out of egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and i shake the dirt from my sandals as i run

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 10 Albums of 06: #5

Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit

Wait, this came out this year? Yes. It came out in February.

I bought my first Belle and Sebastian CD in the summer of 1998. I didn't like it. It annoyed me how unfamiliar it felt, how the lyrics dealt with stories and characters that didn't usually come up in the pop music I listened to, how it was unclear who the girl on the cover was. There was a melancholy in it that I didn't understand, couldn't fit into my model of the loud song/quiet song universe. I didn't see what the fuss was about. I was 15; I was mistaken about a number of things when I was 15.

Of course, the B&S of If You're Feeling Sinister ultimately doesn't have much in common with the band that plays on this record. A good chunk of the old band is still there, but it's difficult to imagine a pop-loving 15-year-old putting on Dear Catastrophe Waitress, or this picnic of a CD, and being turned off by the preciousness of it all.

The conventional wisdom is that this is a change for the better; that by Fold Your Hands Child the band had pretty much exhausted their resources and will to be Belle and Sebastian, so they reinvented themselves as a more enjoyable band. I agree with this. Even on the iTunes-only live album, which is just them playing Sinister all the way through, you can hear them having more fun, and the songs sound better, tighter, sharper, stronger. But something is lost, for sure; specifically that quality on the old albums where it feels like the songs are just barely and delicately suspended, almost like the lives of the marginalized Scottish twentysomethings they all end up being about.

Belle and Sebastian doesn't write music like that any more. Their new stories are simpler, their new characters less likely to be found in the corner of a Glasgow library. It would really be a shame if they weren't suddenly so fantastic at the jubilant pop song. But as such, you know. I can live with it.

Download: To Be Myself Completely

buy it, ho

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Blogger Brian said...

The first album on this list I've listened to in full multiple times. But only number 5? I better be blown away by the posts these next few days or I'll be kicking your Gaelic hatin' ass.r

12/18/2006 10:46 AM

Blogger adam said...

I don't hate gay people!

12/19/2006 12:30 PM


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