Belle & Sebastian
The Life Pursuit
Since its debut, Tiger Milk, launched in 1996, Scottish darlings Belle & Sebastian have had unwavering critical acclaim that has paralleled its rise to cult superhero status. And B&S influences abound — be they directly in other artists’ work (Swedish crooner Jens Lekman, for one, sound like he pines for Scotland) or the growing acceptance of ultra-crafted albums like Sufjan Steven’s Illinoise. So it is good to see that B&S, on its sixth full-length, continues to shift and explore new territories and to make music that sounds unlike anything else while serving as a an exercise in “spot the reference.” “But for the Price of a Cup of Tea,” with its gleeful hint of Jackson 5 playfulness, is youthful and light on its feet. “White Collar Boy,” with a good-boy-meets-bad-girl narrative, is close to a potential dance hit, along with “The Blues are Still Blue,” a catchy glam number that echoes the band’s hipster status in the opening lines “Look at the kid from school/He’s teaching the mamas and papas how to be a little cool/he’s changing fashion with the way he dress.” Ah yes, music, fashion and the cultural divide. Whether an indie-rock t-shirt or the style of Stuart Murdoch’s youth, some things never change. Inevitably, Belle & Sebastian will be as nerdy and uncool to a new generation as The Mamas and The Papas were to the punk and glam kids circa 1980. Depending on whether or not you accept Belle & Sebastian’s drift away from its more dour Drake-ian past to the sunnier confines of its last two albums, that may happen sooner for some than others. But for now, this band can almost do no wrong.