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Indie Pop - Released November 18, 1996 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Belle & Sebastian's second record, If You're Feeling Sinister, is, for all intents and purposes, really their first, since their debut in 1996 was not heard outside of privileged inner circles. And If You're Feeling Sinister really did have quite a bit of an impact upon its release in 1996, largely because during the first half of the '90s the whimsy and preciousness that had been an integral part of alternative music was suppressed by grunge. Whimsy and preciousness are an integral part of If You're Feeling Sinister, along with clever wit and gentle, intricate arrangements -- a wonderful blend of the Smiths and Simon & Garfunkel, to be reductive. Even if it's firmly within the college, bed-sit tradition, and is unabashedly retrogressive, that gives Sinister a special, timeless character that's enhanced by Stuart Murdoch's wonderful, lively songwriting. Blessed with an impish sense of humor, a sly turn of phrase, and an alluringly fey voice, he gives this record a real sense of backbone, in that its humor is far more biting than the music appears and the music is far more substantial that it initially seems. Sinister plays like a great forgotten album, couched in '80s indie, '90s attitude, and '60s folk-pop. It's beautifully out of time, and even if other Belle & Sebastian albums sound like it, this is where they achieved a sense of grace. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 1, 2003 | Rough Trade

Distinctions Mercury Prize Selection
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 11, 2020 | Matador

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Indie Pop - Released September 4, 1998 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

Booklet
Belle & Sebastian quietly built a dedicated following after the release of their second album, If You're Feeling Sinister, as word of mouth spread from indie kids to record collectors to store clerks to critics. By the end of 1997, the Scottish septet had developed a following every bit as passionate as the Smiths did at their peak, which is only appropriate since leader Stuart Murdoch is as wittily literate as Morrissey. If You're Feeling Sinister proved this as did the three excellent EPs that followed, increasing expectations for The Boy With the Arab Strap. Even if the album doesn't match the peerless If You're Feeling Sinister or break new ground for Belle & Sebastian, it's not a sophomore slump. From the Motown stomp of "Dirty Dream Number Two" to the Paul Simon shuffle of the title track, there is more musical texture on Boy than Sinister, but much of this was already explored on the EPs, which means Arab Strap essentially consolidates the group's talents. Murdoch recedes from the spotlight on occasion, letting Steve Jackson deliver two music-biz spiels and giving Isobel Campbell space to shine with the lilting "Is It Wicked Not to Care?" All three songs are highlights, but Murdoch's songs still attract the most attention. His vicious wit, often overlooked in favor of his poetic narratives, surfaces on the title track, while "It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career" summarizes his effortless gift for elegant melancholia. Such small, precious gems are what Belle & Sebastian are all about, and The Boy With the Arab Strap offers another round of timeless, endlessly fascinating folk-pop treasures. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 13, 2019 | Matador

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Indie Pop - Released May 1, 1996 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

Booklet
Recorded quickly and cheaply as the first album from Electric Honey, the in-house record label from Glasgow's Stow College's music business program, Belle and Sebastian's 1996 debut, Tigermilk, is a rare record in many respects. Initially, it was simply scarce, limited to a run of 1,000 and not re-released until 1999, by which time Belle and Sebastian were established as one of the great indie pop sensations of the late '90s. It is also rare in the sense that not many indie records are made with assistance from a university, but Tigermilk is rarest in how it captures a band that seems simultaneously fledgling and fully formed. Certainly, Tigermilk bears its share of rough edges -- the subjects linger in adolescence, the compositions aren't as sophisticated as what would arrive just a short time later, "Electronic Renaissance" is the kind of lo-fi synth pastiche bands need to get out of their system in their first year -- but they're splinters on a distinctive aesthetic forged by singer/songwriter Stuart Murdoch. His wry delivery and plummy voice, along with his predilection for delicate folk, disguises his toughness. Tigermilk may be gentle on the surface, but Murdoch's strength is evident in his sardonic storytelling and sturdy craftsmanship, the very things that wound up being the foundation of Belle and Sebastian's career. They're in full flower on Tigermilk, surfacing on tunes throughout the album, but crystallizing on the skipping "She's Losing It," rushed "Expectations," '60s throwback "I Could Be Dreaming," and, especially, "The State I Am In," a masterful melodrama that points toward the richness of If You're Feeling Sinister, which arrived just a few months later. Those are the moments when Belle and Sebastian feel preternaturally gifted, seeming to know precisely who they were right out of the gate. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 6, 2006 | Rough Trade

