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Y-Not Philly w/ Hannah

CD of The Week

Week of 5/23/22

    Belle and Sebastian - A Bit of Previous (Matador)

    The title of the latest album by Belle and Sebastian is a spot-on metaphor for the themes on display throughout these 12 brand-new indie-rock gems. Produced entirely in their hometown of Glasgow, Scotland for the first time since 2000, A Bit of Previous takes a fond look at youthful days, while setting hopeful sights on the future. Lead singer Stuart Murdoch pens some of his most evocative lyrics here, while the entire septet does what they do best, crafting exquisitely melodic chamber pop with influences ranging from 60’s era Burt Bacharach to 80's Brit-pop, and the wistful indie-electro of the 00's.

    Quite a few of the songs here reflect on aging. In the opener "Young and Stupid," Murdoch reminisces about carefree frivolity, yet recognizes "the state we're in" as we grow up; "Now we're old with creaking bones / some with partners, some alone / some with kids and some with dogs / getting through the nightly slog." Comfort is encouraged in "Come On Home" as the narrator invites a lover to "Follow in my footsteps, noble page. Never fear from time or cold or age." Murdoch also derives inspiration from Christian and Buddhist themes. On the 70's groove-laden "Talk To Me Talk To Me," he laments that "Confusion is trying to take hold of me, All I wanted was peace inside a sanctuary." On the equally groovy "Prophets On Hold," our main character confronts spiritual confusion again and attempts to save another by putting them on a pedestal.

    Belle and Sebastian can barely contain their energy on most of the album; there's just not as much melancholy as present in earlier works. "Unnecessary Drama" is driven by a wailing harmonica, one of their finest jams yet. When Sarah Martin isn't adding much-welcomed depth on backing vocals, she's taking lead on two of their most glorious forays into bittersweet electronic pop, "Reclaim The Night," and "A World Without You." The tempo breaks for a bit with guitarist Steve Jackson's whimsical country waltz "Deathbed Of My Dreams" which sounds like a long-lost Glen Campbell track. It is evident that Belle and Sebastian have taken the dourness of the last two years and chosen to create something optimistic. Closing track "Working Boy In New York City" sums it up: "Once you are happy and you know yourself / peace can come in your heart. You can make a new start."

    Belle and Sebastian return to Philadelphia at Franklin Music Hall on Friday, June 17th.
    Review by Dave Lindquist

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