Belle and Sebastian’s forthcoming album, Write About Love, is a collection of good songs. Nothing more. Nothing less. And nothing to get excited about. It’s their eighth studio album, and it’s just what you would expect from the indie-pop Scots. I could never get into Belle and Sebastian, and I really wish I could. I wish I could love them like so many people do. The only thing I love about them is their ability to successfully incorporate a recorder (as in, the woodwind instrument we learned “Hot Cross Buns” on in fifth grade) into a pretty great song (“The Boy With the Arab Strap”).
Despite my general indiffernce toward Belle and Sebastian, I listened to Write About Love with open ears and an open mind. And after a good listen or two, I am, regretfully, still not a fan. I emerged from the 43 minutes of of easy-going pop melodies with the same conclusion: Belle and Sebastian makes music I might enjoy listening to, but would never actively choose to listen to.
Listening to the album is definitely a pleasant experience. Much of it is well-crafted, mild-mannered upbeat tunes. For example, the album opener “I Didn’t See It Coming,” a calm and charming pop lullaby with sweet vocals over friendly music. It sounds like staring out of a window on a rainy day. “Come On Sister” is a more lively, synth-heavy tune, followed by the slower, sadder “Calculating Bimbo.” I could go on and probably have similar things to say about the rest of the songs, but there are two in particular worth mentioning. “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prohpet John” (which features Norah Jones) is slow, beautiful and completely out of place. The adult contemporary singer adds lovely vocals over Stuart Murdoch’s modest murmurs, creating quite an interesting contrast. It’s sad and pretty, but doesn’t seem to belong on the album. “Write About Love” however, definitely belongs on the album (as it should, since it’s the title track). Actress Carey Mulligan’s vocals are well-suited for a Belle and Sebastian song. Her smooth and understated declaration “I hate my job/I’m working way too much” creates the song’s too-true-to-be-cliché, catchy hook. It’s an alluring contribution to one of the better tracks on the album.
I wish I could say that this album changed my mind about Belle and Sebastian. However, my feelings remain unaltered. The album seems to pick up where the last left off. The songs are typical and safe. They’re good, but not great. If someone were to play the album, I would hardly object. I might even hum along. But ask me what I want to listen to, and this album would be far from my mind.