Belle and Sebastian -Late Developers (Matador Records)

Belle and Sebastian -Late Developers (Matador Records)

I don’t know, you wait ages for a new Belle and Sebastian album, and within twelve months there’s another! As it turns out, when the band went into the studio to record last spring’s A Bit Of Previous they were also working on another album. Smart move, not least considering how long it takes albums to get pressed on vinyl these days.

The album opens with ‘Juliet Naked’ originally written for the 2018 Ethan Hawke film of the same name. A minor key song with a raw energy that sounds quite in contrast to what might seem to be the classic B&S sound, yet it works. All the more surprising, because it’s different to much of the rest of the album that follows, but it does not come across as a false start.

Who knows how many songs mainman Stuart Murdoch is sitting on, because a couple of the songs on this album turn out to be fairly old. For example, there’s the gorgeous ‘When The Cynics Stare Back From The Wall’ which was written as far back as 1994. It’s a duet with Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura fame, and is probably one of the album’s highlights. The gorgeous ‘Will I Tell You A Secret’ dates from the early 2000s.

When You’re Not With Me’ is quite possibly the funkiest Belle and Sebastian have ever produced and one of the songs on which violinist Sarah Martin sings lead. It works well with the first track to do the rounds of the album (at the start of the week!) the fantastic electro-pop of ‘I Don’t Know What You See In Me.’ This marks a first for the band – a co-write with someone outside of the band, Peter Ferguson, better known as Wuh Oh.

As Belle and Sebastian approach the thirtieth anniversary of their debut album, Tigermilk, several thoughts emerge about the band as well as this album. Firstly that their tenth album (twelve if you include the Days Of Bagnold Summer soundtrack and the three EPS as album that is How To Solve Our Human Problems) shows that they are have managed to maintain what made them so special in the first place. Secondly, that they are very much a band, not solely a vehicle for Stuart Murdoch’s songs (guitarist Stevie Jackson‘s ‘So In the Moment‘ is another highlight here). Thirdly, that they are still capable of trying new things and succeeding. Finally, they still write excellent pop songs that continue to attract new audiences.

Sure it’s winter here in the northern hemisphere and God knows we all need cheering up. But wherever you are, this is an excellent Belle and Sebastian album. If you’re already a fan, I cannot see you being disappointed. If you’ve not previously given them much attention, here is as good a place to start as any.

[embedded content]

Back to top