Sound Check:

Richa Agarwal

Scotland may be known for its endless green hills, Nessie, haggis and whisky. But after spending a semester there, one of my most memorable experiences was seeing Belle & Sebastian perform in their hometown of Glasgow. With seven members, it is a surprising feat that none fade into the background. While lead singer Stuart Murdoch has a dominating presence on stage, each member brings something of their own to the band, employing such instruments as the trumpet, violin and keyboard. If you ever get the chance to see them live, you will witness the awe-inspiring dance moves of Murdoch and Stevie Jackson. Luckily, the band’s energy is not limited to its stage presence; it channels into its music and has not decreased throughout the years. In 1996, Belle & Sebastian released their debut album Tigermilk. Ten years and seven full-length albums later, they have not disappointed their fans.

In February they released The Life Pursuit on Matador Records, which contains B&S ‘s characteristic taste of “tween pop.” Compared to predecessor Dear Catastrophe Waitress, this album is a bit more toned down, but with B&S that’s not saying much. Each track retains Murdoch’s distinctive storytelling style. The album’s story opens with “Act of the Apostle I” and later continues in “Act of the Apostle II” – the church choirgirl contemplating “Oh, if I could make sense of it all! I wish that I could sing/ I’d stay in a melody/ I would float along in my everlasting song/ What would I do to believe?” References to faith are typical of Murdoch, who sings in his local church choir in Glasgow.

“Another Sunny Day” is reminiscent of earlier B&S tracks such as “If She Wants Me” and “There’s Too Much Love” – songs that make you want to roll down your windows on a sunny day and be happy to be alive. In fact, much of the band’s work has that effect, with The Life Pursuit being no different. Even a track such as “The Blues Are Still Blue” is not blue at all; it’s a track you can boogie down to while shouting “Baby I love your face/ I’ve been creeping round this town because/ Well creeping’s just my way.”

“Sukie in the Graveyard” is another stand-out track that will certainly make you move – at least a little. Murdoch tells the story of a runaway kid named ‘Sukie’ amidst organs, horns and ‘ooh ba bas’. “Funny Little Frog” is a quirky love song in which Murdoch sings “You are my girl and you don’t even know it/ I am living out the life of a poet/ I am the jester in the ancient court/ and you’re the funny little frog in my thro-at.” He later continues “I had a conversation with you at night/ It’s a little one-sided but that’s all right.” Belle & Sebastian’s unique brand of pop has something for everybody – except those who don’t want to smile.