By Chris Pacifico
After a decade of making some of the most wistful, jangle-laden pop, these lovable Scots are still going strong with The Life Pursuit, their seventh album and their warmest album to date. If anything, each track is placed in a perfect position, giving it that “album feel.” Even though the production from longtime producer virtuoso Trevor Horn is absent this time around, the duties are still handled well from his counterpart Tony Hoffer, known for his work on other immaculate albums such as Supergrass’s Life on Other Planets as well as last year's Guero from Beck.
The opener, “Act of Apostle,” colorfully glides with a bossa nova sway while the luminous pop of “Another Sunny Day” shines on with a delicate kaleidoscopic primer. The Life Pursuit exhibits an array of drizzling harmonies with front man Stuart Murdoch at the helm of B&S’s signature merging of sprightly monographs into their singing styles.
“White Collar Boy” contains infusions of cardiograph-pulsed fuzz as Belle and Sebastian show that they have in no way lost their knack for retaining their AM pop guile with tracks like “Sukie in the Graveyard” and most notably “The Blues are Still Blue” a la 60’s melodies and a nominal Motown chorus. If you’re looking for that stoned, rainy day folk feel, than look no further than “Dress Up in You,” a luscious yet tepid display of piano and trumpet.
Another member who makes her presence delightfully known is Sarah Martin, whose cool menthol coo really adds a true dash of Burt Bacharach semblance to the album, especially the way her voice skip dashes through “We Are the Sleepyheads.” The sticky B-3 Hammond lines add a touch of jingling funk to its rhythms similar to that of Steely Dan and the oozing melodies of the 5th Dimension. Even the friendly soft-pop jazz groove of “Funny Little Frog Made” gave me a hankering to dust off those old Supertramp records in my vinyl collection.
The Life Pursuit will most assuredly help 2006 get started off on the sunny side of the street. With this effort, Belle and Sebastian have managed to incorporate various elements and influences from the past 40 years of pop music while still remaining as ahead of their time as they have always been.
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