Pop music is called that because it’s popular music, music that most people will find enjoyable because it’s melodic and pleasing. It can actually relax you as you grow to trust the song and recognize the patterns, and this can be soothing as you listen to it. There’s a certain safety in this environment where you can freely listen to the sound and know that all the sounds to come will be beautiful. This is the best I can do to introduce Belle & Sebastian, a group from Scottland which created two fake personas to represent their band so that the actual members could stay out of the spotlight.
Belle & Sebastian play a very soft version of pop music, one that relaxes you immediately as “The Stars Of Track and Field” opens the album with a soft strumming guitar and a hushed “Make a new cult every day to suit your affairs“. You start to notice that the background of the song complicates, including more and more instruments into the harmony but never disturbing the overall sound in order to do it. Entrances and exits that sound completely natural and unrushed. The song just carries on within this basic yet complex sound.
During the time period of If You’re Feeling Sinister, group member Stuart Murdoch was still writing and singing on most if not all of the material. To keep the theme here going, Murdoch sings in a soft and melodic voice; actually a pretty fun one to try imitate, but that’s another conversation entirely. The true impressive feature of the vocals isn’t in that softness though, it’s in the impeccable diction and phrasing. Every line is said in an extremely appealing fashion and the lines always fit the rhythm perfectly, even in songs that are a bit more untraditional such as “Fox In The Snow”.
One last nice quality of Belle & Sebastian is in the odd things that they present to you in their music. The topics of sex and homosexuality approaching you in the soft environment is terrific because of the unusual quality of it, and the inclusion of school children playing in “If You’re Feeling Sinister” is a nice touch to the buildup of the song. If You’re Feeling Sinister is an easy album to like because it’s complex in it’s topics but traditional in it’s pop structure due to the stripped down quality of the music. It should be noted here that this is not their unanimous best album by any means as I’ve heard claims for The Boy With The Arab Strap, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, and Tigermilk as well, and all of these are very good albums.
Track Picks: The Stars of Track and Field, If You’re Feeling Sinister, Like Dylan in the Movies