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 19, 2015 | Matador

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Indie Pop - Released June 6, 2000 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

Booklet
When Belle & Sebastian canceled several dates on their 1998 North American tour after cellist Isobel Campbell fell ill, many fans cried foul; couldn't the rest of the group have gone on without her? Of course not -- Belle & Sebastian is a band in the most democratic sense of the word, a point reinforced by Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, their fourth and most ambitiously eclectic album to date. Nominal frontman Stuart Murdoch recedes into the background even more than on The Boy With the Arab Strap, allowing bandmates like Campbell and Stevie Jackson to take on a greater share of the writing and vocal duties. Also like its predecessor, Fold Your Hands Child opts for a subtle, intimate palette that reveals its charms only in its own sweet time. It may be too subtle for its own good; even after repeated listens it fails to connect on any meaningful level. The record has many intriguing ideas (like the delicate "Beyond the Sunrise," which evokes the classic duets of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, and the vaguely rootsy "The Wrong Girl"), but few of the concepts seem fully developed. For better or worse, Fold Your Hands Child's best moments are those which hew most closely to the classic Belle & Sebastian sound -- that is, Stuart Murdoch songs. Though there's little advancement in his contributions, they capture the band's past glories. The radiant "Woman's Realm" is a dead ringer for The Boy With the Arab Strap's title cut, while "The Model" retreads so much lyrical and musical ground it could be a self-parody. Still, the album provokes an intriguing question: Belle & Sebastian may be a band, not Stuart Murdoch's solo project, but is that a good thing? © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 16, 2018 | Matador

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Indie Pop - Released May 24, 2005 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

Booklet
Belle & Sebastian never felt tied down to the album as the ultimate expression of a band's worth. Put simply, they didn't feel the need to hold back their best songs for albums; the fourth song on a four-song EP was just as likely to be among their finest as any other. For proof check out Push Barman to Open Old Wounds, a handy compilation of the group's EPs recorded between 1997 and 2001 for Jeepster and Matador. Beginning with Dog on Wheels all the way through, the band used their EPs as means of exploring new sounds and angles (check the groovy '60s spy song "Legal Man," the epic-in-length-and-scope "This Is Just a Modern Love Song," the bubbly sunshine pop of "I Love My Car," or the silly instrumental "Judy Is a Dick Slap") as well as an outlet for great songs that wouldn't fit on albums, like "Slow Graffiti," "A Century of Fakers," and "Lazy Line Painter Jane." Some of the tracks here would be pillars on a B&S greatest-hits compilation too: fantastic songs like "Dog on Wheels," "The State I Am In," "I'm Waking Up to Us," and "Put the Book Back on the Shelf." Push Barman to Open Old Wounds is essential listening, the third disc you should get by the band behind If You're Feeling Sinister and Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Even if you already have all the EPs, you'll want to get this disc. It is reasonably priced, housed in the usual attractive package, and hearing all the songs back to back reinforces what an amazing group Belle & Sebastian is, was, and will always be. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 21, 2016 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

The 2016 vinyl box The Jeepster Singles Collection re-presses the seven singles and EPs Belle and Sebastian released on Jeepster between 1997 and 2001 as 12" EPs. In addition to these new pressings -- which include a new extended mix of "Judy Is a Dick Slap" as the flip side of "Legal Man" -- the box contains a DVD with all of the accompanying video clips and a new documentary, plus replicas of fanzines and a digital download card. Apart from that version of "Judy Is a Dick Slap," there's nothing here that hasn't shown up on previous reissues, so it's not precisely a must-own, but for hardcore Belle and Sebastian fans, this is a gorgeous collectable. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Rough Trade

