It’s hard to believe this is Belle and Sebastian‘s ninth studio album, but then I still think of them as a new band, when actually next year (2016) will see their 20th anniversary.
Nobody’s Empire kicks off the album in typical Belle and Sebastian style, gentle and melodic with personal, confessional lyrics. The rest of the album is not as typical, in fact it is eclectic to say the least. After second track Allie it goes all dance, in a definite departure from their usual style. The Party Line has throbbing bass and funky guitar, and Enter Sylvia Plath is, dare I say it, full on Eurovision. The electronic songs, of which there are several, have a slightly Pet Shop Boys feel; perhaps after eight albums they’re going after a little more mainstream success or more likely they just wanted to make an album you can dance to. Not that you couldn’t dance to their previous releases and I’ve always imagined the average Belle and Sebastian fan enjoys dancing alone to them in their bedroom.
It’s not all synth pop though and there’s plenty to keep those looking for the classic Belle and Sebastian happy, like Ever Had a Little Faith? (which could have come right out of a Belle and Sebastian song name generator).
Other highlights are the blistering guitar outro on The Book of You, The Cat With The Cream with its delightful strings and vocal harmonies, and the jazz/Cossack hybrid of The Everlasting Muse. I told you it was eclectic!
Official video for Nobody’s Empire. Contains some nice vintage clips of Glasgow, including a couple of shots of the city’s greatest artwork: