Belle and Sebastian: Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

belle and sebastianBelle and Sebastian
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
(Matador Records)

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If you need any evidence that 2015 is going to be a year for surprising music, then this is it. Belle and Sebastian, those Scottish purveyors of witty lyrics and melodic tunes, have made a dance record. The sound is less club night and more retro, but it gives the band a fresh edge and accessibility.

Intimate tracks like “Nobody’s Empire,” which chronicles Stuart Murdoch’s struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, receive a burst of vibrancy and hope from the addition of synthesizers. It’s a clever, Mary Poppins approach to songwriting: add some sugar, and difficult subjects can make fun songs. A disco beat shouldn’t make sense with a track titled “Enter Silvia Plath,” but miraculously, it does.

Some of the best songs on Girls in Peacetime are those that sound the least like stereotypical Belle and Sebastian. “The Party Line” is sexy even as a few lines criticize modern life. “The Everlasting Muse” would have been a successful track just as a slinky plan to spend time with a woman. However, in a later verse, Sarah Martin refutes Murdoch’s seduction, undermining music’s preoccupation with the role of a “muse.” The Stevie Jackson-led “Perfect Couples” sounds like a classic track that could be performed by ABBA, and I mean that as high praise.

If you associate Belle and Sebastian with twee, it’s time to revisit the group and see what you’ve been missing. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is enlightened, entertaining, and dazzling.

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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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