘80s synth-pop.

“Belle and Sebastian Write About Love” is a strong and consistent album which manages to sound coherent while exploring a fairly broad range of styles. Musically, Belle and Sebastian don’t shy away from blending a variety of instruments to add texture, depth and accent to their songs. Lyrically, they continue to mine the same familiar territory of nostalgia and bittersweet love that they always have.

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