Monday, December 5, 2011

Belle & Sebastian Write About Love

It's hard to believe it's been four years since the last Belle and Sebastian album but here we are four years on since the release of The Life Pursuit with something new finally on offer. Things have changed a bit around the Belle and Sebastian camp since that time. If the last album was like an FM Gold album, than I'm not exactly where there new album, Write About Love fits in. Yes it's twee and yes it's pop, but it’s not as twee as Tigermilk and it isn’t quite as pop as Dear Catastrophe Waitress either. Call it their grown up album and a happy compromise and while it seems to take most of its cues from the band's twee past it doesn’t forget the poptastic moments of their more recent work.

Two songs into Write About Love and it becomes obvious that this is probably the most developed and lovely thing that they’ve ever done. In a sense that's literally true because the title sort of describes what the album actually is about. This is Belle and Sebastian writing about love and how they love to write about it, be in it, experience it, and all that goes with having your heart melt where it stands. This is the band pursuing an album that while young in spirit seeks to be wiser and more accomplished than anything else they’ve done and laying their collective heart on the table. Judging by the eleven songs on Write About Love it would seem as though they’ve achieved their goal.

While Belle and Sebastian don’t have a bad album in their catalog per se, it is obvious that they're still coming to terms with the love/hate relationship people had with their last couple of releases. Yes, this is a great album but one can't wonder where all the singles are that made this band so fiercely awesome. This is a band that released so many classic songs early in their career one can't help but wonder what's up with Stuart and company. With that in mind, it seems as though they used all that "commercial controversy" to their advantage here. Sure there are elements of pop gloss all over Write About Love but rather than being the focus of the album it’s now just another part of the jumble of influences that makes up their sound. The result of all this experience, experimentation, and lack of obvious singles is an album that is beautifully orchestrated, engaging, self assured, and in touch with its emotions.

Write About Love finds Stuart’s voice as distinctive as ever, horns that are impeccable building blocks for the songs, and verses that are catchier than fly paper. This is a truly great record that stands to not only reassure fans but reaffirm what we already knew; that Belle and Sebastian will always be a great band. Write About Love's maturity, structure, familiarity, uniqueness, and simply magnificent songs make this record essential listening.

For those hoping for a return to the jangly twee pop that put them on the map, Write About Love is not that record. It’s something more; much more. It’s the record that Belle and Sebastian have always threatened to make. This is the band at its best taking the culmination of their experiences and making music they want to make. In other words, if Belle & Sebastian call it a day tomorrow they will always look back at this record and say, “This is what we’re about, this is what we always wanted to do and we did it.”

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