Belle & Sebastian have definitely started 2015 with a bang, or to be precise, a pop with their record Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. The ninth record from the band is polished, collective and filled with pop elements to transform their traditionally tedious live shows into more of an exhilarating experience.
Kicking off the record splendidly, Belle & Sebastian follow their formula of gently strummed narrative character studies with ‘Nobody’s Empire.’ Except this time, it’s different; ‘Nobody’s Empire’ is a rarity and one of the most personal, naked, autobiographical songs that Belle & Sebastian have formed in their nineteen years of creating music. Drawing upon Stuart Murdoch’s bouts with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the solitude brought on from the sickness, Belle & Sebastian have managed to push this one step further allowing it to somehow sound more energized than their discography has since 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress. The chirpy delivery and artistic, candid sweetness in counterpoint to the seriousness that lies at the very core is what Belle & Sebastian are all about.
Carrying on with the character studies, ‘Allie’ tells the story of a tough rocker searching for serenity in wartime and ‘Perfect Couples’ stars guitarist Stevie Jackson as a third wheel.
This new energy is the work of producer Ben H. Allen (Cee Lo Green, Animal Collective). Whilst entertaining Belle & Sebastian’s ambitions, encouraging them to take more chances and pumping their sound with playful synthesizers and dance grooves on tracks like ‘The Party Line’ and ‘Enter Sylvia Plath’, Allen still managed to keep the classic bijou ambience of a Belle & Sebastian record intact on tracks like ‘Cat and the Cream’ and ‘Ever Had a Little Faith?’ where Murdoch is heard reminiscing for wet days and youthful wonder.
Think of ABBA still being around in 2015 and think of Eurovision, mixed with Belle & Sebastian’s traditional indie roots and you’ll get ‘Enter Sylvia Plath’, a retro club banger, something that could easily be remixed by MK and blasted around the club scene. Following in this lead, tipping into a radio-friendly territory characterised with a vivacious synth pump and driving bass line is lead single, ‘The Party Line.’
Despite supplementing this record with more pop elements, Belle & Sebastian will always be trusted to deliver crafty, reclusive lyricism amongst convincing melodies. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is Belle & Sebastian’s most textured, lustrous, universal and extensive collection yet and sees the band aging graciously, a luxury that undoubtedly hasn’t been protracted to the subjects of their music.