As I excitedly chicken-scratched at y’all on Monday, we have not one but three of my favorite albums coming onto our shelves this finals week. Fight the doom and gloom with today’s Sweet New Arrival, Belle & Sebastian’s sunshine-sweet indie pop miracle If You’re Feeling Sinister.
Released in 1996, Sinister was the culminating result of frontman Stuart Murdoch’s hyper-prolific first wave of songwriting. From the late 1980s to the mid-90s, Murdoch was largely bedridden as a result of chronic fatigue syndrome. Unable to work, he turned his remaining life force towards songwriting. Once he recovered from his illness, he was able to bring a group of local musicians together to record a preliminary album, Tigermilk, for a music business course.
After a good reception to Tigermilk, the band became a full-time project and worked on their sophomore release, which would become their critical breakthrough, and this is the album which is blasting (moderately) in the music library AS I TYPE: 1996’s gorgeous If You’re Feeling Sinister. This album is the perfect expression of Murdoch’s songwriting style, a daydream of effortless, brisk and beautiful pop songs with irresistible melodies. The arrangements on this album are nearly baroque, with occasional strings, trumpets, pianos or organs augmenting a bed of light drums and pretty guitars. Murdoch’s breezy vocals sing with an almost feminine softness of love, religion, and the silly and strange gulf between the two with lyrics ranging from charmingly tricky to beautifully sincere.
This record is a pleasure to listen to, and is really passing the minutes here at work. Every song is a gem, from the upbeat “Mayfly” to the melancholy “Fox In The Snow,” from the slyly honest piano-led “Seeing Other People” to the unforgettable singalongs of “Like Dylan In The Movies” and the triumphant “Judy And The Dream Of Horses.” And my favorite track, “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” a Romantic masterpiece of lyricism glazed upon a perfect chord progression. Another Sweet New Arrival review is coming tomorrow, but for now just come check this one out, and sink into its 40-minute, sun-dappled fantasy world.