By Erik Stefan
My favorite thing about Belle and Sebastian circa 2010 is the disco-groove drums and intricate guitar leads that seem to trip along to the rhythm. While their “twee” roots pop up on Write About Love, I would hesitate to call these moments the best on the record. This record really illustrates how far the band has come over the course of its career, for better or worse. It also gives me a chuckle when I read a nationally distributed magazine’s depiction of this album as business-as-usual for Belle and Sebastian. What is business as usual at this point?
Standout tracks include “I Didn’t See it Coming,” “I Want the World to Stop,” and the title track “Write About Love.” The common denominator on these tracks: a steady upbeat tempo, strong melodies, and a good blend of male/female vocal harmonies. None of these songs would fall into the twee category as classified by songs like “Judy and the Dream of Horses.” That said, this transition has been building since Dear Catastrophe Waitress and was most fully realized on The Life Pursuit.
Here’s my bottom line: Belle and Sebastian are consistently a sure thing. They’re the date that you know will always “deliver.” Write About Love is no exception.
A few things that got me moving:
The Apples In Stereo-esque middle section of “I Didn’t See It Coming.” The direction of this song moves drastically from the main theme to a psychedelic swirl before re-establishing itself in a male/female call-and-response vocal reminiscent of Montreal’s Stars.
The futuristic electro vibe of “I Want the World to Stop.” In an effort to totally dispel the “twee” label, Belle and Sebastian go space age. Surprisingly, this track most reminds me of Belle and Sebastian’s “old” sound.
The Technicolor vibe of a 1960s dance party on the title track “Write About Love” has a cosmic groove in desperate need of a mirror ball and sequins.
A few things that made me stop (in a not so good way):
Norah Jones’s guest appearance. I normally love Ms. Jones. She’s a fabulous vocalist and is beginning to come into her own as a songwriter. I also have come to enjoy her “taste” in musical partnerships. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work.
The keyboards and synthesizers. With the heavy drums, I suspect that the keyboards are a pre-requisite to help flesh out the sound. Too bad they cover up the guitars. Blame the mixing engineer.