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Belle & Sebastian:: “Life Pursuit” (Album Review)

“The Life Pursuit” is, in some senses, no different then previous Belle and Sebastian albums as it melds working class heroes with art school dropouts and runaways. Where it is different is that it is achingly mature, a synthesis of elements that have come before, married with a newer sunny jangly outlook – a departure from the some of the somber tones that made the band a cult favorite for all of us semi-goth-indie-britpop devotees who boldly proclaim pop as our salvation.

This is an album that needs a few listens to get to its full potential. At first blush the songs don’t seem to carry the melancholy weight of “The Boy With The Arab Strap” or “If You’re Feeling Sinister” – but listen closely – as the songs will stick in your head and make you realize that B&S has grown. While capitalizing on what made them loveable to begin with (crafty pop tunes that hold an intellectual storytelling soul at their core) – Stuart Murdoch has moved the band forward by experimenting with lounge-y slinky sounds, jazzy melodies, glam rock and girl group harmonies.
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The Belle and Sebastian band members must have spent countless cloudless Saturdays culling through the record bins in their hometown of Glasgow as the album is full of references that tip towards the power of music. Successful experiments that make you want to dance, Bowie-style, across the living room include “White Collar Boy,” with its synth backbeat, and “The Blues are Still Blue” a glam T-Rex little fey story. “Sukie in the Graveyard,” “Funny Little Frog,” and “Song for Sunshine” put a swinging soul Shuggie Otis style horn section in full frontal force with a positive result. “We are the Sleepyheads,” with an out of character guitar solo and falsetto vocals, could be a love letter to guitar masters of the 70’s. Ending the album on the thoughtful, piano fueled Rod Stewart-y “Mornington Crescent” is the final satisfying note to an album full of Belle and Sebastian signatures; afternoons in the park, laundry room loves, lazy sunny days, and dance parties.

With a mélange of melodies, “The Life Pursuit” could have fallen into the trap of confusing overkill (and, to be fair, some songs don’t live up to the experimental approach). But Belle and Sebastian can make these sounds their own. And they do, adding lyrics and timing that continue their tradition of perfect well-crafted pop vignettes. (by: DJ Snake Plissken)