Belle & Sebastian
‘Write About Love’
(ROUGH TRADE RECORDS)
Belle & Sebastian remain one of the few bands that bring about one of two polar reactions:ignorant blankness or insta-excitement.
The seven-member Scottish ensemble, led by front man Stuart Murdoch, have been creating their own brand of light-footed, indie-varnished bubblegum pop since 1996 (originally concocted as a university project), but B&S remains one of the more consistently steadfast groups on the scene.
A four-year studio-release hiatus has faded none of their balanced harmony, equally buttressing the other members for their parts. Though it is Murdoch’s forever-youthful vocals that grace the majority of the tracks, their eighth album opens with Sarah Martin’s breathy alto on the building, lightly 70s glitter rock number, and the hopping camp of “I’m Not Living in the Real World” is punctuated with Stevie Jackson amid chorusing crescendos of “oohs” a la The Shins.
Norah Jones features in a surprising, dimmed music bar duet “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John,” while actress Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) provides quick, additions on the title-track, parrying with the chorus.
Not to be missed are the creative insteps of Murdoch and co, as lyrics continue forth in their poetic, sardonic vein — a difficult working combination to come by anywhere else — with such vivid phrases as “the finest creamy, rich-girl parchment pages” and “whiskey from the year you were born/tastes like kidnap and ransom and exile” (an honest treat in a sea of manufactured cliches). And though religious references run amok, it is less with the serious intent of Sufjan Stevens and more with an exploratory wit (“get on your skinny knees and pray/maybe not today”).
But through the indie pop, cornucopia of talented musicians and instruments, it is the personable charm of B&S that so acutely strikes the ear. From Murdoch’s iconic, lightly-accented croon on the purely composed “Come On Sister” to the daily-grind vernacular of “Write About Love,” the songs transcend to become personal anthems for a happy catharsis, connecting to audiences that seem just-missed by most artists. Paired with that now-classic sound, one would be hard pressed to ever mistake the crystal complexities of B&S.
Why we recommend it: Belle & Sebastian’s four-year album hiatus has resulted in a full, rich collection of that indie pop-brushed splendor only known by their name.
Best tracks: “I Didn’t See It Coming” and “Come On Sister”
— INES MIN
2PM returns in full-force with a seven-track mini album, yet another endeavor to prove their strength without the presence of former frontman Jae-beom, who left suddenly in 2009. The six-man group ably step up to the plate, with Junsu and Junho providing main vocals for the album’s first single “I’ll Be Back,” an upbeat electronic ballad boasting the music-video narrative of their previous releases and backed up with catchy raps in both Korean and English.
While a variety of TV appearances — notably Taecyeon in the drama “Cinderella’s Sister” and Nichkhun in “We Got Married” — kept the group’s image buoyant among the media backfire, it is the workable solution of 2PM that continues to draw the spotlight. “I Can’t” offers a heavy R&B composition while the club-ready “Dance2Night” mixes West Coast styling with catchy hooks (Taecyeon earning rap-writing credit), appeasing all ends of the spectrum. Though lacking in explosive originality, 2PM manages a no-frills return to the scene with a quiet, if strong statement.
— INES MIN