Belle & Sebastian

With delicate tunes and referential album titles like The Boy with the Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian main man Stuart Murdoch is a cult artist who has more or less birthed a scene of pop miniaturists known as twee. But Murdoch is moving ever closer to potential fans who are neither overeducated nor budding sophisticates. His seventh full-length, The Life Pursuit, is his most accessible work, essentially a blue-eyed-soul record. Its best tune is the non-narrative, ecstatically classic pop song "For the Price of a Cup of Tea," and "Song for Sunshine" actually sounds like Sly and the Family Stone. "White Collar Boy" describes the kind of effete intrigue that would have once been accompanied by a wispy, acoustic texture, but here it's syncopated and full of bright harmonies. Longtime fans shouldn't get huffy, as that lazy lilt and jangle is very much alive, but bolder hooks and arrangements should draw in a few listeners usually content to assume that twee is a sound made by birds and that an "Arab strap" is for holding on a headdress.
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Andrew Marcus