I love Belle & Sebastian. We're great friends. We met early in college when roommates and other time travelers (the dudes who wear their collars up) were listening to the typical meathead rock that cheapens sex and rots your soul. I was looking for a new band to embrace and stumbled into Belle & Sebastian while trying to learn more about The Velvet Underground.
Earlier this month, my favorite Scottish hipsters released their eighth album, Write About Love. Not exactly a new subject, but welcomed nonetheless. The surprising, brief drone-like opening on "I Didn't See It Coming" gently nudges somber with Sarah Martin fronting the vocals. When Stuart Murdoch sings late in the song about dancing and forgetting the past, it's with a commanding confidence. The song's sonic and vocal sharing is threaded closely to colors explored on Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit. "Come On Sister," the bouncy, playful and well-placed follow-up song relishes in offering words of encouragement and warning. This one-two punch CD is one of the strongest of 2010 and has some of the best songs they've ever recorded on this album.
Write About Love aligns itself closely to the ideals I instantly loved about this band; the songs may not always reek with lovable smiles, but glimmer with steadfast hope. Murdoch and company may not be shrouded in secrecy like in the early days, but harmony, horn fanfare and retro pop flavoring still run deep within this talented group. Murdoch, is marginally less clever than in the past, but nevertheless sells what he sings, even on the duet with Norah Jones. They sing, "what a waste, I could have been your lover, what a waste, I could have been your friend." Even though the song isn't the standard B & S style, it typifies a Belle & Sebastian that's existed all along. In the end, Belle & Sebastian aren't trying to get you in bed, but rather want to spend Sunday afternoon listening to your concerns. Friends indeed.