Belle & Sebastian

The Life Pursuit
(Matador)

With delicate tunes and referential album titles like The Boy With the Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian main man Stuart Murdoch is a cult artist who's more or less birthed a scene of pop miniaturists, known as Twee. But whoever thinks it's impossible to make pop music of the overeducated, for the budding sophisticate, never heard of Steely Dan. Murdoch's seventh full-length, The Life Pursuit, is his most accessible work, essentially a blue-eyed soul record. Its best tune is the non-narrative, ecstatically classic pop song "For the Price of a Cup of Tea," and "Song for Sunshine" actually sounds like Sly and the Family Stone. "White Collar Boy" describes the kind of effete intrigue that would have once been accompanied by a wispy, acoustic texture, but here it's syncopated and full of bright harmonies. Longtime fans shouldn't get huffy, as that lazy lilt and jangle is very much alive, but bolder hooks and arrangements should draw in a few listeners content to assume that "twee" is a sound made by birds, and an "Arab strap" is for holding on a headdress.

 
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