Artist Spotlight: Belle and Sebastian
by Dan Weiss | September 4, 2013
The "Kings (and Queen) of Twee" probably isn't the legacy Belle and Sebastian will claim for their own, so let's cut them a grander slice of the pie: Arguably the greatest indie pop band that's ever lived, the Scottish septet is one of the few non-ska ensembles that's ever felt like they needed every single member for every single track. They're a walking "wall of sound," a miniature London Symphony, and sometimes even a flesh-and-blood Larry Levan remix. They have the ability to create any sound they've ever wanted to take on with thoughtfulness and full-detailed attention to melody and tune.
Instant classic If You're Feeling Sinister, from 1997, was only the beginning, followed by the even sweeter The Boy with the Arab Strap and the more complicated Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, in addition to countless EPs, non-album singles and a reissue of their well-worthy debut, Tigermilk. Tunes like "The Fox in the Snow," "Sleep the Clock Around," "We Rule the School" and "Women's Realm" are indelible and delicate, containing melodies dripping of honey and near-classical arrangements.
Dear Catastrophe Waitress, released in 2003, marked a turning point with producer Trevor Horn, as it featured skipping pop ("Step Into My Office, Baby"), Thin Lizzy-inspired '70s twin-guitar rock ("I'm a Cuckoo") and a staggeringly beautiful soul pastiche ("Stay Loose"). It was followed by the even more retro "Your Cover's Blown," a live-instruments disco tune that beat Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by about a decade. They took the R&B thing even further on 2006's The Life Pursuit and its Brill Building-like single "Funny Little Frog," while the just-released rarities comp The Third Eye Centre is all over the map -- in the best way -- with the soul ballad "Meat and Potatoes" and the New Wave rocker "Suicide Girl."
It's been nearly 20 years since the inception of Belle and Sebastian, a band that has perfected an aesthetic and pre-dated many other trends (large indie pop ensembles, orchestral and retro pop from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Best Coast) by several years. It's time to celebrate them as greats with this extensive Artist Spotlight.