Meet the Scottish masters of indie pop

It’s so easy to fall for Glasgow-based indie pop band Belle and Sebastian. When they debuted in 1996, the year saw the release of two studio albums, tiger milk and If you feel sinister– fame and critical acclaim came to them almost immediately. Their personal, intimate voice and their music, a picturesque blend of melodic 1960s orchestral pop and 1980s indie rock, was such an appealing combination that it was hard not to become an instant fan. Unsurprisingly, by the time they released their third studio album, The Boy with the Arabic Bracelet (1998), they had amassed a cult following.

Still, Belle and Sebastian’s background was humble. In 1994, Stuart Murdoch and Stuart David were two unemployed musicians who got a government-funded grant with the aim of recording a few songs and earning some money, although it turned out to be something much more important. Murdoch still leads the group, which is now a septet; David left over two decades ago. Since 1996 Belle and Sebastian have released nine studio albums, a few compilations, a few box sets, numerous singles and a soundtrack for the film. Bagnold summer days (2019).

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Since releasing their ninth studio album, Peacetime girls wanna dance, in 2015, there were no studio albums. Until a few weeks ago when they announced a tour and a new album. The album, titled A bit of precedentwon’t be released until early May, but the excitement and anticipation from fans is already on.

To some extent, this fan fervor was fueled by the release of a single from this album. Title unnecessary drama, it is a richly arranged song. If the lyrics and music are any indication of what the album will be, it will be worth the wait. A few days after the release of unnecessary dramathe band released another single, If they shoot youand a video in solidarity with Ukraine, where Russia is waging a war.

Their songs often have a bit of quirky humor. In unnecessary dramathe opening lines go: I read your letter before/ You had so much fun/ And is it possible you’re just telling me/ To lure me in?/ There’s a bunch of assholes lining up/ To play their parts stupid/ And did you ever pause / Before giving your love?

Belle and Sebastian are a fun group to explore. At a time when acute ADHD is shaping the way many people listen to music – skipping from song to song because it’s so easy to do so on phones or tablets – their albums are better lived. listening the old way, from the first song to the last.

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If you haven’t heard the band it’s hard to decide which album to start with, they’re all so good. Many critics consider If you feel sinister, a masterpiece. I like though The Boy with the Arabic Bracelet most. Murdoch’s cutting wit and highly literate lyrics are notable, especially on songs such as It could have been a brilliant career, a bittersweet but also humorous melancholic song. Or the spirit of the album’s title track, which is a bit controversial because first of all, Arab Strap is the name of another indie Scottish band who once accused Belle and Sebastian of misappropriating their name, and second, well, Arab Strap is actually an archaic sex device made of leather and a metal ring.

But there are so many other songs that can make you a fan instantly. Take, for example, Another sunny day from the 2006 album The pursuit of life. If there’s one song I should turn to when I’m feeling down, it’s this one. No matter how bad things may feel, Another sunny day is always a wonderful, almost miraculous mood lift.

When the band released the singles and announced the new album, I found myself building up a long playlist of Belle and Sebastian songs and shuffling them around. It was the only thing playing on my headphones and speakers for several days. Then, when I sent the playlist to a friend, she replied that she had done exactly the same thing: put all her Belle and Sébastien albums on loop! Fans of the band can be fanatical.

The list of fairs

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First Beat is a column about what’s new and groovy in the music world.

@sanjoynarayan

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