Belle and Sebastian, a Scottish band formed in 1996, have ruled the UK indie-pop scene for the last 10 years. Two of their albums, “Tigermilk” and “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” have become stone-cold indie classics, contributing to Belle and Sebastian’s immense reputation in the UK. Sadly, they have yet to find this same kind of mainstream acceptance in the United States.
In the last few years, however, their popularity in the states has been increasing ever so slightly. Their 2003 release “Dear Catastrophe Waitress” earned them immense praise from most rock critics in the U.S., and their latest effort √¢?” “The Life Pursuit” √¢?” is doing just the same. But does the album live up to the immense hype surrounding this band?
Ultimately, “The Life Pursuit” is a stellar album. It shows Belle and Sebastian continuing to do what they do best √¢?” write catchy, joy-inspiring pop songs.
Frontman Stuart Murdoch clearly has a knack for melodies, and “The Life Pursuit” displays this talent to its full extent. The opening track, “Act of the Apostle,” tells the story of a girl trying to sing in tune to appease her choirmaster. This type of quirky songwriting, a longtime staple of Belle and Sebastian’s, continues throughout the rest of the album. In “Sukie in the Graveyard,” Murdoch relates the tale of an art-school student facing pressures at home. He sings, “Sukie was the kid, she liked to hangout in the graveyard. She did brass rubbings, she learned you never had to press hard.” Lyrics like these make “The Life Pursuit” extremely fun to listen to on many different levels.
Other songs on the album will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face. “Another Sunny Day,” “White Collar Boy,” and “For the Price of a Cup of Tea” stand out as some of the finest, and happiest, songs on the album. “For the Price-” in particular shows Belle and Sebastian sounding more like The Jackson Five, resulting in one of the best pop songs the Scottish wonders have written in a while.
The album does have its low points, however. Later songs, such as “To Be Myself Completely” and “Song for Sunshine” don’t quite compare to the rest of the CD. They are plagued with both unoriginal lyrics and melodies.
Luckily, the rest of the album is catchy enough to make up for these few mishaps, making “The Life Pursuit” one of the best albums to be released so far in 2006. But it is definitely not as good as some of the band’s earlier work √¢?” most notably 1996’s “If You’re Feeling Sinister.”
Also, the album does not feature any amazing songs on par with some of their past singles. Previous Belle and Sebastian classics, such as “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” and “Step into my Office, Baby” had a certain timeless quality about them, whereas none of the songs found on “The Life Pursuit” ever reach this same caliber.
Still, Belle and Sebastian’s latest effort is better than most other music around these days. The songs are catchy and happy. I suggest you check out this Scottish pop group √¢?” they will undoubtedly bring a smile to your face.