How to Solve Our Human Problems is designed to be three EPs, and that benefits Belle and Sebastian for a few reasons: it relieves them of the need to compile enough suitable material for a full record, and it keeps their profile relatively up there as the EPs trickle out. I’ve been hearing “We Were Beautiful” for a few months now, so it’s working, somehow. Oh, and one more benefit: you don’t need to have a theme. The first of their new EPs is a bit scattershot, literally: starts low, swings up, swings back down, and then back up again. But then you’re compelled to not see this as a concept but as a collection of tracks put together, so outside the gear changes you get used to how the sublime “Sweet Dew Lee” leads to the shiny “We Were Beautiful”, then to the easy country-fied “Fickle Season”, then to the even shinier “The Girl Doesn’t Get It” – the dance floor influences from their last record have not quite left them. But the whole thing unexpectedly concludes with the final track: “Everything is Now” hypnotically drills down a point, and then subverts it at the last possible moment. Is that the thesis statement I have just decided not to look for because of the format alone? Perhaps. [NB] | 3/5
“Funny Little Frog” by God Help The Girl | Talk about a song that leaped underneath me despite the stuff I’ve heard lately. Yes, I know about God Help The Girl – the film, that is, the one with Emily Browning, the one written by Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch. I know that there’s a soundtrack to it. I didn’t know that the project goes as far back as 2009 – it’s Stuart writing songs about ladies growing up, backed by his band, and sung by female vocalists – that there was an album at the time, and that this is one of those songs. I’ve always liked “Funny Little Frog” – it was a song dear to me, mostly because of the whole secret crush connotation – and only uncovered this version two weekends ago. Brittany Stallings. It’s hard to find her on the Internet now, but she takes this song (one of only two songs covered from B&S) and gives it that smart yet sexy American lilt, and coupled with the atmospheric jazzy arrangement… I only need a new secret crush to dedicate this to now. [NB]
Here we go again: the earthings! Fantasy Festival is back, with five stages of live performances that’s all just happening in our heads. Today, Dexter Tan returns with an international spread of indie pop, from Scandinavia to Scotland.
I could easily call Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, the ninth album from Scottish popsters Belle and Sebastian, a confused one, a record that does not want to know what it wants to be, but that would be too simplistic a claim. The band still know what they’re doing: the twelve tracks on the record are a natural (slight) evolution of their sound, although the directions they go are very much disparate. “Allie” and “The Cat with the Cream” lean towards the band’s gentle side, while “Enter Sylvia Plath” and “Perfect Couples” are sprawling, shimmering epics of kitsch. (It says something that lead single “The Party Line”, with its nabashed disco influences, sits smack in the middle, if you put this record in a spectrum.) Nothing wrong with that, again – the Abba-inspired songs are oddly compelling – but the sequencing feels so random it’s caused a bit of whiplash. But there’s something there. It just need a bit of a polish. And maybe some fringe? [NB] | 4/5
“The Party Line” by Belle and Sebastian | I call a trend. Stars did this in their latest album, and now Belle and Sebastian are doing it: indie pop bands going disco. Okay, it’s nothing really new, if you think about it, but it does lead to some interesting sounds from bands who usually specialize in – sorry – weepy music. (I’m not confused, by the way. Let’s be clear: I like this.) This, by the way, is the first taste of Belle and Sebastian’s upcoming album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, coming out in mid-January next year. I guess the club is in the album name. [NB]