Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian

The Boy with the Arab Strap

Matador

This is hauntingly beautiful, for reasons that are extremely hard to define. Sure, the music is laid-back, but it lacks many of the obvious qualities that would make it “haunting” or “beautiful,” like ethereal voices or distant guitars. Take for example “Sleep the Clock Around,” where a simple mid-tempo beat is wrapped with an almost-as-simple melody, amidst flourishes of analog-synth clarinet. Sing along with the lyrics, and you’ll find a message as tragic and wistful as the music: “Take a walk in the park, take a valium pill, read the letter you got from the memory girl, but it takes more than this to make sense of the day.”

The music of Belle and Sebastian is gentle and soothing for the most part; missing are the expected attacks of Scottish buzzsaw guitar. Still, the band is not lacking in ferocity, more than making up for their lack of sonic aggression with some very vivid arrangements (with eight members, there’s plenty of careful detail to discern) and heart-wrenching lyrics. Subtle and fascinating stuff. Matador Records, 625 Broadway, Twelfth Floor, New York, NY 10012-2319

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