© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First Listen: Belle And Sebastian, 'Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance'

Belle And Sebastian's new album, <em>Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance,</em> comes out Jan. 20.
Søren Solkær
Courtesy of the artist
Belle And Sebastian's new album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, comes out Jan. 20.

Nine albums into a career spanning two decades, Belle And Sebastian resides at a tricky point in its career: Veteran musicians often shed fans rather than accumulating them, as tastes shift, the fickle lose interest and diehards succumb to distractions. As if that weren't enough, the Glaswegian folk-pop band hasn't released a new record since 2010's Write About Love, though bandleader Stuart Murdoch has kept busy with, among other things, directing and writing last year's movie musical God Help The Girl.

On Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, Belle And Sebastian's members compensate for any lost momentum by tinkering with unexpected sounds. Chugging synth-pop single "The Party Line" follows a straight line back to Pet Shop Boys, as does the seven-minute epic "Enter Sylvia Plath," which is surely the peppiest song ever to use the titular poet as its muse. But the core ingredients of Belle And Sebastian's sound remain intact, most notably Murdoch's ability to skate along the fine line between erudition and preciousness. The singer has said he wrote the new album from the perspective of a young woman named Allie — the presence of the song "Allie" backs him up there — but its subject matter still feels personal, lived-in and universal.

With 12 songs stretching out for more than an hour, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance allows Belle And Sebastian's music to shimmer and breathe. As you'd expect from a band that's begun to dabble in dance music, it feels light on its feet, without sacrificing the thoughtful, careful precision at its core.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)