Like their fellow indie class of 1996 alumnus Wes Anderson, Belle & Sebastian have created their own precious world out of the remnants of ‘60s pop culture, filtering it through the aesthetics of the ‘80s underground, maintaining a style and sensibility through shifting fashions. A new Belle & Sebastian album doesn’t surprise; it reassures while managing to find a few new wrinkles in its vintage threads. Write About Love, their seventh studio album, is cut from the same cloth as its 2006 predecessor, The Life Pursuit -- it’s also produced by Tony Hoffer, who gives Belle & Sebastian a crisp, clean, full sound without turning them antiseptic, with much of it swinging like London in the mid-‘60s -- but it has its own distinct character. The group dials down the light glam highlights of The Life Pursuit in favor of revisiting a light Tamla-Motown bounce colored by other faded ‘60s touches like echo, cheap organs, and 12-string guitars, a slight shift in palette that is nevertheless as palpable as the mild silver-screen obsession that runs underneath these songs, surfacing in the lead character of “Calculating Bimbo” and elsewhere in duets with Norah Jones and Carey Mulligan. Mainly, though, what impresses about Write About Love is its consistency, both within the album itself and within Belle & Sebastian’s work at large. Song for song, it’s as strong as any of their records -- if anything, these 11 songs are the tightest they have ever been -- and Stuart Murdoch remains faithful to the aesthetic he essayed at the outset of his career, finding sustenance in the fine details, his obsessions carrying the weight of passion. And unlike Anderson, Murdoch’s music is never insular -- after all, he fronts a big group, one where other singers take the lead and that group spirit remains warm, even infectious, even when the sound essentially remains the same. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 16, 2018 | Matador

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Pop - Released November 18, 2008 | Jeepster Recordings Ltd

Belle and Sebastian cut their first BBC session for the Mark Radcliffe Show in July of 1996 just a few months before their seminal If You're Feeling Sinister album was released. The four songs they recorded were live and intimate versions of three of the record's best tracks: "Like Dylan in the Movies," "Judy and the Dream of Horses," and "Stars of Track and Field." Hearing these songs (as well as "The State I Am In," from Tigermilk) in such a raw and unadorned state (complete with vocal wavers and assorted bum notes) isn't a revelation now, though one can imagine people tuned in to their radios that night were thrown for a loop, but it is pretty great. Of course, the songs are amazing, but just as impressively, Stuart Murdoch's vocals are heartbreakingly sincere and soulful, and the band definitively belie their image as shamblers by sounding tight and together. If they had never written or recorded more than just these four songs, they still would be legendary, but luckily they didn't quit while they were ahead and kept recording and releasing brilliant pop music. They also continued making trips to the BBC studios and The BBC Sessions collects songs recorded there between 1996 and 2001. The track list is made up of mostly album tracks and singles (highlights being an insistent "Sleep the Clock Around," a folky take on "Wrong Love," and a truly beautiful "Slow Graffiti") but the real treat for fans is the inclusion of the group's 2001 session for John Peel, for which they trotted out four songs that hadn't been released previously (or since) on record. Any one of them could have comfortably fit on a single, EP, or album and a couple even qualify as lost treasures: "The Magic of a Kind Word" pits Isobel Campbell's breathy vocals in the quiet verses against rich group harmonies in the insanely sunny choruses, and ends up as one of the band's brightest and lightest tunes that just could have been a hit single, "(My Girl's Got) Miraculous Technique" has a wonderfully relaxed groove built on samples and fleshed out with some wonky synth squiggles and lovely harmony vocals by Campbell and Stuart. It was Campbell's last recording made with the band and she really shines. That session alone is worth the price of the disc, and when you add the 1996 session, it becomes damn near essential for Belle and Sebastian fans. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Electronic - Released March 26, 2012 | Late Night Tales

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 27, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 11, 2020 | Matador

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 2, 2013 | Rough Trade

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 8, 2017 | Matador