Belle & Sebastian "Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance"

The Scottish purveyors of sublime indie-pop rev-up their sound with dance beats and synthesizers.

The Glasgow based music collective Belle & Sebastian bring a slightly new sound to their 9th recording. For nearly two decades the band has been creating indie-pop songs with clever melodies that reflect the sensibility of 1960s posh British pop music. Lyrically the group’s focus has balanced between the personal and political with lots of cultural references (hence their name).

Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance offers more danceable beats and the increased presence of synthesized instrumentation. This comes thanks to a new producer and a new recording atmosphere. Belle & Sebastian traveled to Atlanta to work with Ben H. Allen III whose credentials include sessions with Cee Lo Green, M.I.A., and Animal Collective. The shift isn’t overly apparent in the first track. Although “Nobody’s Empire” features the above mentioned synth enhancement the melody and melancholy mood of the lyrics. Murdoch, who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, sings of the resulting isolation due to the affliction. It’s typical for Murdoch to use personal experience. This is an atypical dance album for sure – no one is getting luck – that’s much too simple for our Scottish friends. After all, hook-ups lead to messy complications so emotions need to be parsed. Take, for instance, “Enter Sylvia Plath.” It begins like a 1980’s disco hit but then the bookish lyrics kick in.

Murdoch is a clever song writer who matches lyrics to musical themes. “The Everlasting Muse” features a gypsy-like interlude with mandolin, trumpet, and pub chorus. Other songs lean more into the folk-pop of past releases. Although some longtime fans of the band may take issue with the dance floor leaning of the release there is still plenty of gorgeous indie-pop to savor.